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Volume 24 No. 116

Marketing and Sponsorship

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles confirmed that Verizon is not likely to renew its title sponsorship of the series after it expires following the ’18 schedule. Miles said, “It's likely that the relationship will change, but we’re hopeful that (the relationship) will continue.” It is possible Verizon could stay on as an official telecom sponsor or in other ways as an advertiser in the sport. Miles did not give a timetable as to an official announcement, but he said he met with Verizon execs at the season-finale at Sonoma this weekend to try to sort out the situation. Verizon’s deal with IndyCar is worth around $10M annually and started in ’14 after it replaced apparel company Izod. Team Penske, which saw Josef Newgarden last night claim his first IndyCar title, also has a longstanding relationship with Verizon, which has B2B deals with Roger Penske’s automotive interests. That is likely to continue despite Verizon likely dropping the title sponsorship, sources have said in recent months. Verizon works with CSM Sport & Entertainment on its motorsports marketing, while Momentum is Verizon’s overall sports marketing agency. Whether IndyCar has already started seeking out possible replacements for Verizon was unclear. Verizon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MLB has sold presenting sponsorships to both the ALCS and NLCS for the first time. A new and comprehensive five-year sponsorship with Camping World makes the RV/camping retailer the initial presenting sponsor of the championship series. It also will become the first presenting sponsor of MLB Spring Training in Florida and Arizona. The deal includes electronic behind-the-plate signage during the ALCS and NLCS and ad inventory on Fox, FS1 and TBS, as well as electronic and digital media, controlled by MLB Network and MLBAM. Camping World’s first activation behind the new deal will be a sweepstakes launching this week, offering 16 separate MLB postseason trips as prizes. In an effort to build retail traffic, entrance is at retail locations or by mail. Baseball-themed advertising is anticipated, but not likely until next season. MLB team sponsorships and individual MLB athlete deals are also under consideration. “We thought their audience of families and kids involved in outdoor recreation was a lot like ours, so we’ve been talking to Camping World for a few years,’’ said MLB Exec VP/Business Noah Garden. “The last two months, things really heated up.’’ Camping World under the deal also has the rights to make and sell some MLB licensed products through its own distribution channels. Garden said the licensing rights granted to Camping World will encompass outdoor recreational items, including pool toys and camping equipment. “If they want to sell caps, they have to go to (longtime MLB cap licensee) New Era,’’ said Garden. Camping World is expected to sell licensed outdoor equipment from MLB licensees, including Weber and Kingsford, and will eventually develop retail sections that will include its own MLB-branded products. Activation plans behind the Spring Training presenting sponsorship are largely to be determined, though Garden noted, “Spring is an important time of year for both of us.’’ Camping World has more than 135 retail locations in 36 states, specializing in RVs and camping supplies. It has been the sponsor of NASCAR’s truck series since ‘09 and it has entitled the former Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando since ‘16.

NBC is trying to show potential Super Bowl ad buyers there are "other metrics to prioritize" success with their purchase than USA Today's Ad Meter, according to Jeanine Poggi of AD AGE. The net, which will air Super Bowl LII in February, analyzed ads in the last four Super Bowls "based on 575 variables like creative messaging and structural elements." It then "looked at the effectiveness of each ad based on five performance metrics: creative appeal, ad cut through, creative engagement, brand social and brand search." NBCU Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Dan Lovinger said that the net will "use these results to help guide advertisers on their Super Bowl creative." Lovinger said that there "can be a feeling of failure" for marketers who do not make USA Today's survey, which has "long been seen as the ultimate barometer for success." Poggi reports NBC's study "found that just because an advertiser scored high on creative appeal, doesn't mean they also received top marks on other metrics like search and social." At least a "few of the results seem to be beneficial for Lovinger and his sales team: 60-second spots, for example, significantly out-performed in most key metrics." However, there "were some other revealing stats: celebrities have a slight negative or no material impact on ad performance, other than driving social conversation." Animated characters are "more effective in ads that are sales focused rather than brand focused," while spots with kids and music "outperformed those with just one or the other." First-time Super Bowl advertisers also have been "just as successful airing pre-existing creative in the game as they have been airing new ads." Poggi writes in recent years, marketers have been "more cautious about buying" Super Bowl spots. It is "not necessarily about the money" -- NBC is seeking more than $5M for a 30-second spot -- but there is a "greater need to justify the cost" (ADAGE.com, 9/18).

The Pistons will put the logo of team Owner Tom Gores’ company Platinum Equity on the playing floor at Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit as part of a multiyear sponsorship deal with the team. As part of the agreement, the on-floor branding will be on two locations on each side of the court. NBA teams typically have the logo of their naming-rights partner on their playing floor, but the Pistons made a separate deal given that they are leasing the arena from the Red Wings. “We had a competitive bidding process that included several large corporate players, and in the end Platinum stepped up with the highest bid," said Palace Sports & Entertainment Vice Chair Arn Tellem in a statement.

Seattle-based startup Vicis' Zero1 helmet is available for the first time this season, but "few NFL players are wearing them," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. About 50 of the league’s 1,700 players -- roughly 3% -- "took the field in week 1 in a Vicis helmet." Xenith, a separate company funded by Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert, "isn’t doing much better." Xenith in the NFL has "three of the top six performing helmets ... but only about 7.5% of NFL players wear its products." The rest of the league’s players are "wearing helmets from Riddell, which has about 55% of the NFL market as well as a league licensing deal for collectible merchandise, or Schutt." Both said that they have "released new helmets with added safety features, with two Schutt models ranking just behind Vicis in safety tests." The figures show how "even at a time when more attention than ever is being paid to the links between football and head trauma, changes to equipment and the way the game is played are likely to come slowly." Vicis CEO Dave Marver said that Vicis is "roughly where he figured the company would be in its inaugural year on the market." Futterman noted the Zero1 "doesn’t make football safe but testing data shows it does a better job of protecting the head than other options." What makes Vicis unique "isn’t just its performance in testing but the fact that the NFL itself provided some of the early funding." The company has won $1.1M from the NFL since '15 "through the league’s Head Health Challenge, though that is only a sliver" of the $20M Vicis "says it spent on research and development." To recoup those costs, Vicis is "selling the Zero1 at a retail price of $1,500, significantly more than most other helmets" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/16).

After two years in business together, the UFC and Reebok have “learned some hard lessons, trying to fit the unwieldy sport into the type of uniform template common in other sports,” according to Jack Encarnacao of the BOSTON HERALD. Reebok rolled out a “re-imagined apparel line prior to UFC 215 earlier this month.” The company “swapped out a soccer jersey look to one more wearable and lifestyle-oriented, and is video conferencing with top fighters” from its Canton, Mass., HQ to “collaborate on custom designs for walkout gear.” Reebok Dir of Combat Training Business Unit and UFC Partnership Matt Bilodeau said, “It has been a learning process, and a lot of what we’ve done over the last two years is really tried to ingrain ourselves in the culture.” He said that fighters “wanted gear that had less of a sleek, athletic look, and could be worn casually.” Prior to the Reebok deal, MMA apparel was “mostly characterized by Tapout and Affliction shirts that could be worn anywhere -- and were aimed just as much at spectators as those who train.” Bilodeau said, “We feel like this collection has a lot more attitude, and the style really is born from MMA culture.” Encarnacao noted there are reportedly four years left on the UFC/Reebok deal, and the company is “looking to make steady adjustments until it fits seamlessly into the UFC” (BOSTON HERALD, 9/18).

The NBA and Nike on Friday unveiled the Nike NBA Connected Jersey, which will feature an embedded near field communication chip that will launch real-time team and player content such as pregame arrival footage, highlight packages and top players' favorite music playlists on the wearer's mobile device. Fans will be asked to download the NikeConnect app and tap the jersey with their smartphone to activate the player content. The jerseys will become available online on Sept. 29. Meanwhile, the NBA and Nike also unveiled their Statement Edition uniforms and the Nike Therma Flex Showtime Warm-up Jacket, the first hooded jacket to be worn on the court during gametime. The official announcements took place at an event in L.A. attended by players from all 30 teams (NBA). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted content rights that were included as part of Nike's eight-year, $1B NBA apparel deal "begin this upcoming season." The connect idea "gives Nike more information than they've ever had before on any product." They will "now know who bought what player's jersey, where they live and where they scan in from." Nike VP/Digital Innovation Stefan Olander said, "We could tell LeBron how many fans of his checked in from Beijing. If you look at this as a new gateway to a connection with a consumer, you could just imagine where this goes" (ESPN.com, 9/15). TECHCRUNCH's Jonathan Shieber wrote the Nike NBA Connected Jersey's look "really, really, really good (unsurprisingly)." The jersey is a "pretty big deal that points the way forward to what connected experiences can look like when monster brands agree to partner up." The integration looks "fantastic and the opportunity to get actual exclusive offers should be compelling enough to keep folks active on the platform that Nike’s created." In the end, looks like Nike has "opened up yet another way to dominate in sports apparel" (TECHCRUNCH.com, 9/15).

TEAMING UP: In St. Paul, Dane Mizutani wrote "perhaps no team made a bigger splash" in what uniforms they will wear this season than the T'Wolves, who will occasionally wear neon green jerseys. Mizutani: "Understandably dubbed the 'Statement' partially because of it’s eye-popping color scheme" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/16). In San Jose, Mark Medina noted the Warriors will wear a uniform during parts of the '17-18 seasons that "highlights their current connection to Oakland" while they plan an eventual move to S.F. in two years. The team said that they will "wear Oakland-themed jerseys for most Saturday regular-season home games as well as select road contests" during the upcoming season. "The Town" will be "displayed over a circle of the City of Oakland tree logo" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/16).