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Volume 25 No. 151

Marketing and Sponsorship

German insurance giant Allianz is close to announcing a deal to become an IOC TOP sponsor. The eight-year deal will commence in ‘21 and run through the ’28 L.A. Games, sources said. Financial terms are not known, but the IOC has been known to be seeking $200M per quadrennial, or $50M per year, for worldwide rights. Allianz will become the IOC’s first insurance partner since Boston-based John Hancock left the program after ‘08. John Hancock held the life insurance category globally and investment advisory services exclusivity in the US. An IOC spokesman declined to comment. An Allianz representative did not return a message seeking comment. Allianz’ precise rights gained in the deal are not clear, but the insurer intends to use the Olympics to demonstrate its digital transformation and find younger customers, particularly via the IOC’s social channels and the startup Olympic Channel. The deal extends Allianz’ status as a global partner to the Int’l Paralympic Committee, a relationship that first began in ‘06. The IOC will take over management of the IPC’s rights starting in ‘21. Allianz is the fifth new member of the TOP program since ‘14, joining Bridgestone, Toyota, Alibaba and Intel. In that time, just one company, McDonald’s, has dropped out. The newcomers will help the IOC grow its sponsorship revenue at a time when most media rights deals are locked in over the long term. Six other partners whose deals expire in '20 have not yet been renewed -- P&G, Dow, Atos, GE, Coca-Cola and Samsung.

BOOSTING ITS REPUTATION: 21 Marketing co-Founder Rob Prazmark, a longtime Olympic sponsorship salesman who once developed a proposal to Allianz while working as an agent for the IOC, said the deal will immediately boost the company’s brand reputation and revenue prospects. In addition to the sales opportunities a sponsorship will unlock with more than 200 national Olympic teams and future Games hosts, Allianz can brand itself as a global company aligned with the Olympic ideals. The deal includes the ’22 Beijing, ‘24 Paris and ’28 L.A. Games, along with the yet-to-be-determined ’26 Games. “There’s a little hand-on-heart to this, but there’s also a tremendous business decision Allianz is making,” Prazmark said.

New executives at Lowe's have led to the retailer re-engaging in talks with HMS
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Hendrick Motorsports is continuing to try to find sponsorship for its No. 48 Chevy driven by Jimmie Johnson next season, and there are signs emerging that the team has a couple worthwhile leads that are developing. Lowe’s announced earlier this year that it would leave HMS and NASCAR as a sport after this season, but sources said that HMS has re-engaged Lowe’s on the possibility of returning next year on a partial basis. Sources said the move to re-engage Lowe’s came, at least in part, because the home-improvement retailer has seen a host of exec changes in recent months in areas including marketing. Some of the new execs are said to be more favorable to sports marketing or motorsports than their predecessors. That includes President & CEO Marvin Ellison and Chair Rick Dreiling. Dollar General had a robust NASCAR program under Dreiling's watch when he served as company CEO. It is unclear how far along talks are with Lowe’s, which is represented by GMR Marketing, or whether it will lead to any sponsorship. Sources noted that it is still possible that Lowe’s will decide to just do a personal-services agreement with Johnson, if anything. Lowe's expiring, season-long deal with HMS was thought to be worth at least $20M, but HMS' rates for '19 were unclear. Meanwhile, sources said that HMS has at least one other separate lead for the No. 48 that is far enough along that it involved a meeting this week at HMS HQ near Charlotte with team Owner Rick Hendrick, Johnson and team co-Owner Jeff Gordon in attendance. The identity of the brand was unclear; HMS declined comment.

BodyArmor's retail activation display with Team Penske appeared in 5,000 stores this year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

BodyArmor's recent extension with Team Penske for the No. 12 Ford driven by Ryan Blaney runs through '21 and includes annual escalators on the amount of primary races it will sponsor. BodyArmor VP/Marketing Michael Fedele said the number of primaries will jump from two to three races during the '19 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next year -- the All-Star Race at Charlotte; the Overton’s 400 at Chicagoland; and the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona. The company is now closely connected to major NASCAR sponsor Coca-Cola, which bought a stake in BodyArmor, and Fedele said that he does envision potential marketing synergies between BodyArmor and Coca-Cola in the sport. Fedele said that BodyArmor uses several different methods to try to track and gauge ROI, including social media mentions and retail activation figures. He said that BodyArmor projected it would get its Team Penske/Blaney retail activation display in around 1,500 stores across more than a dozen different retailers in the U.S. this year, and wound up with around 5,000. It also brought a BodyArmor-branded show car to 75-100 different stores as part of the activation. The expanded deal includes more content opportunities, something Fedele is focused on after getting some initial results this year like a five-minute video on RatedRed that showed how Blaney trains to stay in shape. BodyArmor is planning to continue its BodyArmor Heroes military-focused promotion, which it leveraged Team Penske to push.

Even as the predominant NBA video game franchise, NBA 2K, "releases its newest version, EA Sports seeks to reassert itself via its NBA Live title, attempting to regain relevance after a dismal near-decade that featured multiple years in which Electronic Arts did not even release a game annually," according to Noah Smith of the WASHINGTON POST. Once the premier, and essentially only, offering throughout the '90s, NBA Live "lost the bulk of its market share" to Take-Two Interactive’s NBA 2K franchise. That title "emerged as one of the top selling games, not just within the sports genre, but overall." NBA 2K sold "about 9 million titles" of the '17 edition and, for modern consoles, became the "top-selling sports game for titles based on a U.S.-based league." To use another metric, "NBA Live 18" has "about 65,500 followers on Twitch" while "NBA 2K18" has 2.5 million. The dynamic is a "reversal for a sports game market" that EA has "dominated with titles such as its Madden, FIFA and NHL." Now the question is whether EA can "regain its former status and challenge 2K’s throne." Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter "credited Take-Two’s deft strategy of heavily discounting games to secure market share in the mid-2000s." But despite this competitive gulf, the team at EA, led by veteran producer Mike Mahar, believes the NBA’s global fan base is "large enough to allow for at least two games." NBA Live has also "leaned into gender equality, with its exclusive inclusion of WNBA players and the ability to create female custom players." But EA has "much ground to make up, particularly when it comes to repairing its reputation." Despite EA’s innovations and Mahar’s "plucky attitude, industry observers are not convinced NBA Live is ready to be taken seriously" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/13).

AD AGE's E.J. Schultz noted tennis player Naomi Osaka will "appear in global ads" after signing an endorsement deal with Nissan, though she at first "won't be appearing in U.S. ads." A Nissan North America spokesperson said that the U.S. division does "not currently have plans to utilize" the U.S. Open champ in its marketing efforts. In terms of global brand name recognition, the Nissan deal "marks Osaka's biggest endorsement deal, with perhaps the exception of her existing Adidas work" (ADAGE.com, 9/13).

TASTE THE FEELING: Coca-Cola signed its "biggest UK sponsorship deal" by becoming EPL's "seventh and final commercial partner." The brand joins "other sponsors Barclays, Carling, Cadbury, Nike, Tag Heuer and EA Sports." The three-and-a-half-year agreement starts in January. Financial details were not revealed (BBC.com, 9/13).