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Volume 21 No. 2
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Chase’s future with Madison Square Garden in the cards

Terry Lefton
JPMorgan Chase has added payment card rights to the massive marquee partnership rights deal it signed with Madison Square Garden last September. Sources told us that the deal was signed earlier this month, and Garden officials met with American Express marketers before SportsBusiness Journal’s Sports Business Awards dinner in New York recently to tell them that their last offer was not sufficient.

While it may have been implicit, as of press time, MSG had not told AmEx officials that Chase was displacing their company.

One source with knowledge of the Chase deal said that it raised the average annual value of the Chase-MSG partnership to $40 million per year.

The financial services giant, one of the nation’s largest payment card issuers, thus adds those rights to the earlier deal, which was across all MSG-controlled traditional and digital media and venues, including the Garden itself, the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre, as well as MSG’s teams, including the Knicks and Rangers, and events like the Radio City Christmas show.

American Express is one of MSG’s largest sponsors and one of its longest-tenured commercial affiliates. There will be a lame-duck period, since AmEx’s MSG rights expire at the end of 2011. Thus, AmEx will go from one of MSG’s biggest spenders to nothing in less than 18 months.

What’s next for AmEx in the sponsorship space is one of the most compelling aspects of this story. There has long been concern within AmEx about the appropriate mix of sports and entertainment assets, and the elimination of its priciest sponsorship should elevate those conversations. If AmEx’s latest NBA sponsorship deal is any guideline, then access, tickets and cardholder events are priorities for any new deal.

It also will be interesting to see what Chase can do with virtually unlimited marketing rights within what MSG immodestly calls “the world’s most famous arena,” not to mention the associated media and venue assets. Industry sources said Chase has been casting about for a sponsorship/marketing chief to implement its pricey investment at MSG. Once that person is hired, he or she will be based at the Chase branch immediately adjacent to MSG, at 2 Pennsylvania Plaza. We’ll be interested to see if proximity fosters marketing acumen.

Jose Bautista made the sponsor rounds while in NYC.
WINGING IT: With 54 home runs last year and this season’s total at 19 at press time, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista is making a name for himself on the field. Now, marketing agent Alex Radetsky is going to see how national he can make a slugger who happens to play in Toronto.

Radetsky’s Radegen Sports Management was escorting Bautista around Manhattan last week while the Jays were in town to play the Yankees. Radetsky said he expects Bautista to swing in this year’s Home Run Derby on the night before the MLB All-Star Game in Phoenix.

Bautista has endemic deals with New Balance for footwear, Franklin for batting gloves and Wilson for fielding gloves. All those deals are up after this season, so it will be interesting to see what a head-to-toe apparel/equipment deal could be worth to a brand looking to lock up the slugger, currently on pace to break the pre-steroid home run record. Radetsky also says he’s close to an exclusive memorabilia deal for Bautista.

FARMED OUT: Kevin Kelso, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Farmers Insurance and one of the company execs most closely identified with the recent naming-rights deal for a yet-unbuilt stadium in downtown Los Angles, has quietly left the insurer, where he’d worked since 1999. No immediate word on what caused Kelso’s exit.

Terry Lefton can be reached at