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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

The Browns have reached a multiyear agreement with Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bank to be the team's retail bank, completing a two-bank sponsorship approach it sought after cutting ties with PNC Bank in February. Cleveland-based KeyBank in June signed a long-term partnership to be the Browns' official wealth management and private bank. Browns Exec VP & CRO Brent Stehlik said, “We’re in a unique market where there’s several bank headquarters within a couple hundred miles. It gave us the opportunity to gauge the market and see if there was an opportunity to do some different things than we’ve done in the past.” Fifth Third's partnership includes special fan experiences, ATMs inside FirstEnergy Stadium, digital advertising and additional in-stadium signage. The bank beginning next year will offer fans team-branded check cards. Fifth Third will make its first big splash of the partnership on Oct. 1 when they present the Browns' game against the Bengals and offer a giveaway to fans as they walk through the gate. That will be separate from a promo offering fans attending that game free tickets to the Cedar Point amusement park.

TWO-PRONGED APPROACH: KeyBank’s contract includes new signage throughout the stadium, naming rights to the KeyBank Club and a joint initiative to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Cleveland. Stehlik said that the Browns preferred the two-bank approach because it allows them to have two partners with local ties while also having the opportunity to expand their reach. “We were able to grow this category over almost 50% after winning one game last year and three games the year before." Stehlik said. "It’s really a testament to our fans, corporate sponsors and community seeing the opportunity of how our team is going to perform in the future.” He added, “In spite of that record, the fans are still here, the fans are still coming out and the fans are still passionate about the organization. All those metrics that businesses look at before investing in a team are still really strong with us, and that enabled us to make a big jump here.”

Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo is "spending the week walking through brand pitches from companies looking to position him as the future of basketball," according to Nick DePaula of ESPN.com. As he and his family "walked through a modern rented loft in downtown Milwaukee for Adidas' presentation, the 6-foot-11 forward became fixated on the figures along the walls of the entryway -- Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Jesse Owens." Each has been "aligned with the brand through the course of history, and as Adidas framed it, Antetokounmpo could be next in the lineage of global game-changers who impacted not only their sport, but also left a legacy of social impact." Ultimately, brands are looking for Antetokounmpo to "lead his own signature line of sneakers." In conversations with Adidas, Nike and Li-Ning, each is "offering a signature shoe that would likely launch" during the '18-19 NBA season. Adidas "made sure to mention several times that just this week it overtook Jordan brand as the No. 2 sneaker" in the U.S. Antetokounmpo's current Nike endorsement deal is "set to expire" on Sept. 30. Nike, which ultimately "holds a 'right to match' clause on any endorsement deal offer that Antetokounmpo is presented, held its meeting in a more low-key conference room at a downtown hotel." Its pitch was "centered around the fact that Antetokounmpo would become just the 22nd player to ever receive his own signature sneaker with the brand." Li-Ning "remains a dark horse." The company's last major signing was then-Heat superstar Dwyane Wade in the fall of '12, but it is "looking to refresh and re-energize its roster of athletes" (ESPN.com, 9/21). Antetokounmpo earlier this week was sent a truckload of shoes from Adidas, and ESPN's Michelle Beadle said it seemed "like a waste" to send that many shoes. ESPN’s Marcellus Wiley: “This is not the climate right now to give a guy that many pairs of shoes.” Beadle said Antetokounmpo would likely end up donating the shoes, especially if he "signs with someone else, (because) he can’t wear it anyways” ("SportsNation," ESPN, 9/21).

CLASH OF THE TITANS? In Portland, Clare Duffy wrote Adidas' move past Jordan Brand is an "impressive leap by the brand that at this time last year held" just 6.6% of the market share by dollar amount. Data from the NPD shows that Adidas "now owns" 11.3% (more than Jordan's 9.5%, but still well below Nike's 37%) (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/21). Also in Portland, Jeff Manning noted the development "illustrated Adidas' tremendous resurgence and also the weakness of the basketball shoe market, a traditional strength for both Nike and Jordan." It is "undeniable that Nike is no longer the unchallenged titan of the industry" (Portland OREGONIAN, 9/22).

Marlins P Junichi Tazawa is at the "epicenter of the U.S. boom in popularity of Hi-Chew, a chewy, fruity Japanese candy, and the existence of its parent company’s North Carolina factory that employs 90 people," according to Tim Healey of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. In '12 while with the Red Sox, as the reliever with the least amount of major league service time, he was "tasked with stocking up on gum and bringing it to the bullpen so the rest of the relief corps had plenty to last through the game." Tazawa "included a few Hi-Chews from his personal stash," and they were an "instant hit." Marlins SS Mike Aviles, who also was with the Red Sox at the time, said, "People were just dominating them." Tazawa "couldn’t keep up with his teammates’ desire." He contacted Morinaga America -- Hi-Chew's parent company -- and "asked to buy Hi-Chew in bulk." Morinaga "did him one better: gave it to him for free." Hi-Chew’s popularity inside Fenway Park "helped Morinaga realize it could grow the brand through baseball." By '14, Hi-Chew had "sponsorships with Tazawa’s Red Sox, plus the Twins and Cubs." Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez, also a '12 teammate of Tazawa, is the "face of Hi-Chew’s deal with the Dodgers" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/22).

Mercedes-Benz in buying naming rights to the new home of the Falcons is "trying to prove that it's not just a country-club brand," as the deal puts Mercedes in front of "millions of football, soccer and music fans, including many younger consumers who may not realize the breadth of the brand's expanding lineup," according to Amy Wilson of AUTO NEWS. Mercedes-Benz USA VP/Marketing Drew Slaven said, "It's going to make us a lot more approachable and prove out that we are not elitist. There are products within our portfolio that are very aspirational, but we also have products today, and more coming, that are very, very competitive with mainstream products." Wilson noted Mercedes-Benz also "holds the naming rights to the Superdome in New Orleans, a 10-year deal that continues" through '21. But the brand "aims to put its stamp on the Atlanta stadium in a way it hasn't in New Orleans." Slaven said of the customer experience at M-B Stadium, "It was so important that in the stadium the fans not be treated like cattle being moved around, but like guests in a house." Wilson noted Mercedes is "sponsoring a large cellphone charging station that will provide free rapid charging services for fans." Mercedes has also "partnered with its six area dealerships to offer other amenities to Mercedes customers." But Mercedes execs were "wary of turning the building into an overbearing Mercedes billboard." Slaven: "We don't want commercials running. We'll run some videos of cars, but they'll be broken apart and pulled together as if they're huddling across the 360-degree screen." Mercedes has been working with AMB Group CEO Steve Cannon, who was previously the brand's U.S. President & CEO, while "fine-tuning" its presence at the stadium (AUTONEWS.com, 9/17).