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Volume 24 No. 116

Marketing and Sponsorship

The NBA is debuting a "new advertising effort for the upcoming season called 'I’m Why' that includes three new spots and, eventually, new commercials from all 30 NBA teams," according to John Lombardo of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The effort, via Translation, N.Y., is the "latest iteration of the NBA’s 'This Is Why We Play' global advertising campaign" that was created in '15. The campaign "begins this week with spots to appear on NBA TV and the league’s digital and social media outlets." The ads include 30- and 60-second spots called “Tipping Off 2017” featuring "highlights from last season." A 60-second ad called “Golden State’s Homecourt Advantage” focuses on a "member of the Warriors’ game-night staff responsible for covering Oracle Arena’s 19,596 seats with gold shirts before playoff games." It will "air locally in the Bay Area on Sept. 30 and is the first of the 30 original team spots to be unveiled throughout the season" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/18 issue). ADWEEK's David Gianatasio noted the ads "showcase confidence and swagger but also strive to transcend game action to tell deeper stories of the league’s place in people’s lives." The campaign does a "fine job of personalizing the league and reflecting its increasingly elevated role across the contemporary landscape." The emphasis in the spots is "more intimate and intense, encompassing the full emotional range" of the '16-17 season, "from elation (LeBron James greeting a fan courtside) to heartbreak (the sad farewell of broadcaster Craig Sager, who lost his long battle with leukemia)" (, 9/19).

Coca-Cola will sponsor its first-ever virtual athlete in a deal with EA Sports to have a major presence in "FIFA 18," the next edition of the game set for a Sept. 29 release. The game last year introduced “The Journey,” a mode that allows you to play as “Alex Hunter,” a 17-year-old soccer phenom, as he develops into a EPL star. In this year’s edition, Hunter encounters career growing pains as he considers a transfer out of the EPL, and he also signs a deal with Coca-Cola. In one scene in the game, Hunter shoots a commercial for Coca-Cola that re-enacts the classic '79 Mean Joe Greene spot, replacing the jersey toss with a fan selfie. Coca-Cola will promote the tie-in with cans featuring Hunter’s likeness sold at 7-Eleven and Wal-Mart in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Those cans will include codes allowing the user to unlock additional game content. Coca-Cola will also put Hunter’s image on its sign in Times Square when the game launches. The campaign will run through the ’18 World Cup. Coca-Cola VP/Entertainment, Ventures & Strategic Alliances Matt Wolf said, “It’s a pretty interesting milestone for us as a company, and I really feel like it’s a really interesting step for us as we start to speak to younger generations and really embrace the future of what media and content.” Coca-Cola Senior Entertainment Marketing Manager Alban Dechelotte said a virtual star allows a sponsor to sidestep some of the challenges inherent in real-life sports. “Some fans may prefer one club, some other fans might prefer another club," he said. "It’s difficult for a brand for us to choose, because we don’t want to alienate anyone. But everyone is Alex.” Out of the 20 million global people who play "FIFA," about 15 million engaged with the narrative feature in the ’17 edition, and 34% completed it, said EA Creative Dir Matt Prior.

THE PLAYERS' CLUB: The deal is notable because it is aimed at "FIFA 18" players themselves rather than at spectators of pro esports competitions, an important distinction as investment dollars flow into esports teams and other pro properties. Wolf said the "FIFA" integration should be seen as an addition to, not instead of, esports sponsorships. “We’re still passionate about that, we still recognize that’s important, but this is another piece of that, and it fits in so well with our football DNA that it makes perfect sense,” Wolf said.

IOC TOP sponsor Visa has unveiled its list of athlete endorsers for the '18 PyeongChang Games, a group of more than 40 Olympians and Paralympians from 17 countries. Among the Americans on Team Visa are Hilary Knight (women’s hockey), Mikaela Shiffrin (alpine skiing), Gus Kenworthy (freestyle skiing), Chloe Kim (snowboarder) and Oksana Masters (para cross-country skiing and para biathlon). Team Visa also includes several former U.S. Olympians, including women’s hockey player Angela Ruggiero and ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Visa Chief Brand & Innovation Marketing Officer Chris Curtin noted the credit card company will “debut the latest in wearable payment technologies” on the ground in PyeongChang. He added the company will be unveiling additional campaign elements in the coming weeks and months. Team Visa first launched ahead of the '00 Sydney Games, and the company has been a TOP sponsor for more than 30 years.

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles is "firing up an effort to go after consumer-oriented sponsors -- a move aimed at helping the Indianapolis Motor Speedway sell more tickets for its events," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. IMS and the Verizon IndyCar Series have "traditionally been heavy in business-to-business sponsorships," and this move could put IMS in "direct competition" with the likes of the Colts and Pacers. Miles this month decided to move forward on an "intensive effort to sell sponsorships to companies in four primary categories: banks, convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and fast-casual restaurants." He said, "Business-to-business partnerships are and will always be a very big focus for us. Now we're trying to get more consumer companies involved." Miles said that the new initiative is "not a reaction to declining attendance" at the track, but rather an effort to "bolster the profile of the track and all its events." He added that he and his staff will "talk to local, regional and national companies -- but it's key that the new partners have a strong presence in Indiana and, ideally, Indianapolis, where a huge chunk of IMS' tickets sales are generated." Miles is "aiming to sign deals of $500,000 per year and up, with some reaching the seven-figure range." He "wants cash as part of the deals," but is also looking for sponsors who will "spend money to promote" events at IMS and help the track sell tickets. Miles said that the new deals will focus on May events -- "including the Grand Prix, which needs a new title sponsor, and the Indianapolis 500 and its qualifications -- but would not be limited to that month" (, 9/16). This comes as IndyCar likely will be looking for a new title sponsor after Verizon's current deal expires after the '18 season.

Raiders QB Derek Carr "dressed up and danced for a 'Bank I Can Trust' ad" made by Fresno-based Educational Employees Credit Union, according to Daniel Mano of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. Carr in the spot also "hides behind bushes, checks out a nice car and works in a recording studio." The "humorous advertisement" shows Carr can "rock a denim jacket with fringes." He also can sing in a "deep voice" and "flap his wings like an eagle." Other "comical moments" include a "close-up of Carr’s lips, a shot of him lifting a one-pound weight and a special guest appearance" by his brother, former NFLer David Carr (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/20).'s Jeremy Woo wrote of the ad, "In a lip-synced, Isaac-Hayes-does-Shaft-slash-wannabe-Prince-dubbed vocal, Carr’s dreamy gaze and jean jacket just kind of take over the action" (, 9/19). USA TODAY's Charles Curtis wrote a favorite moment of the ad was Carr's eyes "piercing through the lens and into our souls." Additionally, the "denim jacket with tassels is amazing" (, 9/19). ESPN’s Jemele Hill said the spot is an “MVP-level video." ESPN’s Michael Smith said, “That’s what winning looks like.” His favorite part of the ad is David Carr “looking like Antonio Banderas from ‘Desperado’” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/19). The Toronto Star's Raju Mudhar tweeted the spot is a "new contender for best athlete ad ever" (, 9/19).