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Volume 6 No. 196

Marketing and Sponsorship

Mario Balotelli is "the template from which Manchester United can set about making some serious money out of Wayne Rooney, to offset the many millions more they are paying out on his new salary," according to Ian Herbert of the London INDEPENDENT. One specialist in the field describes Balotelli as "The best example of bad guy perception.” One only has "to look at some of his promotional videos with Puma, for whom he is now a leading symbol, to see how controversy pays." This example "suddenly matters a great deal" to ManU, because "sweating their prime asset commercially is their way of getting some payback for accepting the Rooney pay demands put before them" by the player’s agent, Paul Stretford. In return for making Rooney Britain’s best-paid footballer by a distance, ManU "will have ensured that a more significant proportion of his image rights revenue now comes directly to them, rather than him." It means that "self-interest, not affection, is driving the new search for Rooney endorsements which the United sales staff in London and New York will be embarking upon." Securing image rights deals for an individual, rather than a team, "is always trickier, because of the unpredictability attached, but it is doubly so with Rooney." Experts experienced in selling Premier League player image rights "will tell you that when there is a controversy or marital indiscretion in a star’s past there can be problems in this country." It is in Asia, "where stars with rough spots are an easier sell, that United will be looking to push the Rooney image most profitably." Building on Rooney’s current Samsung deal "means a sales pitch which draws on his fundamental appeal: raw, rough-edged unpredictability, even if that does entail promoting traits in their star player that the manager would like to see in the background" (INDEPENDENT, 2/25).

MasterCard released a film of Brazilian football player Lucio "talking about his experiences of the UEFA Champions League," ahead of Tuesday's games in the tournament, according to Maisie McCabe of MEDIA WEEK. The film is part of a series of 10 videos produced through a partnership between MasterCard and the digital sports media company Perform, "to promote the financial services brand's sponsorship of the competition." The video "will be available to watch on Perform's Goal website, as well as its social channels and the video network ePlayer." MasterCard will use the video on its "Witness History" football pages on Facebook and YouTube. The activity "will run" in the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Russia, Poland and Turkey, in a deal negotiated by UM Int'l (MEDIA WEEK, 2/25).

Seiko Holdings Corp. has signed a three-year sponsorship deal to support the Asian Football Confederation. The Japanese company becomes the latest commercial backer of the continental body’s club program. The agreement between the two organizations was completed ahead of the '14 season and will see Seiko become the official timing graphics sponsor of the AFC Champions League and a supporter of the AFC’s other club competitions, including the AFC Cup. Seiko's branding will adorn on-screen TV graphics on broadcasts of the AFC Champions League, which was watched by record numbers of viewers in '13 (AFC).

IMG Worldwide and the Chinese Super League Co. Ltd. announced that Ping An Insurance has become the new title sponsor of the CSL. The four-year deal sets a record as the longest title sponsorship contract in CSL's history, making Ping An the first CSL title sponsor from the financial sector. The CSL attracted multiple companies to vie for the title sponsorship. Chinese FA Exec Vice Chair Yu Hongchen said, "We follow free-market mechanism to select the title sponsor" (IMG). Published reports from China last week placed the value of the deal at $25M a year, which would be around 150% higher than the deal the league had with property developer Wanda Group from '11-13. A source with knowledge of the deal confirmed the reported value of the new partnership (SBD Global).

Sports agent Peter Carlisle, who represents U.S. alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin, is "now seeking sponsors -- especially ones that appeal to an Asian audience," according to Turner, Novy-Williams & Coleman-Lochner of BLOOMBERG. Shiffrin, an 18-year-old with "TV-ready looks," won the women’s slalom event in Sochi -- emerging "as the most marketable star of the Olympics," according to Baker Street Advertising exec Bob Dorfman. Carlisle: “With the performance that she had, companies and brands in numerous categories have expressed interest.” Carlisle said that "it's important to start building awareness early" ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. He "declined to say what brands had discussed a Shiffrin sponsorship," though he did name Samsung "as the kind of company that would make sense." Carlisle: “You’re talking about a company that’s invested in the Olympic space, is global and is based in Korea” (BLOOMBERG, 2/25).

CAA Sports has acquired Inside Sports & Entertainment Group, "giving the sports and entertainment agency a new line of business in corporate hospitality," according to Liz Mullen of the SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. InsideSEG "will keep its name for now but operate as part of CAA Sports." Founders Alan Baum and Ety Rybak and their partners Jim Zissler and Jason Zinna "will continue to run the agency but will now report to" CAA Sports co-heads Michael Levine and Howard Nuchow. Financial terms of the deal "were not disclosed." CAA Sports "has done business with the firm for years." The deal "came out of that ongoing business relationship." Levine: “It’s a new sales offering for us. We have never been in the business of providing or fulfilling straight experiential opportunities for individuals or to corporate buyers” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/24 issue).

German company Aurubis (formerly Norddeutsche Affinerie AG) is poised to sign a cooperation agreement with Bulgarian side PFC Ludogorets Razgrad "to provide a boost to the club's youth academy." In March "the company will sponsor trials with those selected joining the club's academy" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 2/25). ... Warrior "has signed a deal to become the kit supplier" to Dutch Eredivisie side N.E.C Nijmegen. The agreement, which is set to start on July 1, "will see the Michigan-headquartered brand design and supply the side’s home, away and training kits" (SOCCEREX, 2/24). ... Herbalife announced that it would keep Korean Basketball League team Seoul Samsung Thunders well-fueled for the '13-14 season as their official nutrition sponsor (Herbalife). ... The Australian Football League on Tuesday announced it has entered an exclusive partnership with Australia’s largest hotel group, Accor, as the official hotel partner of the AFL. Under the terms of the two-year partnership, the AFL, its clubs and subsidiaries will stay at Accor hotels across Australia and New Zealand (AFL).