Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

MasterCard has renewed its corporate sponsorship of Major League Baseball for an additional five years and will start activating those rights at this week’s All-Star Game in Phoenix.

The payment card brand, one of MLB’s longest-tenured sponsors, is using its baseball ties to launch a broad-based marketing platform that combines a usage promotion with a cause-related initiative. “Eat, Drink and Be Generous” will encourage consumers to use MasterCard at restaurants, with a penny being donated by MasterCard to Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) each time a fan uses the card at eateries through Sept. 1.

MasterCard will make a maximum donation of $4 million and is defining “restaurants” loosely enough that ballpark concession stands that accept MasterCard, along with quick-service restaurants and coffee shops, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts, are included.

A ceremonial “first purchase” will be made at a concession stand at Chase Field to lead off the program and will be included as a vignette during Fox’s All-Star telecast on Tuesday.

MasterCard will herald the campaign with three spots during the game telecast, featuring celebrities Ray Romano and Reese Witherspoon. Additional marketing support includes point-of-sale ads, web banners, statement inserts and ATM ads. A social media extension sees MasterCard dangling an incremental $100,000 donation enticing consumers to upload photos of their “priceless everyday moments” to SU2C’s Facebook page.

The four MLB teams with MasterCard sponsorships — the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees — will have public address and scoreboard announcements as well as point of sale at concession stands.

MLB is a founding donor to SU2C and has pledged $30 million in donations to the organization since its launch in 2008.

MasterCard has held MLB corporate rights since the fall of 1997, when its now-iconic “Priceless” campaign from McCann Erickson debuted during the World Series with a baseball-themed ad. Ironically, the ad did not use MLB intellectual property, since rights negotiations were completed only after the ad was filmed.

“We have very strong ties to baseball and so do many of our consumers, so it felt right to continue the relationship,” said Cheryl Guerin, group head of U.S. marketing for MasterCard.

This is not the first time MasterCard has tied itself to SU2C. For the past several All-Star games, it has staged a “Hit It Here” promotion during the game and Home Run Derby, offering millions to SU2C if a ball hit one of its signs. During the 2009 World Series, MasterCard ran a SU2C ad that incorporated the Game 3 crowd, and over the 2010 holiday shopping season, MasterCard donated $1.5 million to SU2C, generated by card activity at Times Square merchants.

MasterCard’s domestic support of sports has waned in recent years, but Guerin said the ebb and flow was a byproduct of changing industry fortunes and a natural lapse between large programs.

MasterCard’s history as an MLB sponsor includes two memorable promos: the Memorable Moments selection in 2002 and the 1999 All-Century Team.

“We’re definitely dedicated to sports and we will be turning up the heat there,” Guerin said.

Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 car is featured in point-of-sale material at Wal-Mart.
Sunday’s scheduled Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway marked the highlight of the motor oil brand’s effort to redouble its marketing in NASCAR.

At a time when Crown Royal, Caterpillar and others are reducing their NASCAR spending, Quaker State has increased its NASCAR budget. The company, which has been associate sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports for 15 years, last year signed a new partnership with the team to be the primary sponsor for four races on the No. 5 Chevy and later signed a deal for its first Sprint Cup race title sponsorship at Kentucky Speedway.

Quaker State cut back on price promotions in order to free up additional marketing money for NASCAR, said Chris Hayek, Quaker State’s global brand manager. The marketing shift was driven by a desire to connect with NASCAR fans who are amateur mechanics or employees at oil-change service stations.

“When we sat down to look at our planning [for 2011], there were a lot of conversations about people cutting spending and pulling out of motorsports,” Hayek said. “We sat down and said, ‘The value of NASCAR, who it appeals to and how it appeals, hasn’t changed.’ When you look at the counter man or mechanic, they all love NASCAR.”

The four-race primary deal allowed Quaker State to have the dominant branding on the firesuit of Mark Martin, who drives the No. 5 car, and the car itself. It’s been able to incorporate that imagery into its advertising and promotions. It also has access to the other drivers in Hendrick’s stable: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Jimmie Johnson.

It has featured Gordon in point-of-sale material at Wal-Mart, Earnhardt Jr. in online advertising and Johnson in training videos for mechanics at service stations specializing in oil changes.

It subsequently signed the Kentucky title deal and paid for the media rights to the race on TNT in order to raise its national profile and provide hospitality for its distributors and sales team. It was due to host sales representatives and distributors at this past weekend’s race.

The Hendrick and Kentucky deals carried some business-to-business opportunities, as well. Hendrick operates 72 dealerships , and Kentucky Speedway is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc., whose chairman, Bruton Smith, is the owner of Sonic Automotive, a 20-dealership operation. Quaker State will be the preferred oil at those operations.

At the end of 2011, Hayek said, Quaker State will measure the impact its NASCAR marketing has had on consumer recall and brand recognition.

Quaker State’s motorsports marketing agency is Sports Dimensions Inc.

Terry Lefton
At a game in Yankee Stadium earlier this year, we were asked by our seatmates, none of them sports marketing cognoscenti, what the most peculiar sponsorship in the park was. With the Red Sox easily rolling over their archrivals, it was convenient for us to review the off-field question.

The crop of signs at the new Yankee Stadium tout some large sports spenders: Budweiser, Delta, Pepsi and Ford are just a few. Then our eyes found a permanent sign between home plate and third base for a soy sauce brand — Kikkoman. While we knew that Reckitt Benckiser’s 107-year-old French’s brand is the official mustard of the Yankees, we were unaware of any commercial affiliations involving the Yankees and other condiments. And having enjoyed some sushi, with unbranded soy sauce, at the stadium earlier that night, the whole thing struck us as being a bit salty.

The field-level sign is admittedly “off strategy” for a brand more often seen on the Food Network.
After dozens of emails and some phone calls, we got to the bottom of the bottle. While this is the second year of a sponsorship pact with the Yankees, Kikkoman, the most popular soy sauce in both Japan and the U.S., doesn’t have a U.S. sports strategy. There won’t be a Kikkoman Day at Yankee Stadium, and don’t hold your maki roll waiting for a retail or restaurant tie using Yankees intellectual property. People inside its U.S. subsidiary acknowledge that the Yankee Stadium sign, the price of which industry estimates put at $250,000 to $350,000 annually, is “off strategy.” It is certainly an aberration for a brand largely bought by women. However, it is also testimony to the power of the Yankees brand, both here and overseas, since it was a marketing expenditure dictated from Japan. The rest of Kikkoman’s U.S. marketing budget is spent on building culinary connections to 18- to 49-year-old women, with ads on the Food Network and some digital inventory.

“A lot of people see it [the sign] because, let’s face it, the Yankees give you great exposure,” said a Kikkoman marketer who asked for anonymity. “But please tell all those teams calling us, especially the Mets, that this is our one sign in American sports and we don’t see that changing.”

Now if only French’s made wasabi …

COMINGS & GOINGS: Two defections from the NFL as the lockout approached its fourth month at press time. You’ll recall that JPMorgan Chase bought a “marquee partnership” at Madison Square Garden last summer, which included every MSG asset but naming rights. Now the bank has hired someone to oversee that sizable deal, along with a portfolio that includes the U.S. Open tennis championship and naming rights to the Arizona Diamondbacks ballpark, as well as marketing deals on the entertainment side like the Sundance Film Festival. The hire is Steve Pamon, who was the NFL’s vice president of strategy and new business development. He becomes a Chase senior vice president, heading its sports and entertainment marketing. Pamon, a member of the New York Road Runners board of directors, has also worked at HBO. He won’t have far to go in his new gig. The NFL’s headquarters is at 280 Park Ave., and Chase is at 270 Park. … Meanwhile, Patrick McCormick, general manager for NFL Mobile and a key man in Verizon’s NFL sponsorship, is leaving for a position with The Weather Channel, perhaps not coincidentally owned by NFL rights holder Comcast-NBCUniversal.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

The international marketing company WPP Group has acquired a stake in Just Marketing International.

The deal, which is expected to be announced today, values Just Marketing International at $100 million. WPP will join existing shareholders Spire Capital Partners, Credit Suisse and Zak Brown, who founded the agency. Its investment is believed to give it a stake of roughly 25 percent in the agency.

“This is a huge compliment,” said Brown, 40, who will remain CEO of JMI. “For [WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell] to say, ‘I think motorsports is a great place to invest’ is a great sign for the industry.”

WPP is the second major investor in JMI in the last three years. Spire Capital Partners took a majority stake in the agency in 2008 when the agency’s revenue was close to $80 million.

Since then, JMI has diversified its business by expanding its operations overseas. Based in Indianapolis, it now has offices in Singapore and London, and about 60 percent of its revenue now comes from international markets. Its client list includes Castrol, LG Electronics, Singapore Exchange, Subway and UBS, which last year cut a $200 million, five-year Formula One deal.

Brown believes WPP’s investment will help JMI grow by providing it with access to the company’s corporate client base and supporting it with the expertise of subsidiaries specializing in areas such as digital media.

“There’s no doubt it will operationally benefit us,” Brown said. “Whether it’s efficiencies or buying power, I’m sure we’re going to gain and learn a lot.”

WPP has more than 2,400 offices in 107 countries and employs more than 146,000 people across the areas of public relations, branding, communications and direct, digital and promotional marketing. It has acquired a number of agencies in the last year, including Blue State Digital, the group behind Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, a Turkish public relations firm and an Asian digital agency.

The company has several subsidiaries that work in sports, including GroupM ESP, Wunderman and Prism, a United Kingdom-based sports marketing agency. Brown said it’s possible JMI could do work with those agencies but more likely that it works with complementary specialties such as a media buying agency like Mindshare or public relations agency like Hill & Knowlton.

Brown got to know Sorrell through Formula One. Sorrell is a non-executive director of the motorsports series, and Brown played a central role in bringing UBS into the series as a global partner. The two began talking several years ago about the possibility of a deal, and WPP’s mergers and acquisitions group began formal negotiations this year.

“We are strong believers in the marketing power of international motorsports for global brands,” said Andrew Scott, WPP’s director of corporate development, in a statement. “JMI is a leading company in the sector so this investment is a natural fit for WPP and will help to offer our clients exciting new opportunities in the field of motorsports.”

Brown said that JMI will remain focused on motorsports and continue to increase its revenue internationally. Though JMI has the resources to acquire other agencies, he doesn’t envision it doing so in the near future. However, it occasionally will expand beyond motorsports by doing hospitality and marketing campaigns for existing clients who want help in other sports and entertainment sectors. It began doing that last year when it managed DirecTV’s experiential marketing promotion around “Monday Night Football.”

“There are a lot of areas for growth and that will be one we will look at on an opportunistic, client-driven basis,” Brown said. “Where we’ll have the most growth is being able to offer larger, deeper services in sports by stepping up our digital game, our advertising game and other supplementary opportunities.”