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Volume 25 No. 27

Marketing and Sponsorship

PepsiCo’s Mtn Dew brand has pulled an ad with Grant Hill that upset CBS, Turner and longtime NCAA sponsor Coca-Cola. Mtn Dew’s spot with Hill debuted last week during coverage of the conference tournaments and poked fun at NCAA-specific sayings like “Sweet 16,” “Final Four” and “March Madness.” Hill, who works on the lead March Madness broadcast team with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson, also promoted a Mtn Dew giveaway that was tied to the “Beat the Buzzer” campaign. Mtn Dew, which has no NCAA marketing rights, did not respond to requests for comment. The 90-second version of Hill’s spot is no longer available on YouTube. Coca-Cola has been an NCAA corporate champion since '02 (Michael Smith, Staff Writer). AWFUL ANNOUNCING's Alex Putterman wrote it is a "bit surprising" to see Mtn Dew pull a commercial that it has "blasted across airwaves over the past week, apparently due to pressure from a rival." In light of that news, it is "easy to imagine a long string of phone calls, with Coca-Cola pressuring the NCAA and/or its broadcast partners, the networks leaning on Hill and Hill’s people" asking Mtn Dew to pull the ad. Putterman: "Clearly someone nudged Mountain Dew in one way or another." March Madness will now "proceed without Hill getting beeped" by a Mtn Dew buzzer. And it is "too bad, really, because the ad was pretty funny" (AWFULANNOUNCING.com, 3/12).

GoPro did not renew its deal with Sonoma Raceway to title sponsor the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale this year at the track. The S.F.-based action-camera company initially signed on in ’12 for three years and eventually extended through ’17. The company's decision not to renew the deal for '18 comes at a time when it has started to face serious business issues amid increasing competition. The company’s stock price is down around 90% since mid ’15. Sonoma Raceway President & GM Steve Page said that the track is now actively searching for a replacement sponsor for the race, which will be on Sept. 16.

Gillette is close to a deal to become the official grooming products brand of the Boston Uprising, the Overwatch League team owned by the Kraft Group. In addition to category exclusivity, the deal would likely include a brand presence in the team’s training facility or practice gear, said Gillette Global Head of Sports, Esports & Entertainment Marketing Greg Via. Gillette has been the naming-rights holder at the Kraft-owned Gillette Stadium since '03. The razor brand’s most prominent team relationship in esports is with League of Legends powerhouse Team SoloMid, but Via said, “Overwatch interests us as well, and as part of our overall great relationship we have with the entire Kraft organization, we thought it’d be a good idea.” The team declined to comment.

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.

Ballcaps co-branded by the Yankees and Gucci this June "will hit Gucci stores, part of an ongoing collaboration" between the label and MLB, according to Jacob Gallagher of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The caps will have "NY" on the front and "one of Gucci’s butterfly embellishments on the side." Other smaller, N.Y.-based labels like Aime Leon Dore, Kith, Nepenthes and Supreme have all "released their own slightly tweaked Yankees-logo caps." Gucci's "surprising decision to collaborate with MLB reinforces the notion that, culturally speaking, the Yankees hat has transcended the diamond." New Era Cap Product Dir Christina McAdam said prominent Yankees cap-wearers like Jay-Z and Spike Lee "propelled the cap and the brand further into the fashion space." As other celebs followed suit, the hat "became a fashion accessory in its own right." Clothing resale website Grailed Head of Special Projects Chicquelo Smith "compared the Yankees hat to a pair of Air Jordans, another sports item that long ago left the arena and entered the style space." Smith said, "There’s an allure around the logo itself and (the color scheme) is so understated and powerful at the same time. It’s just a beautiful product" (WSJ.com, 3/13).

Gucci Yankees hats

GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols noted Golf HOFer Juli Inkster "doesn't have any sponsors" for the "second consecutive year." Inkster: "It frustrates the hell out of me." Inkster made "seven cuts in 10 events she played last year" and will play "five of the next six domestic starts on the LPGA." Inkster: "It’s not like I’m not in the limelight. It’s not like I don’t get on TV. It’s not like I’m bad at pro-ams or speeches" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/12).

FLYING HIGH: DC-based EagleBank announced a five-year sponsorship of DC United and Audi Field. The partnership will include the creation of the “EagleBank Club” at Audi Field, which will provide an exclusive destination for fans to enjoy premium seating and entertainment. DC United previously obtained a $25M funding package from EagleBank to install energy and water efficiency equipment at Audi Field, including a storm water retention system (EagleBank).

NEXT ON THE TEE: Non-profit, Orange County-based health system Hoag will take on the '19 title sponsorship of the PGA Tour Champions event in Newport Beach, Calif., formerly called the Toshiba Classic. With Hoag as title sponsor, the tournament will welcome three new presenting sponsors, including Konica Minolta (Hoag).