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Volume 20 No. 46

Marketing and Sponsorship

State Farm might not be an NCAA partner anymore, but it still has a strong presence at the Final Four.

Intersport, a Chicago-based agency that creates sporting events and turns them into TV shows, has added more event programming to its Final Four lineup. That programming provides companies like State Farm and Papa John’s, which aren’t NCAA sponsors, an activation opportunity in the Final Four city, as well as a media buy within basketball programming on ESPN or CBS during the weekend.

“It’s a perfect complement to a lot of the other activation we have in the sports space and within our college portfolio,” said Todd Fischer, manager of State Farm’s national sponsorships. Even though State Farm didn’t renew its NCAA deal, “the college fan is still very important to us and being a part of the Final Four is a great extension to our other college properties.”

The State Farm college dunk and 3-point contest highlights Intersport’s lineup.
Intersport’s Final Four programming is growing this year with a new show and an additional event. This week, Intersport is producing two events in Houston, site of the Final Four, that will result in 3.5 hours of programming during Final Four weekend on ESPN and CBS, including the college slam dunk and 3-point contests that State Farm title sponsors. A high school version of the event is new this year.

In all, Intersport will produce 4.5 hours of programming for Final Four weekend and 8.5 hours of college basketball programming including the week before the Final Four.

The State Farm college dunk and 3-point contest will be held Thursday night at the University of Houston’s Hofheinz Pavilion and airs later that night on ESPN for two hours. The event was held inside the NCAA’s Bracket Town fan fest area last year, but sponsor conflicts caused it to move out this year.

ESPN is the co-producer of the event and uses the program to fill the 9-11 p.m. slot after the championship game of the NIT. ESPN talent calls the event as well.

The high school version of the dunk and 3-point contest will be Friday at the Berry Center and airs for 90 minutes Sunday afternoon on CBS.

Another Intersport program, “Papa John’s Dunks of the Year,” will air on CBS for an hour Sunday afternoon. Papa John’s has had a presence at the Final Four in the past, thanks to pass-through rights from NCAA corporate champion Coca-Cola, but Coke shifted gears this year and went with Domino’s as its pizza partner. Earlier this week, “Geico’s Best of College Basketball” played on CBS and three episodes of the “State Farm Coaches Tournament Show” aired on FSN. Both are produced by Intersport, and the Geico show is new this year.

The programs that appear on CBS are time buys by Intersport. The agency works with the network to find gaps in its Final Four lineup where the Intersport programming would be most useful.

The sponsors signed by Intersport occupy all of the ad time on the broadcast. State Farm has sponsored the 23-year-old college dunk and 3-point contests since 2005, and Mercedes-Benz, Denny’s, Skechers, TD Ameritrade, the U.S. Marines and FRS Healthy Energy are sponsors as well.

The spend for a title sponsor like State Farm, which has Intersport’s premier event and the “Coaches Tournament Show,” rises into the low seven figures, according to industry analysts. Participating sponsorships begin in the low six figures and can rise into the high six figures, depending on ad units and activation.

“The amount of programming this year is definitely up from previous years,” said Scot Thor, Intersport’s senior vice president of programming and production. “We’ve got a few tentpole properties that we go to market with every year and we’ve got some events, like the high school dunk and 3-point contest, that are new. What these do, in part, is to help us ‘own the dunk’ this weekend.”

Some sponsors cross over into multiple events and programs around the Final Four. Mercedes sponsors the college dunk and 3-point contest, the “State Farm Coaches Tournament Show” on FSN, “Papa John’s Dunks of the Year” on CBS and “Geico Presents the Best in College Basketball 2011” on CBS.

Intersport is careful not to put sponsors from the same category into an event. State Farm is not eligible to be a secondary sponsor on Geico’s show, for example.

“Sponsors typically get a package of ad units, on-site signage and significant integration into the show,” Thor said. “Our sponsors make up all of that national advertising. We may sell an occasional [scattered unit] here and there, but most of the inventory is packaged.”

Seeking to establish a standard in an industry begging for metrics, The Marketing Arm is launching an index that measures 1,000 sports leagues, teams, venues and events against nine specific attributes. The system can cross-index those elements across a wide variety of demographic and geographic data, allowing for head-to-head property comparisons.

TMA’s Sponsorship Property Index will be delivered this week to the first of eight brand marketers that bought the tool, which the agency says will provide some of the first quantifiable data beyond CPMs and TV ratings for executives looking to match their brands with sports property intangibles.

The index will help marketers match brands with sports property intangibles.
“The question we are asked more than any other is, ‘What property or properties are the best fit for my brand,’” said Dan Belmont, TMA’s chief marketing officer and president of consulting and activation. “Sometimes it is a strategic fit, sometimes it is geographic or demographic. We just wanted a better way to answer that question.”

The computer-based Sponsorship Property Index has been previewed to some of the larger sports spenders since January. It will be formally introduced at this week’s World Congress of Sports in Miami.

The brand marketers who buy sports sponsorships are the first sales target for TMA, but Belmont also sees potential sales among sports properties themselves. “What we can measure is what kind of team you are, so if you rank higher among young males like USC, the Celtics and the Red Wings do, something like Twitter should be a much more meaningful way to reach your fans,” Belmont said. The index is bundled with TMA consulting and ranges from $35,000 to $50,000 a year.

While other measurement tools have been in the market in the past, TMA points to the level of depth and number of elements measured as a key differentiator. To help establish criteria for evaluating properties, TMA asked 300 sponsorship professionals to rate various attributes in a potential sponsorship property. Then it used those findings in surveying a representative sample of thousands of U.S. and Canadian citizens to rate properties against nine attributes: avidity, awareness, appeal, breakthrough, endorsement, excitement, influence, trendsetter and trust. Combining scores from avidity, appeal and excitement, TMA formulated a passion index. It also makes comparing properties a simpler exercise. Combining Sponsorship Property Index data with Simmons Market Research provides an even more granular level of research.

Some of the results are intriguing. For example, rating the top North American sports events against the widest audience, the Super Bowl is a clear winner with a score of 68.74, more than 30 points higher than the median. However, who would guess that the World Series is second or that the Rose Bowl is third, ahead of the Final Four or MLB All-Star Game. And the NFL Pro Bowl ranks fifth, ahead of the Stanley Cup, the NBA Finals and the Masters. Accounting for that discrepancy is that while some of these properties may not score as high an awareness rating, those that are familiar give them high scores in avidity, appeal and excitement. The higher the passion score, the more powerful the property will be in delivering a marketing message.

Belmont noted that the initial index shows that, in many cases, historic venues are more meaningful to fans than teams, indicating that iconic sports venues could be a more powerful complement for an ad campaign than current athletes.

Sponsorship Property Index
Top 10 North American Sporting Events
Super Bowl
World Series
Rose Bowl
NCAA Final Four
Pro Bowl
MLB All-Star Game
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
Stanley Cup Final
NBA Finals
NBA All-Star Game
Source: The Marketing Arm

The centerpiece of Mercedes-Benz’s on-site activation at the PGA Championship is hitting the road.

It was during last year’s PGA Championship, as thousands of fans moved through what Mercedes calls its brand experience center on the golf course, that Steve Cannon’s wheels started to turn. Cannon, the automaker’s vice president of marketing, wondered what would happen if they could transform the brand experience center from a huge tent complex at the PGA into a mobile marketing platform for other tournaments and special events.

The golf performance center will make its debut at Augusta National during the Masters.
The outcome is the Mercedes-Benz golf performance center, which will be unveiled in Augusta during Masters week at a dealership on Washington Road, just a driver and 5-iron from the entrance to Augusta National.

The golf performance center in Augusta will serve as a complement to Mercedes’ status as a global partner to the Masters, a position it has held for the last four years.

Mercedes also is a patron sponsor of the PGA of America and it’s through that relationship that PGA professionals will staff the

performance center and offer tips to the consumers. The automaker became a PGA patron sponsor in 2009 as part of a five-year deal and it has had the on-site activation at the PGA Championship the last two years.

Mercedes also added a patron sponsorship to the British Open last month, giving it a presence at three of golf’s four majors.

“We’re really trying to do more in golf,” Cannon said. “We think this is a great way to engage the consumer. Golf is our single largest [marketing] commitment and globally one of our most significant platforms.”

At the PGA Championship, the brand experience center has been the centerpiece of Mercedes’ on-site activation since it became a PGA of America patron sponsor, the highest level of PGA sponsorship.

The brand experience center at the PGA is a place where fans can escape the heat, learn about the history of the game and have their golf swing and putting stroke evaluated by PGA professionals. They might find a few Mercedes parked in and around the venue as well.

Fans leave their e-mail address so that the PGA pros can send them an evaluation of their stroke, which makes it an effective data collection tool for Mercedes. About 25,000 people went through the experience center last year at the PGA, but the automaker didn’t have projections for the expanded program this year.

The idea behind the roving golf performance center is similar. It will go to the site of a tournament and park at either a local dealership or the golf course directly if it’s somewhere Mercedes has rights. Mercedes is the official vehicle for a handful of PGA Tour events, such as the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte and the AT&T National in Philadelphia.

Mercedes’ agency, Sage Collective, which handles strategy and activation, is managing the tour out of its Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., office. A Mercedes Sprinter van is the anchor vehicle for the mobile tour. Mercedes wouldn’t reveal the cost of the golf performance center, which will cover 4,200 square feet when set up.

Mercedes will use its social media outlets on Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to the performance center when it visits a dealership or a tournament venue, as well as its website, The dealers will use their contact lists of current and former customers to issue invitations as well via mail, e-mail and other collateral in the showroom and service centers. Meanwhile, photos and updates from the road will be updated and posted on the social media outlets.

There are nine stops planned for 2011, including the Masters, PGA Championship, Senior PGA, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Chevron World Challenge, Charles Schwab Cup Championship on the Champions Tour, and other dealer events.

More golf events likely will be added in the future and it is expected to accommodate some one-off appearances at dealerships outside of tournament markets.

“We provide the vehicles to a whole array of events, both for display and courtesy cars,” Cannon said. “So what we’re trying to do is raise our game beyond just parking our cars at the tournament. This is a way to really engage the customer and to give them something back with the great instruction they’re going to receive from the PGA pros.”

The PGA of America worked with Mercedes to identify the best golf technology to outfit the mobile centers.

The NBA will roll out a postseason advertising campaign on April 8, with six spots highlighting the game from a different perspective: a talking basketball.

The campaign, tagged “First Hand,” will have four 30-second spots promoting the playoffs and two 30-second spots touting the NBA Finals.

The NBA’s talking basketball, voiced by several actors, will appear in six spots.
“First Hand” features a talking basketball looking back at recent playoff highlights, including the 2009 seven-game first-round series between Chicago and Boston and last year’s six-game first-round series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City. The voice of the basketball in the four playoff-themed spots comes from actors Michael Clarke Duncan, Hank Azaria, John Slattery and Charlie Murphy.

Roy Firestone will be the voice of the talking basketball in the Finals spots, as the ball interviews Magic Johnson and Julius Erving, reliving their Finals highlights.

“Our strategy this year is to tell our playoff story in a different way,” said Danny Meiseles, executive vice president and executive producer of NBA Entertainment. “One of the constants is our game is the ball. We tell the story in a documentary style with the talking basketball going back and forth with actual highlight footage.”

The spots will run on TNT, ESPN, NBA TV, and on all of the NBA’s social media outlets. No print buy is included.

The playoffs begin April 16.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which created the league’s highly acclaimed “Where Amazing Happens” campaign, is the NBA’s agency of record.

The campaign will run through mid-June and, for the first time in three years, is separate from the “Amazing” creative umbrella, though league officials said the “Amazing” campaign has not ended.

“The spots show the confidence we have in Goodby,” Meiseles said. “We knew that the creative using an actual ball would work.”

Big-box retailer Sports Authority has agreed to the broadest sponsorship agreement in the history of Major League Lacrosse.

The multiyear deal, which is expected to push seven figures annually, will make Sports Authority easily the most dominant sponsor presence across the six-team outdoor league.

As the MLL’s exclusive sporting goods store, Sports Authority will be the presenting sponsor of the league’s 40 game broadcasts and the weekly 30-minute magazine show, as well as the MLL’s apps on the iPhone and Android networks.

MLL games are distributed via a TV syndication package in the league’s six markets and online at ESPN3. Six games will be aired on ESPN2. Within those broadcasts, Sports Authority will receive four ad units, in-game features, logo on the score graphic and the store’s name will run in all of the promotions.

“This is far and away the most assets we’ve ever put together in a deal,” said David Gross, commissioner of the MLL. “Sports Authority will be synonymous with our league. They will be touching everything MLL on TV, online, on the field, everywhere.”

As part of the deal, Englewood, Colo.-based Sports Authority will be title sponsor of the league’s All-Star Game and the postseason, which will become the Sports Authority MLL Championship Weekend presented by Warrior.

The Sports Authority agreement caps an active offseason for MLL, which began play in 2001 and has had ESPN2 as its broadcast partner since 2003. Every game is streamed on ESPN3.

The league has added Powerade as the official sports drink to replace Gatorade, signed Fathead to a licensing deal and is on the verge of adding a sponsor in the spirits category. Ford came on board last year.

Sports Authority also will have a strong presence on site with signage on the field and logos on two of the team’s jerseys and shorts — the Rochester Rattlers and Denver Outlaws.

The league and Sports Authority still are working on what the MLL presence will be in-store, but the retailer is expected to use MLL imagery and logos in the lacrosse sections.

Gross said discussions with Sports Authority began last year and another sporting goods store entered the picture briefly, but Sports Authority’s reach with more than 450 stores nationally in 45 states was the kind of coverage that could really benefit the league.

“With the plan they’ve put in place for the next few years, Sports Authority is the best partner for us,” Gross said. “The assets at the store level will help the league and it also will help Sports Authority reach the lacrosse community.”

Terry Lefton
Buried beneath the noise generated by the NFL lockout and the NCAA basketball tournaments is the fact that the MLB season starts Thursday. Accordingly, sponsors are starting to activate.

Pepsi, an MLB corporate sponsor since 1997, and agency TBWA\Chiat\Day were scheduled to shoot an ad in Florida this past weekend featuring New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia and Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria. Joining them were a group of retirees, including Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk and Rollie Fingers. To the best of our recollection, the creative marks the first time Pepsi Max has been paired with MLB. Previously, the flagship Pepsi brand and its Aquafina water has featured MLB in ads.

Stay tuned to see if Max gets support in MLB ballparks as well. The new ad should hit the airwaves in May.

MLB comes into the season with a new sponsorship chief, Lou Koskovolis, senior vice president of corporate sales and marketing. Foremost among his duties in his first two months were renewing MasterCard, Bank of America and GM’s Chevrolet brand. We would have been surprised if any of those stalwarts didn’t renew, and while MLB officials are reluctant to confirm them until the deals were complete, Koskovolis said, “We are feeling good enough about all our renewals that were talking about activation in 2011 and beyond.”

On the new business front, Koskovolis said he is looking at various categories, including retail, candy/confection, consumer electronics, financial services and wireless, a category where the MLB/BAM division of assets and responsibilities is problematic, but one in which Koskovolis pledges to brainstorm across the league to find the right solution.

A-B and MLB’s relationship will be on display outside the New York Stock Exchange.
Easily the biggest offseason story in baseball business circles was the litigation filed back and forth between 30-year corporate sponsor Anheuser-Busch and MLB regarding a renewal. A-B insisted a deal was done; MLB said that it wasn’t and that changes in market dynamics after the NFL’s massive rights deal with A-B in May changed things. The sides reached a settlement at the end of the year, shortly before a trial date. To demonstrate to the business world that their association is repaired, the former litigants are planning a PR hit on MLB’s Opening Day at the seat of capitalism: the New York Stock Exchange.

MLB and A-B executives will ring the opening bell, while a visit by one or more Clydesdales is expected. One of the A-B/MLB signs hanging outside the NYSE will be no less than 72 feet wide and 37 feet high. “My history and relationship there is great, and we will be up on the podium with them [Anheuser-Busch] to show our relationship is as solid as ever,” Koskovolis said.

Other early-season marketing from MLB sponsors includes Procter & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders brand debuting TV spots with Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Firestone will again sponsor in-stadium balloting for the MLB All-Star Game, while Scotts will return as the sponsor of the balloting at retail.

HOOPS HYPE II: Ben Sturner’s Leverage Agency has won a shootout to handle sales for a possible naming-rights deal at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Price for the unprecedented title sponsorship package is to be determined (SportsBusiness Journal, March 21-27 issue). Leverage’s prior naming-rights experience includes an effort to sell title rights for two of China’s marquee Olympic venues, the Bird’s Nest national stadium and the Water Cube aquatics center used to host competitions in the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

As an institution, the Basketball Hall Fame opened 52 years ago, but it moved to a $45 million, 80,000-square-foot building in 2002 along Interstate 91. The potential title sponsorship is supposed to be part of a larger effort to attract more corporate dollars to the hoops hall, by selling more levels of corporate involvement and corporate identification on galleries and exhibits, as well as the larger one on the building complex itself.

Along with the annual enshrinement ceremony, the hall of fame lends its name to a yearly high school tournament, now titled by Spalding. The hall of fame cited a lack of local financial support in moving this November’s collegiate Tip-Off Classic from Springfield’s MassMutual Center to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., a distance of about 70 miles.

QB SHUFFLE: Whether there will be a 2011 NFL season isunclear, but Michael Vick is one of 32 NFL players participating in an online vote to determine who will be on the cover of “Madden NFL 12.” More intriguing is the continuing marketing rehab of Vick, and the marketer who did Vick’s deal with EA to be part of the online
Does renewed interest in the QB spell a return of the “Michael Vick Experience”?
bracket-style vote. It is Chicago attorney Andrew Stroth, handpicked by the QB to secure marketing deals, which include a vacancy in the footwear/apparel categories.

To date, Vick’s post-incarceration endorsements have included low-hanging fruit like titanium bracelet, memorabilia and football pad deals. We are curious to see whether there is a national brand beyond EA with the temerity to employ Vick in its marketing, cognizant that Wieden & Kennedy’s “Michael Vick Experience” ad was one of the most memorable uses of an NFL QB in a spot since Joe Namath wore Hanes’ Beauty Mist pantyhose in 1973.

Stroth did much of the early marketing for Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade and he handles off-field activities for quarterback Donovan McNabb. Joel Segal, inducted last week into George Washington University’s Sports Executive Hall of Fame, continues to handle Vick’s playing contract.

Terry Lefton can be reached at