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Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

In the first season of its multimillion-dollar sponsorship of Jeff Gordon, the AARP Foundation claims it raised $14.1 million and donated 4 million meals to local hunger relief operations.

AARP Foundation President Jo Ann Jenkins said the deal exceeded the organization’s expectations and achieved its two main goals: to raise money and awareness of hunger among elders. She declined to say how much the organization spent on its sponsorship and promotion to achieve those goals. The three-year, 22-race-a-year deal is valued at $10 million to $15 million a year.

The organization says that its sponsorship of Jeff Gordon’s car has raised awareness about AARP’s mission.
“I can’t tell you how pleased we are with the outcome of our relationship with Jeff [Gordon] and Hendrick and NASCAR,” Jenkins said. “For both of those goals [of raising awareness and funds], we really hit it out of the ballpark.”

Jenkins said that 20 to 25 percent of the $14.1 million raised came from individual donations generated through requests for contributions to the AARP Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger campaign at speedways, online and by text message. The organization had more than 122,000 fans visit its displays at tracks this year.

The other 75 to 80 percent of money was raised from corporations. Chase Card Services and United Healthcare were two of the companies that contributed to the campaign. Chase was the only sponsor to agree to contribute to the campaign in exchange for exposure on the hood of the No. 24 car. Its AARP Visa Card appeared on the car at the Richmond and Dover races last fall.

Jenkins said the organization expected more corporations to sign on to support the campaign and help underwrite the cost of the car sponsorship. It didn’t have a specific goal for the number of corporate supporters it wanted last year and doesn’t have one for next year, but the organization did look for corporate support and plans to continue to do so in the future. Jenkins said part of the reason the car didn’t receive more corporate support last season was because the AARP wanted to be sure that partnering corporations were truly committed to combating hunger and weren’t looking for a business-to-business relationship.

“This was our first venture into NASCAR and I’m surprised by the length of time it takes to negotiate some of these [deals],” Jenkins said. “I think you’ll see more folks coming on the car with us next year.”

The AARP Foundation estimates that it received more than $50 million in media exposure from the partnership. Jenkins pointed to that as evidence that merely giving the money the foundation spent on the sponsorship and promotion to hunger-related organizations wouldn’t have been as effective.

“The real success this year has been around getting people engaged,” she said. “This was an important play for us to be the spokesperson to the 50-plus community, and I don’t think we could have done that with just a cash contribution.”

One of the NFL’s oldest stadiums is getting a new name for the holidays.

Qualcomm, which in 1997 signed a 20-year naming rights deal for the San Diego stadium that the NFL Chargers and San Diego State football teams call home, is temporarily replacing its corporate moniker at the venue with the name of one of its chip brands. Starting Sunday, for an 11-day period, the stadium will be known as Snapdragon Stadium.

During those 11 days, the 44-year-old venue will play host to a Chargers Sunday night game against Baltimore along with two college bowl games: the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl (Dec. 21) and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl (Dec. 28).

Snapdragon is the brand name San Diego-based Qualcomm has given to its multiprocessor designed for mobile applications, which are used by 30 manufacturers including Samsung, LG, Nokia and HTC. Qualcomm is marketing the chipset with an ingredient branding campaign, similar to the “Intel Inside” effort.

“There’s an incredible focus now on smartphones and tablets,” said Dan Novak, vice president of global marketing for Qualcomm. “What we’re looking to do is raise the volume on awareness for Snapdragon — let people know it is the heart of their smartphone, and then build awareness and eventually preference.”

Novak said the change was in the works for several months. The change required new agreements with the city, which owns the stadium; the Chargers; and the Holiday Bowl, which administers both bowl games.

While Qualcomm has media in and around the bowl games, it does not have any in the Chargers/Ravens telecast, so it remains to be seen which name NBC’s announcers will use that night.

During the 11 days, every existing Qualcomm sign will be wrapped in a Snapdragon dressing, and the company will employ other media as part of a larger branding campaign for Snapdragon.

While Qualcomm’s deal at the Chargers home is hardly top-of-market — its average annual value is less than $1 million — every company with a naming-rights arrangement faces the problem of what to do with the deal when the novelty wears off. That’s what makes Qualcomm’s “temporary naming rights” gambit a tactic worth watching.

Naming-rights deals for stadiums carry some of the highest price tags and longest terms of any sports sponsorship inventory. However, while the deals are normally sold in 20- to 30-year increments, much of the value of the deals is before a venue opens and perhaps five years hence. By that time, the competitive challenges that originally prompted the use of naming rights as a marketing tactic might have changed.

Considering that and other factors, is there any way to resuscitate a naming-rights deal five years or more after it’s done?

The move in San Diego is guaranteed to grab some publicity for Qualcomm, which stopped being a consumer band when it sold its handset business to Kyocera in 2000. Several naming-rights experts, however, were not impressed.

“If naming rights become as changeable as rotational signage, broadcasters will certainly ask for a piece or refuse to participate,” said Randy Bernstein of Premier Partnerships, which recently sold the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum rights to “The whole thing smacks of desperation.”

Added Rob Prazmark of 21 Marketing, “You could say it’s novel, but it makes a branding play into a promotional play, so I wonder if it diminishes the bigger market for naming rights as a result. The public only has so much tolerance for this kind of thing.”

Said veteran naming-rights negotiator Jeff Knapple, “From the marketing side of things, it does seem a bit short term, compared to most naming rights, but it could also be a trial run. For the Chargers, it’s almost found money.”

Snapdragon Stadium will be the fourth name for the stadium, which opened in 1967 as San Diego Stadium and became Jack Murphy Stadium in 1980, in honor of the former San Diego Union sports columnist.

In 2009, the South Florida venue that’s home to the Miami Dolphins changed its name from Dolphin Stadium to Land Shark Stadium for a seven-month period.