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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

In an effort to raise the profile of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCAR is handing racetracks some of its marketing dollars and increasing the amount of at-track branding.

The move is designed to raise the visibility of the Chase, the postseason that NASCAR launched in 2004, and differentiate Chase races from regular-season events. It’s the latest in a series of moves by NASCAR to assist tracks in regional promotions of Chase races. The sanctioning body also sent Chase drivers to each race market for the first time this season.

NASCAR is supporting track promotions with a national media campaign.
“We want the fan to understand this isn’t just another race,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s chief marketer. “The end result we hope will be greater fan interaction and engagement.”

Each of the 10 tracks participating in the Chase is using NASCAR’s marketing dollars differently. Chicagoland created Chase-branded wraps for double-decker buses in the region; Charlotte plans to use the money for Chase-branded billboards.

“Instead of doing our own individual things around Chase week, we’ve really combined our efforts, and that’s the way it’s supposed to work,” said Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock. “It will give next week the big-event look and feel it deserves.”

In addition to regional advertising efforts, each track is increasing Chase branding at its facility. Besides painting Chase logos on the infield grass and walls, there will be yellow and black checkers at the start-finish line of each track and Chase logos at fan entryways and tunnels.

Phelps said he expects NASCAR to put Chase logos in even more places at tracks in 2012. “We want to continue pumping dollars and branding into what is a relatively new concept for us,” he said.

NASCAR is supporting the track’s promotions with a national media campaign developed by Jump Co., a St. Louis-based agency. The campaign features the tag line “This Is Why We Drive” and shows images of past NASCAR champions.

NASCAR developed two 30-second radio spots and two 30-second and 15- and 10-second TV spots. Those advertisements will run across Speed and ESPN, which are obligated through their television rights agreements to provide promotional support to NASCAR.

The spots began running in August and will continue to air until mid-November. NASCAR estimates that the spots will generate 250 million impressions.

As in years past, a limited number of NASCAR partners are activating against the Chase. The most significant promotion around the Chase is from Dollar General, which is running a sweepstakes in 9,500 stores nationwide. NASCAR official partners such as Unilever and Coca-Cola are participating in that promotion.

The sanctioning body in November will host its second fan festival on South Beach. The event, known as Championship Drive, is being supported by Ford and Coca-Cola and will include a concert and corporate hospitality opportunities. Phelps said he anticipates other sponsors will activate around the event, as well.

“It’s early on, but I think we’re going to continue to drive success for it and that’s important for us,” Phelps said. “We’re going to crown a champion there [in Miami], and we want to be sure the fans coming to Miami and the people who live there experience a big-event feel.”

The NHL has renewed its partnership with Honda for marketing rights within the United States, ending the auto manufacturer’s North American deal signed in 2008.

It is the NHL’s first major partnership renewal since the league signed its landmark 10-year, $187 million-a-year media rights deal with NBC in April.

Sources said the Honda deal runs through the 2013-14 season. Honda’s previous deal with the NHL ended the league’s 13-year relationship with previous auto partner Dodge.

Honda signed a North American deal with the NHL in 2008. The renewal is for U.S. rights.
The initial Honda deal had a $4 million annual rights fee and included rights within the United States and Canada.

The league declined to discuss terms of the new deal. Sources familiar with the partnership said Honda will be spending 50 percent more in total commitments, including media spending and event activation.

“It’s a bigger investment, but we feel it merits it because the property is bigger and is going in the right direction,” said Tom Peyton, brand manager for Honda. “Hockey is an efficient buy for us.”

The NHL worked with NBC officials during the negotiations with Honda. Keith Wachtel, senior vice president for corporate sales and marketing for the NHL, said the added assets from NBC helped drive the price.

This year, NBC and Versus will televise 100 regular-season games, up from 64 last year. The networks also will televise the entire Stanley Cup playoffs nationally.

“Any league marketing partner is obligated to commit to media with NBC, and it’s not just broadcast, it’s digital as well,” Wachtel said. “It makes sense for us to attack the marketplace with NBC because we both have assets that need to be packaged and sold together.”

NBC officials declined to discuss specifics about the media that Honda would receive other than to say the auto manufacturer would gain inventory on NBC, Versus, the NHL Network, and Seth Winter, senior vice president of sports and Olympics sales and marketing for NBC, said the broadcaster also no longer deals with blackouts in local markets due to local team deals.

“Not only the volume of games, but the exclusive windows we have makes the package more compelling,” Winter said.

In addition to the media, Honda will receive dasherboard branding during nationally televised games, including playoff games, an element that was not included in the old deal.

Honda also will remain a major sponsor of the Winter Classic and will retain its title sponsorship of the Super Skills competition at the All-Star Game when that game is played in the United States. Honda will not have a presence at the 2012 All-Star Game in Ottawa.

Honda will increase its involvement with the NHL draft and NHL awards show. Peyton said Honda would continue to promote its Odyssey, Ridgeline and Pilot models at NHL games and would continue to have on-site activation at any U.S.-based All-Star Game and the Winter Classic. Honda previously featured an interactive stick-handling challenge at the marquee events.

Along with its NHL relationship, Honda sponsors the Anaheim Ducks and has the naming rights to Anaheim’s Honda Center. It’s also title sponsor of the Los Angeles Marathon and the Honda Classic PGA Tour event in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Wachtel said the league is pursuing automakers in Canada and hopes to have a partner in that category by the All-Star Game in late January.

In other NHL business, U.S. partners Geico, McDonald’s, Verizon and Discover Card are in renewal negotiations with the league, and North American partners Compuware, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Pepsi, Ticketmaster and Starwood are all in the last year of their partnerships.

“Four years ago, we wouldn’t have a major category partner clamoring for a United States-only partnership,” Wachtel said.

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

A month after winning five events at the FINA World Championships, Ryan Lochte has agreed to represent Gillette and Ralph Lauren in their marketing around the London Olympics.

Gillette did a shoot with Lochte in China after the swimming world championships and plans to make him one of two athletes featured in TV and print advertisements and at retail during the Olympics, said Lochte’s agent, Erika Wright of Wright Entertainment & Sports. Ralph Lauren has agreed to terms on a deal with the swimmer that will see him featured prominently in the company’s Olympic marketing, Wright said.

A successful summer has helped swimmer Ryan Lochte add to his endorsement portfolio.
Terms of the deals were not available, but industry sources valued the endorsements in the high six figures to low seven figures. Gillette declined to comment, and Ralph Lauren did not return calls seeking comment by press time.

The agreements come three years after Lochte left Octagon, which represented him in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Games. He subsequently signed with Wright, an attorney and former Miss America runner-up who works with her husband’s music management company, which has worked with ’N Sync, the Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, Ciara and others.

Since signing Lochte, Wright has expanded his portfolio from a deal with Speedo to include Mutual of Omaha, Gatorade and now Gillette and Ralph Lauren. Wright said that Lochte will sign only one or two more endorsement deals before the London Games begin next July. She added that she already has turned down some agreements.

“At this point, we have the impression there’s not much more room for many more sponsors in an Olympic year,” she said. “Right now, he has three major partners and does charity work, and it’s not worth $600,000 or $700,000 for him to make 15 appearances, because his goal is to compete in London.”

In addition to appearing in Gillette and Ralph Lauren campaigns, Lochte this year will launch his own line of apparel through Speedo.

A little over a decade ago, Lowe’s executives tuned in to NASCAR races and cringed as they watched the orange No. 20 car stamped with The Home Depot logo charge to win after win after win. It collected 12 total in three years with Tony Stewart at the wheel before Lowe’s CEO Bob Tillman had enough.

His Lowe’s No. 31 car, driven by Mike Skinner, hadn’t so much as sniffed victory lane, and he wanted a change. He asked his head of sports marketing at the time, Dean Kessel, to find the company a new team and a new driver. He made his objective clear.

“As a company, we win on Wall Street and win on Main Street,” Tillman said. “I want to win on the racetrack. Go find me a winner.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the Lowe’s No. 48 car
Less than a year later, the company signed Jimmie Johnson, an unproven driver from California with a less than stellar record. The company’s executives knew it was a major gamble at the time, but nearly a decade later, their wager has paid off in ways they couldn’t have imagined at the time.

This week, Johnson will begin his run at a sixth consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. His success has given Lowe’s more than a mere winner. He’s also provided a high profile and consistent marketing platform that allowed the company to build a database of more than 1 million fans, amass more than $130 million in media exposure in just four years and run a series of signature promotions that helped Lowe’s launch its own line of tools and evolve from a regional retailer to a national chain.

“Brands go into a sponsorship looking at it from a lot of perspectives: external relationships with retail customers, business-to-business opportunities with corporate customers and as a rallying point for employees,” said Mike Mooney, a motorsports marketing executive at The Marketing Arm. “Lowe’s has gotten all of that and more with Jimmie.”

NASCAR’s chief marketer Steve Phelps agreed, adding, “To have a brand be synonymous with a driver as much as [Lowe’s] has and to be as successful a partnership as they have had happens very infrequently in sports. Jimmie Johnson and the Lowe’s 48 team rolls off the tongue. It’s fantastic that they have supported each other to the degree that they have.”

What looks like a marketing coup today was far from that in 2001 when Tillman charged Kessel with finding Lowe’s a new driver. At the time, the sponsorship landscape in NASCAR was robust and most of the top drivers were locked up in long-term deals.

“All the teams said no,” said Todd Moore, Martin Truex Jr.’s business manager and a former executive with the Cotter Group, a motorsports marketing agency that led the search on Lowe’s behalf. “We didn’t really have a lot of options.”

Only one opportunity was available, and it was with a new team Hendrick Motorsports planned to start. The good news about the team was that Jeff Gordon would co-own it, and it would be part of an organization with a track record of winning. The bad news was that it would not only be a new team, but it would feature an unproven driver from California named Jimmie Johnson.

“I looked at Jimmie’s performance,” Moore said. “He had done very little at the Nationwide level. I couldn’t figure it out. I said, ‘There’s no way. They want someone who can beat Tony Stewart.’”

Kessel’s reaction wasn’t much different. He took one look at Johnson’s Nationwide (then Busch) Series results from 1999 and 2000 — no wins, no top-five finishes and only seven top-10 finishes in 36 races — and told Moore that if he took Johnson’s name to Tillman the Lowe’s CEO would probably fire him.

The Lowe’s logo has been on Johnson’s car through five championship seasons.
But Kessel didn’t have much choice. He took the deal to his boss at Lowe’s and they sat down with team owner Rick Hendrick in May 2001. Gordon was there and talked a lot about Johnson’s potential, but what really intrigued Lowe’s was the proposal Hendrick put forward.

The deal would give Lowe’s a full-time primary sponsorship of Johnson and an associate sponsorship of Gordon. That would allow Lowe’s to use Gordon in its retail promotions and soften the blow if Johnson didn’t develop the way Hendrick expected.

The deal intrigued Lowe’s marketers enough that they took it to Tillman, and he attended a subsequent meeting at Hendrick Motorsports. The Lowe’s team showed up at 4 p.m. for what was supposed to be an hour and a half meeting, but the meeting wound up lasting six hours.

The Lowe’s executives were there so long that Gordon called Johnson and told him to come join the meeting. When he arrived, Tillman asked Hendrick, Gordon and his team of executives to leave the room, and the CEO spoke to Johnson for an hour.

“I wanted to know about his commitment and inspiration and his motivation,” Tillman said. “Most importantly, I said, ‘I want to know one thing from you: Can you win? Because I have no intention of running a car around the track in last place.’ Jimmie stepped back for a moment and then said, ‘I can win.’ I shook his hand and that was it.”

Lowe’s agreed to the deal that night, but there was still uncertainty among the Lowe’s ranks about what the future would hold.

“Here we’d gone from Brett Bodine to Mike Skinner to a complete unknown,” Kessel said. “It happened quick, and it was a total high-risk, high-reward deal.”

Lowe’s early marketing efforts focused on Gordon as much, if not more than, Johnson. The company developed a television ad that featured both drivers, and they showcased Gordon at retail and had him make appearances at employee gatherings.

The most important thing to Tillman continued to be winning on the track. He wanted his employees at Lowe’s who were working hard to win business at local stores to be able to watch the race on Sunday and know the No. 48 team was winning in NASCAR.

To jump-start that process, Lowe’s agreed to pay each crew member $480 every time they won a race and offered the pit crew $480 every time they turned in a pit stop under a specified time, Tillman said. The company even agreed to give crew chief Chad Knaus a Porsche for the team’s first top-five finish and Johnson a power boat for his first victory, Tillman said.

Knaus and Johnson earned those quickly. During the first half of the 2002 season, Johnson won two races and ran up front consistently. His profile rose quickly and Lowe’s profile rose with him.

“The media piece they blew out of the water almost immediately because of his performance,” Moore said.

As Johnson became more recognizable, the company began to incorporate him into its marketing more. It launched a patriotic campaign in 2001 after 9/11 known as the Power of Pride to raise funds for relief organizations supporting U.S. military, police officers and firefighters, and it promoted the initiative with a special paint scheme on the No. 48 car that showed the American flag on the rear quarter panel.

The initiative raised more than $6 million and resulted in millions of “Power of Pride” bumper stickers being placed on cars across the country.

“You still see those bumper stickers and see fans wearing Power of Pride shirts today,” said Pat Perkins, Hendrick Motorsports’ vice president of marketing. “It wasn’t tied to an offer, but it created a brand connection with people.”

Lowe’s ran perhaps its most unusual promotion in 2003. The company cut a special agreement that year with the paint company Valspar that saw it launch a line of paint colors inspired by Nickelodeon characters. To promote it, Lowe’s featured SpongeBob SquarePants on Johnson’s No. 48 car during Daytona’s summer race.

“It brought a lot of recognition to the product and Lowe’s,” said a marketing consultant who worked on the effort but declined to speak on the record because he no longer works with Lowe’s. “The die-cast and T-shirts were huge sellers.”

In 2006, Johnson won his first championship, and his profile began to rise. As it did, Lowe’s began to make him more of a centerpiece in its NASCAR efforts.

In 2009, it dropped its naming-rights agreement with Charlotte Motor Speedway, believing that its brand awareness was strong enough that it could lean on Johnson for exposure in the sport, and it changed the name and concept of its hospitality program from the “Lowe’s Zone” to “Jimmie Jams.”

The “Lowe’s Zone” served as a place where the company could entertain 5,000 customers and give them all an opportunity to hear Johnson speak. But “Jimmie Jams” gave local employees, commercial customers and prospective customers a chance to not only attend an event with Johnson but also hear a concert from an artist like Eddie Money or Blues Traveler.

One of the company’s most continuous and successful programs around Johnson has been its Team Lowe’s Racing Fan Club, which it says has more than 1 million members. It pushed a Lowe’s racing credit card across that database and provided fan club members with a quarterly publication about the team. It then gave customers a reason to get the card and cheer for Johnson by offering them in-store discounts when they used the card after Johnson won.

“That database they have has provided them with great value to measure the impact of the program,” said Jeff Elliott, a former sports marketing executive at Bank of America and the current chief operating officer of Breaking Limits, a Charlotte-area motorsports marketing agency. “They can see the lift and the impact they have at retail and customer loyalty.”

Lowe’s declined to make a current executive available to talk about the value of the company’s sponsorship of the No. 48 car, but the company’s actions suggest it remains pleased with the results of the sponsorship.

In 2009, it signed a three-year renewal with Johnson and maintained its position as primary sponsor for 36 races. It did so at a time when NASCAR ratings had declined by more than 20 percent during a four-year period, attendance had dropped considerably and many of its peers were decreasing their commitment to 23 or 17 races as a primary sponsor.

Since signing the deal, Lowe’s increasingly has made its Kobalt Tools brand the focus of its efforts around Johnson and the No. 48 car. It made the brand’s logo the primary image for eight races in 2010 and has given it primary exposure in 11 races this year.

The No. 48 crew helped redesign the Kobalt tools, which they had used in practice and competition. The crew was highly critical of some of the tools and that led Lowe’s to redevelop the tools and relaunch the brand.

“We created that Kobalt tool line and built it around NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson and his endorsement of it, and it’s been a home run,” Tillman said. “It’s probably the most successful tool program today.”

Using Johnson and the No. 48 car to promote Kobalt is expected to increase in the coming years. Lowe’s, which so desperately wanted to have a winner in 2001 to raise the profile of its brand, no longer needs one. The $18.8 billion in annual sales and 576 stores it had when it signed Johnson in 2000 has ballooned to $47 billion in sales and 1,725 stores.

Lowe’s name and its brand have become ubiquitous. Kobalt, on the other hand, hasn’t, and the company will be looking to Johnson, the winner it discovered nearly a decade ago, to change that.

Things have changed a lot for Lowe’s since Tillman took Johnson’s word a decade ago that he could be a winner. The blue and silver No. 48 car with the Lowe’s logo now runs out front in most NASCAR races and sat in first place going into the final race before the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.

The Home Depot No. 20 car, on the other hand, is winless in 80 races and most races finishes back in the pack. In the last three years, it has collected just one win, and its results have been so poor that reports surfaced during the summer that Joe Gibbs Racing was looking to replace the current driver of The Home Depot car, Joey Logano, with a proven winner, Carl Edwards.

Tillman, who retired in 2005 after 42 years at Lowe’s, can only sit back, watch and enjoy how things have changed.

“We just happened to get lucky and get the right team owner, the right driver and the right crew chief, and it’s been magic,” Tillman said. “It’s been magic for a long time now, and that doesn’t happen too often.”

With the NFL lockout slowing sales over the spring and summer, Reebok was looking at its 10th and final year as the NFL’s exclusive on-field jersey and cap rights holder with little enthusiasm.

The last year of any licensing deal is mixed at best, and with the likelihood of the NFL missing games increasing as the lockout dragged on, it looked like the last year with the NFL would be Reebok’s worst. Now, like so many NFL partners, licensing executives at the Adidas subsidiary have a whole new take. Their sign-off with the NFL before Nike and New Era take over for the next five years could be one of the company’s best.

“Even accounting for retail customers pulling back because of the brand change, I still think this will get pretty damn close to being our No. 1 year,” said David Baxter, president of Adidas’ sports licensed division, who has overseen Reebok’s NFL efforts since before the current contract began. The
unprecedented number of free agent player moves in a compressed time period this summer had the manufacturer “on our heels a little bit because of all that manufacturing in a short window,” Baxter said, “but the good news is that demand is now very strong for us across the NFL and all licensed [products].”

Those involved when Reebok signed its current deal recall that Nike was so convinced it was the sole bidder it was insisting on any number of branding imperatives, including replacing the league’s venerable Wilson pigskin with a swoosh-i-fied football.

“It took a lot of convincing on the part of Paul Fireman,” recalled former NFL licensing head Mark Holtzman, now executive director of non-baseball marketing for the New York Yankees. “In the end, we convinced him we were changing the model and Reebok would be the beneficiary — and they were. Their guarantee turned out to be 25 percent of their NFL business.”

When Reebok took over the jersey and cap exclusive, the entire industry was over-licensed. Product was oversaturated at retail, and many large licensees were — or were about to be — bankrupt or sold. Accordingly, price points and product innovations were suffering.

“Every league was operating on a ‘Some is good, so more is better’ philosophy,” said Tom Shine, Reebok senior vice president, who sold the remnants of his bankrupt Logo Athletic licensed brand to form the start of Reebok’s NFL licensed business. “We came in as one of four or five licensees with jersey rights, so our mission was to clean things up, and we did.’’

Holtzman, himself a former Reebok executive, added, “They segmented well and the exclusive rights enabled them to spend marketing dollars against it.’’

Over its decade as the NFL’s largest apparel licensee, Reebok gets kudos for cleaning up distribution, restoring price integrity and making an NFL jersey at various price points a must-have for an even wider range of NFL fans.

“If you look at photos of NFL stadiums 10 years ago and now, you can see that together we got a lot more fans to feel like wearing a jersey to a game was part of bringing home a victory,’’ said NFL consumer products chief Leo Kane.

Reebok increased jersey sales every year of the deal, according to Baxter, while lessening the overall dependence on jerseys. Kenny Gamble, vice president and general manager of the sports licensed division at Reebok, said the ratio of jersey sales to other Reebok NFL apparel went from 70/30 at the beginning of the deal to its current 55/45. “We worked hard to add consistency, even while adding jerseys at different price point and things like pink jerseys for women,’’ he said.

Accordingly, during Reebok’s tenure, sales of NFL licensed apparel reached new highs. All that growth occurred while the outerwear business, the big jackets and heavy parkas that had buoyed licensed sales and carried higher price points, vanished from licensed sports retailers. “It’s all about layering now,” Baxter said. “Quilted outerwear is pretty much extinct.’’

Reebok’s product legacy includes the Belichick hoodie, as well as the Sharktooth and the Paintbrush sideline caps.
Reebok also gets credit within the licensing world for building a capable hot-market program at a time when that portion of the business became mission critical and for pushing out a “second season” of apparel to retail, looking to capitalize on holiday shopping demand.

On the product side, those involved recalled smash sales hits like Bill Belichick’s hoodie, with the Patriots coach choosing to wear the unconventional oversized Reebok sweatshirt and cut off the sleeves. While he was often mocked for the less-than-polished fashion look, because of the team’s on-field success and Belichick’s consistent TV appearances during the Reebok decade, the hoodie turned into a pop-culture discussion piece.

Another hit was a name-number T-shirt, but that may have cannibalized jersey sales.

An endless variety of caps, including caps released around the NFL draft, capitalized on the widespread appeal of rookies to

One of Reebok’s highlights was meeting heavy fan demand for Brett Favre’s New York Jets jersey in 2008.
push licensing sales even in the offseason. Part of the success also stemmed from having better spokesmodels donning sideline gear.

“The coaching business changed, and we transformed from the Marv Levys to guys like Jon Gruden,’’ said Eddie White, vice president of team properties at Reebok and Adidas for 19 years. “We had cooler guys wearing cooler stuff. They were better runway models.”

A highlight for Baxter was the unprecedented demand created when Brett Favre was traded to the New York Jets during the summer of 2008, creating an all-time demand for hundreds of thousands of jerseys.

With the NFL as a cornerstone of a licensing business of $500 million, the question of what’s next for Adidas/Reebok licensing is an intriguing one, especially with the NBA, Adidas’ most important American license, experiencing it own labor pains.

Baxter is looking for eventual growth from the NBA, along with the NHL, MLS and the collegiate business, as well as institutional team business for high schools.

“We won’t offset volume by any means in year one or two post-NFL, but there’s still a significant business here, with a nice growth trajectory,” Baxter said. “All things being equal, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want the NFL as a business partner, but we still have a very positive outlook here.”

Saying it will “put the marketing back in sports marketing,” Source Communications is launching a hybrid marketing agency, Source1 Sports. The new sports practice will be headed by veteran marketing executives Ray Katz and Ben La Marca and be housed within Source’s offices in New York City; Hackensack, N.J.; and San Diego.

Source, a 28-year-old creative shop with about 60 employees, has sports-centric clients including Wise, Amtrak, Sony, Hewlett-Packard and franchise groups representing around 3,000 Subway restaurants in the East and Midwest.

“We see in a lot of cases that the marketing side gets lost. A lot of times, it just feels like it’s not direct and strategic enough. We’ve always done things from a retail perspective, so we know how to activate as a matter of course,” said Source President Larry Rothstein.

Katz brings years of sports marketing experience to Source1 Sports. For the past two years, he was president of sports properties and media at Leverage Agency, but he also has worked at OMD/Optimum Sports, the NFL, the defunct Football Network, Madison Square Garden and American Express. He said the new agency’s capabilities will include strategic consulting, digital and social media implementation, property negotiation and activation, creative, “selective” property representation, analytics, and media planning and buying.

“We know the business, and having that knowledge, along with digital, media buying and creative under one roof, is the logical evolution for an industry where all the talk is about integration and 360 marketing,” Katz said. “Combine that with Source’s retail expertise, and that’s our point of difference.”

Katz said the agency does have some clients in-house, but would not reveal them yet.

La Marca, who was president and CEO at Kyocera Electronics and also has held VP roles at both Olympus America and Eastman Kodak, has been chief revenue officer for sports content aggregator FanFeedr for the past two years. He will share managing partner responsibilities with Katz, while Rothstein will be CEO.

“To integrate sports with creative, it really has to be within the DNA of the agency, and that is what is attracting me. Every marketer is looking to bring its customers closer and with programs that are sustainable, so we think sports can and will have impact on overall marketing budgets if we can show senior management that it can be used for a lot more than just branding,” La Marca said.

Tom Stultz, who worked arm-in-arm with University of Texas officials to develop the Longhorn Network, will step down from his post at IMG College at the end of the year.

Stultz, 60, led the turnaround of Host Communications from a company on the brink of bankruptcy in 2004 to a college marketing powerhouse. Once Host recovered, IMG College bought the business in 2007 for $74 million, and put Stultz in charge of the multimedia rights partnerships.

He worked with Texas, a longtime client, on the Longhorn Network until its launch on Aug. 26, negotiating the 20-year, $300 million rights deal with ESPN and carving out a position for IMG College to sell the advertising on what turned out to be an ESPN-owned channel. It was on the eve of the Longhorn Network launch that Stultz told Texas Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds that he’d be leaving the company.

Tom Stultz was key to the development of the new Longhorn Network.
“To see DeLoss and [UT President] Bill Powers smiling from ear to ear, that gave me a lot of satisfaction,” Stultz said of the channel’s launch. “They are so proud of the network. To help see it through will be one of the highlights of my life.”

Stultz departs at a time when IMG College President Ben Sutton is reorganizing the reporting structure and creating a more defined role for Roger VanDerSnick, the former NASCAR executive who joined IMG College in April. VanDerSnick, who has been working in IMG College sales without a title, this week will be named chief sales and marketing officer and will oversee sales from the national level to the local level for its 90 college properties.

Lawton Logan, senior vice president of U.S. business development, and a guiding force in the development of IMG College’s national sales force, will report to VanDerSnick, as will Doug Gillin, senior vice president, collegiate property sales. Logan will continue to report to George Pyne, president of IMG Sports & Entertainment, on non-college business.

Sutton said the most recent changes complete the integration of IMG’s acquisitions, starting with Collegiate Licensing Co. and Host in 2007, followed by ISP Sports in 2010.

“The timing is right to create a single executive position with responsibility for strategic development and oversight of our sales efforts,” Sutton said of VanDerSnick, who will be one of four department heads reporting directly to Sutton. The others are Mark Dyer, senior vice president in charge of ancillary businesses like licensing and ticketing; Andrew Giangola, vice president of communications; and Tony Crispino, COO.

Stultz will stay at IMG College through the year as a consultant to Sutton. As for the future, Stultz, who still lives in Lexington, Ky., where he was originally based with Host, said he wouldn’t limit his opportunities to any particular field.

“I thrive on running a company and making the kind of decisions that influence strategy,” Stultz said. “IMG did everything it was supposed to do. Nobody’s mad, nobody’s upset, it’s just a matter of me wanting to pursue other challenges. It happens with mergers and acquisitions.”

Sutton credited Stultz for his “impactful” role in expanding IMG’s college business, and said that Stultz will complete a few more projects before he departs at the end of the year.

Stultz had been at the forefront of building the company’s multimedia rights business from the time IMG acquired Host in 2007.

When IMG acquired ISP Sports in 2010 and Sutton was installed as the college division president, Stultz maintained responsibility for the college partnerships and spent much of last year negotiating Texas’ deal with ESPN, which was sealed in January. Host has owned the Longhorns’ TV, radio and sponsorship rights since the early 1980s and when Dodds formed his vision for a university-branded channel, he turned to Stultz to lead the talks with potential partners.

“Tom’s been there from the beginning of discussions about the network,” Dodds said. “This was done under his watch. He’s honorable, he’s fun and he’s very good. That’s a pretty good combination.”

When Stultz was named CEO of Host Communications in 2004, the company was losing $4 million a year and missing guaranteed rights payments to its college partners. He closed Host’s money-losing events business, and later that year he signed Kentucky, the school in Host’s backyard, to a record 10-year, $80 million deal.

Stultz and UK were both betting on Host’s future.

“He came into the industry at a time when there was great flux in college sports marketing,” said Mitch Barnhart, Kentucky’s AD. “He’s become a real stabilizing force in that industry.”

SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said the relationships Stultz quickly cultivated within the league after taking over Host were integral to keeping the conference’s business.

“We would likely not have made our 10-year agreement with then-Host Communications if it was not for Tom,” Slive said. “He’s a tough but fair negotiator, and he’ll be missed.”