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Volume 26 No. 4

Marketing and Sponsorship

MLS has launched the latest iteration of its brand campaign “Our Soccer” promoting the start of the ’19 season. The campaign, produced by the league’s creative agency of record Cornerstone and The Fader, aims to showcase MLS’ multi-cultural North American fan base in a series of spots that were not only created in English, Spanish and French-Canadian, but in Spanglish as well. MLS VP/Brand & Integrated Marketing David Bruce said the campaign aims to "capture the unique experience of being a fan and being part of the culture around that." Bruce: “Our wider vision is to be a league for the new North America, and that’s what we’re trying to celebrate.” The spot, titled “Our Sound,” features Latin singer Prince Royce -- wearing Inter Miami CF gear -- watching an MLS match alongside Grammy-nominated producer and DJ TOKiMONSTA, who is wearing a jersey from her hometown LAFC. She is the first woman ever to be prominently featured in an MLS marketing campaign like this, Bruce said. MLS pulled the other ad that was to run in the campaign, which featured and was narrated by rapper Sheck Wes, of whom allegations of domestic abuse by singer Justine Skye arose last night. In a statement, MLS said Wes is "no longer part of the campaign" in light of the allegations, which the rapper has denied. The campaign spots will run on MLS TV partner networks as well as on international broadcast partner platforms, as well as the league’s digital channels.

Bleacher Report staged its first NBA All-Star fanfest last year when the game was in L.A.

Bleacher Report this weekend will stage a large public fanfest in uptown Charlotte in connection with the NBA All-Star Game entitled “B/R x NC.” The attraction will include music, art exhibits, basketball-themed games, locally-inspired food and other programming. It is the second straight year Bleacher Report has staged an All-Star fanfest, but the digital media brand’s “House of Highlights” will make its debut at the event with an “optimized for Instagram” space that will include interviews with various NBA players and personalities, live programming, a gaming lounge and other activities. The fanfest continues an ongoing push by the Turner Sports-owned Bleacher Report to extend deeper into live events, one that included a sneaker culture event in December in N.Y. Sponsors for “B/R x NC” include Caesar’s Entertainment, McDonald’s, Mountain Dew, State Farm, Wilson, Ruffles, Tissot, Intel, and the partnership of Foot Locker and Adidas (Eric Fisher, THE DAILY).

TIME TO PARTY: SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL's John Lombardo notes the NBA is taking over nearly all of the Epicentre in uptown Charlotte to host "myriad sponsor activations and fan events" around Sunday's NBA All-Star Game. A major feature will be the NBA Crossover venue that will "showcase the convergence of the NBA, art, music, fashion, technology and entertainment." NBA partners activating within NBA Crossover include 2K, Kia, Levi’s, Mitchell & Ness, Panini, Rakuten and Victor Solomon. Other activations "include Budweiser Live, which is title partner and owner of Epicentre’s Rooftop 210 venue space that will feature musical performances throughout the All-Star weekend" (SPORTS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/11 issue).

Only 14 national ads ran during Saturday's games, compared to an average of 85 for NFL games

Game breaks on CBS for the opening weekend of the AAF were "few and far between," which meant there "weren't very many in-game opportunities for advertisers to shill their products," according to Anthony Crupi of AD AGE. Only 14 national ads aired during Saturday night's broadcast -- by way of contrast, the average NFL game "carries a paid spot load of approximately 85 units -- and nearly all of those commercials were featured in split-screen executions." Buyers estimate that each 30-second unit in the CBS broadcast "fetched around $75,000." The standalone spots were "reinforced by call-outs from the broadcast booth and on-screen bugs." Discounting local breaks and in-house promotions for CBS and the AAF's gaming app, full-screen paid ads "appeared in only one pod." MGM Resorts aired three spots in Saturday's games, while the other advertisers were the Navy Federal Credit Union, Buffalo Wild Wings and aviation service Wheels Up. The same advertisers that "bought time in Saturday's broadcast appeared in nearly identical configurations in the two Sunday games," which aired on CBS Sports Network and NFL Network (, 2/11).

Champion will provide game uniforms, warmups and practice clothing to the the NBA 2K League’s 21 teams

Champion will become the official outfitter of the NBA 2K League in a multiyear deal announced today. Champion will provide game uniforms, warmups, travel and practice clothing to the league’s 21 teams. It will also sell NBA 2K League merchandise at and at key league events, such as the NBA 2K League Draft Clash, in-season tournaments and the finals. Inside the game itself, the players’ digital avatars will wear Champion-branded uniforms. Terms were not disclosed. Champion did one previous esports deal, outfitting Dignitas, the team owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. The 2K League draft is set for March 5.

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The Pistons are "rolling out new B2B programs for the team's corporate advertisers," introducing a "formally structured speed-dating networking event that pairs Pistons advertisers together to talk about possible business relationships," according to Bill Shea of CRAIN'S DETROIT BUSINESS. The newest program is being called "Pistons Partners Connect," and the conceit is that each participating company has to "bring both sales and procurement executives." A Pistons staffer "sits in on the meetings to ensure there's not only productive dialogue but also follow-up on potential deals." The idea is to "forgo the traditional networking concept centered on an event or game." The first Pistons Partner Connect was Jan. 22 at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. Pistons Senior VP/Corporate Partnerships Ted Van Zelst said that about a dozen companies participated, and the "goal is to double that this year." Among the notable participating companies were Henry Ford Health System, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Flagstar Bank and Rocket Fiber. Van Zelst "created Pistons Partner Connect based on a national-scale B2B program he launched while working as a NASCAR senior executive before joining the Pistons" in '15 (, 2/10).

In Phoenix, Duane Rankin notes Suns Fs Mikal Bridges, Josh Jackson, Kelly Oubre and Richaun Holmes have "each worn themed sneakers in February" to celebrate Black History Month. The shoes will be made "available for purchase at the end of the month with the proceeds benefiting Elevate Phoenix, a local non-profit that works with youth." The Suns "commissioned designers to create the custom sneakers, but the players had a say in the theme" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/12).

BIG POUR: U.S. Ski & Snowboard has signed Constellation Brands’ Pacifico as its official beer sponsor in a four-year deal that runs through the ‘22 Beijing Games. Pacifico replaces Lagunitas, which had occupied the beer category from ’15 to ’18. Along with the usual pouring rights and activation opportunities at all World Cup events hosted by USS, Pacifico will be the founding partner of the Visa City Big Air series, set to begin in December. The deal is the second sponsorship with USS for Constellation Brands, which also owns the official spirit, High West Distillery (Ben Fischer, THE DAILY).

DRINK LOCAL: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana notes locally-based Genesee Brewing Company will have a "much more visible presence" at Watkins Glen Int't this year, as the brewer yesterday announced a multiyear sponsorship deal with the track. Genesee will now be the official beer of WGI, the company's "first commercial sponsorship agreement in more than a decade." The deal includes Genesee branding on one of the pace cars that will be used at the track, as well as "several category exclusive logo and promotional rights" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 2/12).