Turner Sports sold out of its available ad units for NBA All-Star Weekend coverage in "record time, closing out the last bit" about three weeks ago, according to Anthony Crupi of AD AGE. Turner Sports Exec VP/Ad Sales Jon Diament did not disclose the "sort of unit costs he was able to command for the three nights of All-Star programming," but the weekend is one of Turner's "most lucrative events outside of the NBA and MLB playoffs and March Madness." Crupi noted among the "top spenders" for this year's All-Star Game, which takes place Feb. 17 in Charlotte, are official NBA sponsors such as State Farm, Kia, Beats and Gatorade. Tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google and movie studios are also "big backers" of the game. Diament said that Warner Bros., a corporate sibling of Turner, will be "highly visible during this year's festivities," as will Universal Studios, Sony Pictures, Disney and Annapurna Pictures. Crupi noted Super Bowl LIII was "notably light on movie spots," and it is "likely that many of the upcoming films fans expected to see featured" will pop up during the All-Star Game (ADAGE.com, 2/7).
DRAFT DAY: In L.A., Broderick Turner notes Lakers F LeBron James during the NBA All-Star draft Thursday night "did not miss his chance" to take Pelicans C Anthony Davis, who the Lakers had tried to acquire before the NBA trade deadline. When James was asked by TNT host Ernie Johnson if he was sure he wanted Davis as a teammate, James said, "I'm very sure of that." Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will captain the other team, joked, "Isn't that tampering?" (L.A. TIMES, 2/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Cwik wrote the NBA All-Star draft was "full of entertaining moments," and 76ers G Ben Simmons may have provided the "best moments of the night." After being selected, Simmons was "traded by Antetokounmpo minutes later." Simmons had some "fun with the trade, calling out ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski for not reporting it first." Simmons tweeted: "Where was @wojespn on that one huh?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/7). In DC, Des Bieler noted this was the "first time" the draft was televised. James was a captain last year along with Stephen Curry, and he "declared after that draft that it should be televised." James and the Lakers played in Boston on Thursday night, meaning the draft "was recorded in the morning and shown on TNT in the evening" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/7).
Coca-Cola has signed an expansive deal with Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues to become the official non-alcoholic beverage of Overwatch League and all other Overwatch properties. It is the first OWL sponsorship deal that takes full advantage of the game developer's total control over the game's intellectual property. In the multiyear pact, Coca-Cola gets exclusivity with all 20 OWL teams, the Overwatch Contenders league, the open division, the Overwatch World Cup, the annual BlizzCon and collegiate events. “When we showed them the data points about how the people who play Overwatch, are also the fans of the esports, what we’re doing at the league level, their perspective became, ‘If we really want to do this the right way, then let’s be a partner of the entire ecosystem,’” said Activision Blizzard Esports CRO Brandon Snow. He declined to disclose terms, but a source said it covers three years. Coca-Cola products will be served at OWL events when Activision Blizzard controls the venue, and league officials will attempt to facilitate a pouring deal between Coca-Cola and any other venue that may host games if possible. The league is experimenting with running some games at teams’ local venues this year, and teams have said they’re planning to run full home schedules in '20. Details of how Coca-Cola will promote its rights will be disclosed in the coming weeks, Snow said. Coca-Cola Classic will be the primary brand focus point, but the deal allows for other products to be featured. Coca-Cola Senior VP/Strategic Marketing Geoff Cottrill oversaw negotiations, while Snow led talks for Activision Blizzard. Bobby Kotick, the CEO of Activision Blizzard, has served as a director for Coca-Cola since '12.
WATERSHED MOMENT FOR OWL: Naming a beverage sponsor is a watershed moment for OWL, Snow said, lending legitimacy and marketing reach that every traditional sport property depends on. "They have marketing assets beyond what other people have. They have their cans, their bottles, and the way they can bring those sports to life on cans and bottles are marketing dollars that people like us and stick and ball sports just really can’t put a value against,” Snow said. "It’s wonderful media." Coca-Cola has been in esports and gaming before, working with Riot Games’ League of Legends in '16 and integrating with EA Sports’ FIFA title in '17 and '18. PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew is perhaps the most prominent player in the category, having sponsored ESL’s Mountain Dew League, a developmental league in "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive," and signing its own deal with Activision Blizzard in December for the “Call of Duty” World League. OWL’s second season starts Thursday.
The Alliance of American Football plays its first games on CBS this Saturday, and advertisers are mixed on "whether the country needs more football, or how many viewers will follow the league once its games shift to cable TV and streaming services until CBS broadcasts the championship in April," according to Alexandra Bruell of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Some advertisers are "willing to bet the league’s new model, including a gaming component, will keep at least a small number of fans engaged." They are "intrigued by the souped-up fantasy and betting potential, which could hook a core audience on live viewing." The AAF plans to "track players’ positions and formations through wearable devices, and to stream that data to fans for use in play-by-play gaming." Sources said that given marketers’ "inability to judge the quality of the football product, the league has appealed to buyers with reasonable ad prices and flexibility in negotiations." Sources said that the league is selling "exclusive sponsorship packages in the mid-six-to-seven figures, depending on the category and level of sponsorship and activation." It is "charging rates in the five-digits for 30-second spots in games that air on CBS." Starter and New Era Cap are among the brands that "bought ad packages." MGM Resorts Int'l is "expected to offer wagering where legal through its app" (WSJ.com, 2/7).
THE GOOD STUFF: North Carolina-based Bitty & Beau's is now the "official coffee" of the AAF, which will promote the coffee chain on its Shop AAF website, though fans "can't buy any of its coffee and other products just yet." Bitty & Beau's co-Owner Amy Wright "founded the shop with the goal of providing meaningful jobs to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities." Bitty & Beau’s opened a branch in Charleston, S.C., in '17, and "another branch in Savannah late last year" (STARNEWSONLINE.com, 2/8).
Syracuse Univ. "continues to progress toward an expected new apparel deal with Nike" that would extend the school's relationship with the company past its current expiration later this year, according to Chris Carlson of the Syracuse POST-STANDARD. Syracuse AD John Wildhack said that he "continues to negotiate only with Nike" after receiving interest last year from both Adidas and Under Armour. He said, "We've made significant progress. We're moving in the right direction there." Carlson noted Nike has been an "incredibly valuable partner for the school's basketball program," as Syracuse has often received "unique clothing, from playing occasional games in script jerseys to specifically-designed Pearl Washington warm-up shirts." Nike's relationship with the football program has been a "little more frustrating for fans, who have been unable to purchase orange jerseys and have expressed mixed feelings about the team's re-designed uniforms" (SYRACUSE.com, 2/7).
Markieff Morris will star in a new ad for a DC-area pizza chain that "will debut during Saturday's broadcast" of Wizards-Bulls on NBC Sports Washington despite the Wizards trading the forward to the Pelicans late Wednesday night, according to Scott Allen of the WASHINGTON POST. Paisano's Pizza filmed the ad with Morris this summer, but ESB Advertising "finally completed" editing the spot late Wednesday afternoon. Morris was traded "less than five hours later." The ad is slated to air "twice during every Wizards game on the network for the remainder of the season." ESB Advertising Founder Eiman Bassam said that he "considered pulling Morris' commercial entirely, but ultimately decided to let it run 'for a few weeks.'" Allen notes Paisano's shot an ad with Redskins LB Ryan Kerrigan, DT Daron Payne and WR Josh Doctson that ran "throughout the NFL season," while a Capitals-themed ad with LW Andre Burakovsky and RW Devante Smith-Pelly debuted last month. Ironically, there has been "speculation for months that Burakovsky ... will be dealt" before the NHL trade deadline later this month. Meanwhile, there is "nothing to be done about the more than two million delivery menus featuring an image of Morris that Paisano's printed a couple of weeks ago" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/8).
The popularity of Angels DH/P Shohei Ohtani during his rookie year in '18 forced the team's merchandising unit to "play catch-up for an entire season," according to Jim Allen of KYODO NEWS. Eric Ursua, who oversees the Legends apparel store at Angel Stadium, said, "We weren't ready. When we started off (after his signing), we only had like three or four Ohtani items. ... By the end of the season, we had six- or seven-dozen different items. We had no idea we would need so many different Ohtani items." Ursua did not give specifics for sales of Ohtani merchandise because the team does not break it down by player, but he said, "We had a great increase in team merchandise sales." He did say that the volume growth compared with the '17 season "was in double digits" (KYODO NEWS, 2/7).
ADWEEK's Patrick Coffee noted Deutsch, N.Y., has "emerged as the winner of a global creative review" by Reebok. The apparel company began the search for a new agency of record several months after hiring VP/Global Marketing Melanie Boulden in '18. Venables Bell & Partners, S.F., "declined to participate in the pitch" after having led the Reebok account for four years. Reebok has "long been a challenger brand to larger companies" like Nike (ADWEEK.com, 2/7).
BE THE CHANGE: AD AGE's Ann-Christine Diaz noted Ayesha Curry, the wife of Stephen Curry, is one of the "faces of GoDaddy's new campaign, 'Make the World You Want,'" which is a "far cry from the scantily-clad Super Bowl caricatures that helped to put the brand on the map more than a decade ago." The new campaign continues GoDaddy's "steady push over the last few years to target its marketing more tactically to a diverse base of consumers with different needs, highlighting the various tools" the company offers while "promoting a message of empowerment" (ADAGE.com, 2/7).
NOW CHECKING IN: Travelers at Phoenix Sky Harbor Int'l Airport on Thursday "got a surprise" when five current and two former Suns players "traded places with Southwest Airlines employees." The players "made boarding announcements, checked in travelers for flights and even learned to marshal an airplane to its gate." The promotion was part of the team's annual event in partnership with the Dallas-based airline (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/8).