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Volume 6 No. 212

Marketing and Sponsorship

Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley eyewear company will "become a partner of the Tour de France bicycle race next year after ending a long relationship with Lance Armstrong," according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG. CEO Colin Baden said that Oakley "did not receive a discount because of the doping scandal" centering around Armstrong. Oakley’s move comes at a time when sponsors such as the Netherlands’ biggest mortgage lender, Rabobank Groep, are "shunning cycling because of the doping scandal." Baden: “I would like to see that the sport be what it once was. It’s unfortunate what we’ve all experienced. It would be really nice to get back to the place where it’s admired, respected and understood.” Oakley had been working on the sponsorship deal for 12 months. Baden said that the decision to partner with the Tour de France for the first time "deepens the company’s relationship" with a sport where he said the Oakley brand “was discovered” (BLOOMBERG, 11/8).

Barcelona striker Lionel Messi "has signed a sponsorship deal" with Proctor & Gamble, according to The three time FIFA Ballon d'Or winner is now one of the brand's new ambassadors and will "promote the shampoo brand Head & Shoulders." The marketing campaign featuring Messi will include "a series of TV commercials along with online ads" directed at a male audience. P&G Brand Manager Michael Saabia said, "The fact that Leo is a fan of Head & Shoulders, and now our ambassador, gives us a tremendous opportunity to be able to create a personal connection with our Hispanic male consumers" (, 11/8).

Just this year in Chinese sports, the Chinese Super League acquired former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Yao Ming returned home and is leading grassroots basketball programs, and Olympic swimmer Ye Shiwen won two Gold Medals in London, while setting world records. China is on the world sporting map. What is lacking, though, is Chinese brands taking advantage of the sports marketing space. Shankai Sports works with these companies on an international level, for events such as Euro 2012, the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The company focuses on hospitality, event marketing, sponsorships and digital media. CEO & co-Founder Feng Tao, headquartered in Beijing, took time to speak with SBD Global Staff Writer Kristen Heimstead about how Chinese culture influences brands’ decisions, and how his company educates them on getting their brand abroad through sports.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you face in getting domestic companies to sponsor international sporting events?
Feng Tao: Knowledge. Chinese companies really have no idea. They don’t how to approach sports governing bodies, they don’t know the strategy, the meaning of the rights or how to generate the rights. The only knowledge for Chinese companies is that if they sponsor an international event then they could have their advertising board around the pitch. They cannot make the connection between the sponsorship and media value. They cannot put those two things together. But I think we are in a good position -- we know how to translate international knowledge into proper Chinese language.

Q: How do you go about teaching Chinese companies and showing them what they can generate from a sports sponsorship?
Feng: Being a friend of them first. Don’t cheat them. You must have a very good relationship with them. You have to establish the credibility and the trust, otherwise they won’t listen to you. That is why a lot of international companies cannot succeed in the Chinese market. Many PR companies or sports marketing agencies, they cannot succeed.

Q: Once you’ve developed a relationship with the Chinese companies and they are interested in signing a sponsorship deal, do you find that they are more willing to sign a short- or long-term deal?
Feng: Short-term first. You have to bring them into the family. At the beginning they always want to try, but they don’t know how to use it and don’t have the strategy. Once they walk into the room, they understand immediately, and then they renew the contract. For example, Yiling Solar signed a deal with FIFA in 2009 for the 2010 South Africa World Cup. At the beginning it was just one World Cup, but after they saw how much benefit they can get, now they have renewed.

Q: In what area of sports marketing do you think there is room for the most growth in China?
Feng: Domestic sponsorship deals, for the CSL and CBA. Because of the internal issues in China, it still takes time to reform. They have to reform and have a clear structure and clear rules and regulations. In one word, they need to "open" their market. Once they have public internal structures, then they will attract more Chinese companies to work together. But that is long term. They are run by one person that wears two hats. One is the government official and one is the association. This is the key in China. If they cannot separate these two entities, then there is no sports marketing in China.

Q: What was the impact of the Beijing Olympics on companies' interest in sponsoring international events?
Feng: When I talk to the people in China they say the event was a turning point, a new era for the sports industry in this country. It made the people in China awake, and they realized we have to associate with sporting events, that it’s a good opportunity to build our brands. The sports industry is 30-40 years behind the U.S.

Q: How do you get your local sports news?
Feng: For me it’s sports business. I read online, but I seldom read sports business news from Chinese websites.

Q: What is in Shankai Sports’ plans for the next five years?
Feng: We promote our company as a bridge between China and overseas. So we want to bring more Chinese companies into international events. We believe sponsoring global events is the best platform for Chinese companies to build up their brands overseas.

Telecom company Telmex's sponsorship deal with the Sauber F1 Team "is dependent on the team's decision of whether or not to promote Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez as the team's second permanent driver in '13," according to Sven Haidinger of Sauber still has to set up its driver lineup for '13. The team "has to decide if it wants to stick with Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi or promote its current test driver Gutierrez to become Nico Hülkenberg's teammate for '13." Mexican media reports indicate that the 21-year-old Gutierrez "will get the spot." Telmex board member Carlos Slim Domit, who is the son of the richest man in the world Carlos Slim Helu, said in an interview, "We are in talks with Sauber about next season. We want to continue our partnership -- obviously with a Mexican driver named Esteban Gutierrez." Slim Domit added, "We will have talks with the team in the upcoming weeks, but I have no doubt that we will have two Mexican drivers in F1 next year. Should this not be the case, we would have to rethink our F1 involvement." In addition to Telmex, a majority of the team's sponsors are from Mexico. Sauber is in a financially difficult situation and has already signed talented Force India driver Hülkenberg, who is supposed to rack up top finishes for the team even after the departure of Sergio Pérez to McLaren at the end of the season. Therefore, it is understandable that above all "sponsorship deals will decide what driver gets the second spot" (, 11/8).

When it comes to growth potential, UFC and the NFL have unique challenges, and football is still king, said a panel of experts discussing global media. Michael Payne said F1’s recent deal with NBC was largely over marketing potential, and added that F1 has been struggling with its presence in the U.S.: “It really was a case of looking at your partners to who would committ the most marketing muscle on a five-year plan. The deal was driven by marketing and promotion.” On growth properties globally, Joe Ravitch said, “We believe the UFC is the fastest growing global sport. It’s a very primal sport and it appeals to every country. It’s been a phenomenon in Brazil.” Payne agreed, but warned that some governments have pressured media companies about MMA programming.

Global Media: Opportunities and Challenges

Mike Dolan, IMG Worldwide
Michael Payne, Payne Sports Media Strategies
Joe Ravitch, Raine
Oliver Slipper, PERFORM

Payne: “You’re getting leaned on big time by government not to touch it. …Governments are sending strong signals what content they will accept or not.” UFC is probably the fastest growing sport, “but you have a lot of questions on it.” He added, “Rugby 7s is very much growing and it will really grow by being on the Olympic program.” Ravitch: “The NBA in China continues to go from strength to strength. You see this as you drive throughout the country. They are building more and more hoops all over the place. The NBA is firmly engrained in Chinese culture.”

AND THE NFL: Asked about the NFL’s prospects for growing overseas, Oliver Slipper said he noticed traction gained by the league in London: “You get the sense that the NFL is growing in London. …. I think the NFL could franchise in London and I think there is a growing demand for the NFL.” But Ravitch said, “The NFL has a separate challenge, as it’s not a sport that is played anywhere else. ….I tell everyone the NFL is the first, second and third most popular sport in the U.S. So why bother trying to build a sport where no one plays it? The biggest question is how come sports like the NHL and MLB haven’t been able to grow internationally like the NBA has. … Those are sports that are played in those markets. … That’s a decision these leagues and owners are going to have to make.” Ravitch added it’s all about a league’s business plan: “The NBA made a conscious decision to invest internationally. It’s just a matter of someone choosing a direction and running after it.”

LOOKING AHEAD: One sport that we should all be watching over the next five years? Mike Dolan: “It’s still soccer. Soccer is the international game, and so it becomes, after that, then what else and where?” Ravitch: “Baseball has a golden opportunity that it hasn’t taken advantage of to go globally.” Payne: “There is nothing out there that is up and coming, from the mainstream, that is getting everyone’s attention. Beyond the traditional sports at the moment, there is nothing jumping out at you.” Slipper: “Cricket. It is a sport with great excitement and it’s going global. It is starting to get more distribution in Europe. There are cricket pitches built on the campuses of Microsoft, Oracle and other tech companies in Silicon Valley.”

Golf world No. 1 Rory McIlroy "dismissed reports" he has already signed a multi-million dollar deal with Nike, according to the AFP. However, McIlroy did say there would be an announcement in the next few weeks. The Irishman said that he "had not committed to any sponsor for next season" and remained under Titleist until the end of the year, when his deal with the American equipment-maker will expire. McIlroy said, "I’m a Titleist player until the end of the year, I’ve made no commitment to any company for next year" (AFP, 11/8).

The ATP and electronics company Ricoh revealed that they have extended their partnership a further three years through '15 for the company to be a platinum partner and official office solutions provider of the ATP World Tour in Europe. The extension will see the 10th anniversary of the partnership in '15. Ricoh provides document solutions and services to ensure that ATP and tournament operations are efficient and productive. In '11 Ricoh introduced its Sustainability Optimisation Programme to 13 ATP World Tour tournaments, making all critical document processes carbon neutral. As part of the agreement, Ricoh also has extended its existing sponsorship of ATP World Tour events in Monte-Carlo, Rome, Madrid, Hamburg, Paris, Basel, Rotterdam, Stockholm, Vienna, Moscow and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals through '15. Ricoh's on-court branding at these events includes the prominent Ricoh umpire chairs, speed-serve displays and associated TV graphics (ATP).

The Ghana FA has received Ghc 100,000 ($53,163) as sponsorship money from Ricemaster for the Black Stars. The money that is for the '12-13 season is "in fulfillment of the rice firm’s pledge to become the official meal sponsor of the Black Stars" ( ... England Rugby League has confirmed sports nutrition brand Optimum Nutrition as the official product supplier of the national team ahead of the Rugby League World Cup 2013. The company will provide the England and England Knights teams with nutrition products during the '13 season (England Rugby League). ... Scottish First Division club Airdrie United has agreed to a sponsorship deal with potato company Albert Bartlett. The company will invest a "significant" four-figure sum this season to support the team's youth pathway scheme (ISPORTSCONNECT, 11/8). ... German second-tier basketball club BG Karlsruhe "agreed to a new partnership with local merchandise product retailer Wallitschek Fanartikel." Fans of BG Karlsruhe will be able to buy exclusive team merchandise as well as game tickets at the retailer's store" (, 11/8).