Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

Two months after taking over management of Manny Pacquiao’s largely dormant global endorsement portfolio, promoter Top Rank has landed the fighter a spot in Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming campaign around its recently released tablet computer.

Working through agency William Morris, Top Rank submitted Pacquiao to HP when it learned the brand was looking for a select group of high-profile entertainers and athletes to feature in the campaign, which will include television, radio, print, outdoor and billboard components, all of which will feature the fighter and run globally.

Because of its broad line of products — including the tablet, PCs, printers and smartphones — HP struggled to find attractive endorsers who didn’t have conflicting deals. Many, such as NBA stars Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant, did. Because almost all of his contracts have been limited to the Philippines, Pacquiao was able to make the broadly structured HP deal work.

Top Rank would not discuss financials of the deal, other than to say it included HP products and a cash contribution toward charities of Pacquiao’s choice. The deal was attractive because of the level of credible exposure.

“The brand alignment, to us, is unparalleled,” said Lucia McKelvey, executive vice president of marketing for Top Rank. “It’s exactly what we’re looking for and the kind of deal we want. We hope by executing and doing this one well, others will buy into it.”

In February, Top Rank sent letters to a range of brands and advertisers, explaining that Pacquiao hoped to reverse years of confusion by naming Top Rank as his exclusive commercial agent for business outside the Philippines. Within days, McKelvey said, she began to make progress.

Top Rank also recently closed a licensing deal for Pacquiao that will place his name and likeness on a line of vegetables from State Street Produce, a San Antonio-based company that grows in Mexico and distributes to restaurants across the U.S. State Street will rename its product “Pacquiao’s Produce,” McKelvey said, using his name and likeness as it expands its distribution to retail outlets. Pacquiao’s face will appear on bags, boxes and delivery trucks.

Based on previous sales levels, the three-year deal will net Pacquiao at least $1 million annually.

“And that’s just based on what they were earning without him,” McKelvey said. “Assuming it goes well, it will never stop. If the company ends up doing well, he’ll always be on there. And we’ll help them achieve that.”

That has long been a question for those that have flirted with doing business with Pacquiao. Many have claimed to represent him, but few have delivered, causing large, credible brands to shy away.

In the face of competition from new NFL stadiums in larger markets like Dallas and New York, selling naming rights to the 44-year-old Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum was a bit like putting a “For Sale” sign on a Yugo parked in front of a Lexus dealership.

Still, after contacting more than 300 companies, Premier Partnerships succeeded in selling rights to what will soon be the last stadium with both MLB and NFL teams as tenants. The deal with covers a new category for sports: Internet retailer. It is worth about $1.2 million a year for the next six years.

Over the 18 months that Premier had the coliseum’s naming rights to sell, the assignment had more twists and turns than a Le Mans race. It was unusual enough to be selling a stadium that opened its doors before there was an Internet or even fax machines. And with the A’s controlling all of the stadium’s interior signage and the Raiders due to receive half of any naming-rights proceeds, that restricted prospects to those that didn’t compete with significant sponsors of the teams.

The faltering economy also came into play. In August 2010, Verizon Wireless was two days away from announcing a deal to put its name on the coliseum. After word of the deal leaked into a newspaper gossip column, one of Verizon’s largest unions pressured the company, suggesting that announcing a naming-rights deal after laying off thousands of workers would not be received well. The deal cratered.

The Coliseum deal started with a cold call.
Like so many of these sales, the deal started with a cold call.

With the economy recovering and both the A’s and Raiders starting to look for new homes, Jesse Ryback, Premier’s manager of corporate partnerships, was casting about early this year for a brand for which a short-term deal would make sense. It would be an anomaly in a naming-rights market in which terms of 10 to 20 years are routine.

Ryback’s research revealed that, a billion-dollar company ranked No. 28 on Internet Retailer’s list of the top North American business-to-consumer sites, was rebranding to The strategy was designed to align the site with the company’s international ambitions, to make an easier name for mobile commerce, and to better fit with the company’s transition from a closeout/discount retailer to a general merchandiser. The Oakland stadium will eventually pick up the name.

Ryback lobbed an email to Stormy Simon, senior vice president of marketing and customer care, and got an initial nibble. The proposal was referred to her marketing department, but it took months to get a letter of intent signed.

“Did we set out this year to find a naming-rights deal?” Simon said. “No, but we saw the value. It was just the right deal at the right time.”

After some back and forth between marketers, Ryback and Premier managing director Jeff Marks, Overstock turned the proposed deal over to its media shop, Ocean Media, which has a reputation for disdaining naming rights. The relative pricing of MLB and NFL naming rights was a head turner, as was the exposure to traffic on the nearby 880 Freeway. After the Florida Marlins relocate next season, Oakland will be the only stadium with MLB and NFL teams, which combined with concerts means it will host around 100 events a year. By Premier’s figuring, that added up to 1.3 billion annual impressions. Ocean Media was convinced.

“We weren’t hiding the fact this was one of the oldest MLB/NFL venues,” Marks said. “In reality, the relative pricing to other, newer venues and the opportunity to brand a year-round marketing platform were very convincing arguments.”

In mid-March a site visit including Marks and general counsel Mark Griffin (perhaps not coincidentally, a Bay Area native) went well. Within hours of the visit, Griffin consulted with CEO Patrick Byrne and called Marks. Overstock wanted to do the deal and completed a letter of intent in two weeks. The necessary approval was also obtained from the A’s and Raiders.

The night before last week’s approval from the city/county commission that oversees the stadium, Simon and other Overstock execs dined with Marks, Ryback and some of the politicians involved at Bocanova, an Oakland tapas restaurant. The next morning, unanimous approval of the deal was granted at a meeting inside the arena next door. The fact that it was held in another O, the Oracle Arena, was just a bonus.

Three companies have made their pitches to Overstock to produce the signs that will grace the outside of the stadium. They’ll cost more than $250,000.

“U2 is playing here in June and we should have a lot of our signage up by then,” said’s Simon. “When I think of sports, I think of family and this area is a big market for us, so the value is there. Our awareness should grow, especially when there are national games. Hopefully that translates into sales and makes us a brand more of America wants to buy from.”

Terry Lefton
It was a day after the opening in late March of the Greenwich Village reality show/dorm room/new media showcase that MLB calls its Fan Cave. Inside a 15,000-square-foot space with 14-foot windows that once held a Tower Records, a pair of super-fans will watch every MLB game this season, and in the process, prove that a sport considered by some to be as anachronistic as, um, a record store, can be relevant to a generation whose idea of “being social” involves more bits and bytes than brats and beers.

Tim Brosnan, MLB executive vice president of business, was there to watch it all happen. As word spread around the NYU neighborhood that “Jersey Shore” regular Pauly D was a guest DJ inside the Cave, the crowd outside on 4th and Broadway grew from zero to around 100 people in minutes, with each 20-something holding the wireless device that beckoned them there around 2 p.m. So maybe Pauly D’s multiple tattoos and piercings, both above and below the belt, weren’t the only things that were important anymore.

“That showed me early on that we had built a wickedly effective engine for content, some baseball related and some not,” said Brosnan, who has seen countless efforts to connect baseball with younger consumers during his 20 years with MLB. “I don’t think we are ever going to become Kim Kardashian. But if baseball can get into the discussion at the social watercooler, we win.”

In terms of on-field content, MLB Advanced

Media has built a $500 million business at its own downtown sanctum. But this is the story of how the MLB league office got new media/social media religion, as manifested by the immersive Fan Cave, which has 15 HDTVs, six PlayStation 3s loaded with MLB-licensed games and a barber chair for styling from “guest barbers and tattoo artists.’’ There’s an 18-foot-tall statue of Willie Mays that has its own Twitter feed. Naturally, a reality show consulted on the effort, as ABC’s
MLB (3)
Hall of famers (top, from left) Mike Schmidt, Rollie Fingers and Ozzie Smith explore the MLB Fan Cave with contest winner Mike O’Hara and check out new baseball-themed ads from PepsiMax.
“Extreme Makeover” served as an adviser.

Cave denizens and contest winners Mike O’Hara and Ryan Wagner will be in the cave all season in an attempt to watch all 2,430 regular-season games, while relentlessly blogging and tweeting MLB information to those who may only know Nolan Ryan as an owner. Of course, there’ll be other new media content and webisodes on What are you? Some 20th-century Luddite?

Credit new MLB creative agency Hill Holliday for inspiring some new media thinking at America’s pastime. However, when they first pitched the Fan Cave idea, it was misplaced. Hill Holliday got the concept right, a showcase of all things baseball to show with super-avid fans consuming the game. But their vision was to stage it in Cooperstown, N.Y., population 2,032, which could only be considered busy on the one day every summer when the Baseball Hall of Fame holds its induction. So it was moved to New York City.

“The idea is to inspire more consumption by profiling super-avid fans consuming every game and by putting it on a stage,” said Hill Holliday President Karen Kaplan. “But even outside that, our pitch to baseball was that it was so full of content, characters and plot lines, that it should be all about leveraging [18- to 34-year-olds’] social systems with sharable content.”

Turns out MLB was thinking the same way when it began to cast about for a new shop last September after parting with longtime agency McCann Erickson. “We knew the world is different and we needed to do a better job of allowing fans to access the game,” said MLB Chief Marketing Officer Jacqueline Parkes, on a recent day at the Fan Cave, when Pepsi was debuting its latest MLB–themed ads. “So this is our test tube, if you will.”

The “test tube” hopes to host around 100 events this year, along with player appearances and sponsor and licensee functions.

MLB’s creative brief asked agencies to inspire more consumption of baseball, convert casual fans to avid fans and team fans into league fans and to build a better connection to the 18- to 34-year-old consumers coveted by many advertisers. Those are the ones researchers term “grazers,’’ since they consume media a little bit at a time and often simultaneously. Anyone with a teenager knows they can’t do homework without also being plugged into some form of electronic media.

“That’s the demo everyone tries to reach and the results have been pretty fickle,” Brosnan said. “What made us think about a new approach was that we started asking ourselves if we were preaching to the converted [baseball fans] when it came to traditional advertising.’’

People can love or hate baseball because every season is long, involved, complex and chock-a-block full of multifaceted characters, rules and plot twists. Hill Holliday’s approach was to convince MLB that it had much in common with successful entertainment brands like Harry Potter, “Halo,” “Lost” and “Batman.”

“Our strategy was to show them that MLB had all the hallmarks of a modern entertainment brand,” Kaplan said. “A sprawling cast of characters and a lot of plot twists. And they all use lots of shareable content to connect younger fans.’’

Thus, a marketing campaign centered on MLB’s “epic nature,” and the Fan Cave, where you can’t find anything with a price tag.

“No one’s selling anything, it is just a great fan environment,” said David Armour, vice president of development programming and sales at Endemol, an agency that assisted with the design and build out, and is producing the webisodes.

Another welcome byproduct of the Fan Cave is that its unique nature has fostered integration across MLB. So you can see a version of the Pepsi porch from that longtime MLB sponsor. Product from on-field licensees Majestic and New Era are in evidence. Apple and Sony products are very visible throughout the floor.

Clearly the thinking at MLB central has changed when it comes to marketing the Grand Old Game. Now we’ll see if it can grab some of the “Jersey Shore” audience on a more permanent basis.

“We’re not looking at marketing, we’re looking at content,” Parkes said when asked how MLB’s marketing approach has changed. “We used to be about 30-second spots and dots. Now it’s consume more, share more. Hopefully, that will dimensionalize baseball in a way that fits the times.”

Terry Lefton can be reached at

The red and yellow marks of Wells Fargo are new this year at the Quail Hollow Club, a precursor to what the bank has planned for the Carolinas later this year.

Wells Fargo’s rebranding of its PGA Tour event includes a mobile museum that will teach fans about North Carolina golf.
Wells Fargo decided to put its name back on the PGA Tour event this year after a two-year hiatus because it is rebranding Wachovia branches to Wells Fargo this year. The rebranding of the tournament, which had been called the Quail Hollow Championship the past two years, lines up with the rebranding of its retail locations.

Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia for $15 billion in 2008, but kept its name off the tournament in 2009 and ’10 amid the controversy swirling over the federal bailout of banks.

The tournament’s new name — the Wells Fargo Championship — debuts this week in Charlotte, along with new community initiatives, a mobile marketing element near the course and hospitality that will rival the roaring pre-recession days of the tournament.

About 3,000 guests are expected for the week, including many of the bank’s high-end banking customers, investors and clients from all aspects of its business. That number is about the same, based on the contract with the PGA Tour, as it was in 2008, the last year the tournament was known as the Wachovia Championship.

The $7 million-a-year title sponsorship, which runs through 2014, is Wells Fargo’s largest sponsorship.

“We are very much activating the sponsorships we have now,” said Francie Gottsegen, a legacy Wachovia executive who is Wells Fargo’s senior vice president of sponsorships. Gottsegen has been around since the Wachovia Championship launched in 2003 and has helped manage it through the incognito years and the rebranding.

“We put our name back on the tournament to align from a timing perspective with the conversion of our retail locations from Wachovia to Wells Fargo,” Gottsegen said. “We’re taking a region-by-region approach. We’re about halfway through the East Coast and by this fall we’ll be through the Carolinas.”

Event banners line the streets in Charlotte, where the tournament will take place.
The rebranding started last year in the West, moved through the Midwest and recently finished in the North. Florida and other Southeastern states will be rebranded this summer, and the conversion will be complete by the end of the year in the Carolinas, which has the most outlets to change.

Wells Fargo is nearly national now, with branches in all but a few Northeastern states.

The introduction to the Wells Fargo brand in Charlotte this week will include a mobile museum that the bank will station near the golf course. Fans will learn about the 150-year history of Wells Fargo, as well as a new segment featuring the history of golf in North Carolina. The museum unfolds out of a 28-foot trailer into a 40-by-40 footprint.

“There really does seem to be a different feel this year,” said tournament director Kym Hougham. “The bank is re-engaged and there’s a buzz around the planning of it. People coming this year are going to feel a new energy around the tournament.”