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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

The ATP Tour is close to signing a global sponsorship deal with champagne brand Moet & Chandon that would begin in 2012, according to well-placed sources, becoming the latest in a series of deals for the men’s tour under its now-outgoing executive chairman, Adam Helfant.

The Moet & Chandon deal with the ATP Tour would begin in 2012.
In addition, the tour board was scheduled to hold a conference call last week to discuss the process for replacing Helfant, the sources said. Helfant announced his departure last month after he could not agree with the tour on a new contract. His current deal expires in December.

The search for Helfant’s replacement will focus internally in the sport, with top executives at the ATP like Mark Young and Brad Drewett sure to get a close look, the sources said. Young is CEO, Americas, for the tour; Drewett is CEO of the tour’s international group.

The ATP will not hire a search firm unless the internal approach fizzles, one source said. That could mean that if by the U.S. Open in late August there is no consensus, the tour might appoint an interim leader to go into next year.

“The ATP is working through an organized search process focused on developing a short list of candidates and an interview process that will likely take a few months,” said ATP spokesman Graeme Agars. “As you know, Adam is working through to the end of his contract at the end of the year. As far as a search firm is concerned, it’s an option that is still being considered at this point.”

Helfant, in announcing his departure, pointed to new sponsors like Corona and FedEx as accomplishments. It’s unclear, however, if the revenue he secured replaced fully the dollars that vanished when Mercedes-Benz stepped aside as the tour’s top global sponsor in 2008.

Helfant is a quiet, behind-the-scenes presence, rarely speaking with the media, working largely on commercial deals.

The Moet deal will be about one-half to one-third of the value of the FedEx contract, which pays the tour low to mid-seven figures annually, one of the sources said. The ATP board was briefed on the Moet negotiations at its London meetings in late June.

Moet, which could not immediately comment, is a sponsor of European golf and the Ryder Cup. The brand is a unit of luxury goods maker LVMH Moet Hennessy, which is based in Paris.

“It is a natural fit. Champagne and tennis go hand in hand,” said Ben Sturner, founder of sports marketing firm Leverage Agency. “It complements their big sponsorship with Corona.”

The ATP’s Agars declined to comment on whether Moet would be signing with the tour.

Fenway Sports Management has developed its first marketing program linking sister company Liverpool FC and Miami Heat forward LeBron James, a Fenway client.

LeBron James owns a piece of the club.
Liverpool last week began a tour of China and Malaysia, a trip aimed at boosting the club’s already strong Asian profile.

James, who owns a small piece of the club and has worn Liverpool colors in public on several occasions since aligning with Fenway Sports Management in April, is not on that trip, as had been rumored earlier. But he will be touring China separately in August, and Liverpool is holding a drawing in which fans attending its Asian games can win a trip to meet James when he arrives.

The effort, featuring extensive promotion of James and his ties to the club, is likely the beginning of more collaborative efforts involving the NBA star and Liverpool.

“We’re basically trying to put one and one together to equal three,” said Billy Hogan, Fenway Sports Management managing director. “It’s not often you have two powerful brands that can live together like this. But this gives us a great opportunity to cross-market the Liverpool and LeBron brands.”

Fenway Sports Management in April signed a deal with LRMR Marketing & Branding to be the exclusive global representative to secure marketing and sponsorship deals for James.

The Gulf Coast of Alabama, ravaged by the BP oil spill last year, is bouncing back this year and hopes that a new sponsorship deal with the SEC will push the area’s tourism recovery.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism will announce this week that it has become a corporate sponsor with the SEC as a way to promote its beaches, seafood, golf and other coastal activities.

“We’re pretty confident that this is the first time a destination has used a conference sponsorship to push a tourism strategy,” said Vince Thompson, CEO of Melt, the Atlanta-based marketing agency that’s working with the tourism bureau on activation and advertising spots. “This allows us to keep the message focused on the people who are within a driving proximity and to promote the idea that Gulf Shores is part of the SEC family.”

In addition to the nonexclusive sponsorship, the agency plans a large media buy on ESPN’s SEC Network games. Those spots will feature ex-coaches who made their name in the SEC, including Gene Stallings, Pat Dye, Phillip Fulmer and Vince Dooley.

The new partnership, which was brokered by the SEC’s multimedia rights partner, IMG College, is expected to be announced this week in Birmingham during the conference’s football media days, the annual press gathering to preview the season.

Melt and Charleston, S.C.-based Fishbait Marketing are working together on the activation. Fishbait, which represents the American Football Coaches Association, has the ties to the coaches.

“It’s just a great way for us to let the world know that we’re open for business,” said Herb Malone, CEO of the tourism bureau, whose records show that lodging revenue was down 47.3 percent last summer compared with 2009, but that it has recovered this spring to pre-oil spill numbers.

The tourism bureau hopes to build on that recovery with its SEC partnership. Industry sources say that the sponsorship, advertising and activation will cost the bureau close to $2 million this year.

Melt’s Thompson initially suggested the SEC partnership last summer in the aftermath of the oil spill. He and a Gulf Shores businessman, Shaul Zislin, who owns souvenir shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in the region, were originally working on a concert to raise money for the area when the idea of an SEC sponsorship came up. Zislin used his contacts with Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism to bring them on board.

“This is a great idea and a unique partnership, oil spill or not,” Zislin said. “But when you look at the basics of increasing traffic and spending in the area, the SEC demographic is perfect for us.”