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Volume 20 No. 41

Marketing and Sponsorship

Coca-Cola and History Channel are combining forces to raise their respective brands’ profiles ahead of their big NASCAR race weekend in Charlotte this May.

The title sponsors of the History 300 and Coca-Cola 600 races have partnered on a sweepstakes that will give a fan a chance to win a trip for two to Charlotte Motor Speedway to watch the History 300 Nationwide Series race on May 26 with the cast of the channel’s show “Pawn Stars,” meet a Coca-Cola driver and receive tickets to the Coca-Cola 600 Sprint Cup Series race on May 27.

Coca-Cola is highlighting the promotion on packaging and at retail in more than 300 WilcoHess stores in the Southeast, and History Channel is promoting it online and on air. As a result, Coca-Cola is sharing its presence at retail with History, and History is sharing its presence in people’s homes with Coke.

“There are two ways to approach a partnership,” said Chris Meador, History’s vice president of marketing. “The easy way is to barter X for Y, or you can create an idea and say, ‘Let’s market an idea on both our platforms.’ That’s what we did with Coke.”

Charlotte Motor Speedway helped broker the partnership between History and Coke.

The promotion was developed after History agreed to sign another one-year agreement to title sponsor Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Nationwide race in May. It will be the second year the company has sponsored the race. It is believed to be spending slightly more than $1 million on the sponsorship.

Meador said that History re-signed with Charlotte Motor Speedway because it credited its race sponsorship last year with helping increase viewership of its show “Top Gear” in 2011. The show averaged 1.9 million viewers last year and saw a 24 percent increase in viewers in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

History decided to shift from naming the race after a single show, as it did last year with the Top Gear 300, to using its channel name because it wants to use the race to promote multiple shows such as “Pawn Stars” and “American Restoration.”

Japanese sponsors are finalizing marketing activation plans for the Oakland A’s-Seattle Mariners opening series in Japan later this month.

The A’s and Mariners will play each other March 28-29 at the Tokyo Dome, and the series marks the first time Ichiro Suzuki has played in his native Japan as a member of the Mariners, although he has played there on an MLB touring team and in the World Baseball Classic.

“Having Ichiro playing in Japan where he is one of the country’s biggest celebrities makes this special, and the Mariners’ Japanese ownership makes this unique,” said Paul Archey, MLB senior vice president of international business operations, adding that “nearly every” Mariners game is televised in Japan. “We’re also playing these games around a year after the [earthquake/tsunami] disaster of last year, and we will certainly pay tribute to that as part of this.”

Noting that two games sold out in two hours or less, and pointing to the addition of Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish to the Texas Rangers and next year’s World Baseball Classic, Archey said MLB’s international business was stronger than ever on all fronts.

As always, MLB teams playing overseas will wear sponsor logos on uniforms. Gloops is hardly a household name in the U.S., but the Japanese social game developer is the title sponsor of the series. Both the A’s and Mariners will wear a Gloops logo on their batting helmets, the A’s will wear a Gloops shoulder patch and the company is sponsoring the MVP award for each game.

Boeing is another sponsor and will have a patch on the Mariners uniforms. Other sponsors include Japanese convenience store Lawson as the official ticket distributor, Sato Pharmaceutical, Itoham and Sankyo.

MLB International sells the rights to Yomiuri, the company that promotes the games and sells the tickets and sponsorship deals in Japan.

The two teams will also play exhibitions versus the Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants at the Tokyo Dome.

Along with local TV rights holders in the Oakland and Seattle markets, MLB Network will be televising the games — “slightly delayed” at 6 a.m. ET, and again in prime time those evenings.

This will mark the fourth season opener in Japan and the first since the Red Sox and A’s played in 2008 at the Tokyo Dome. Since 1999, the Rockies, Padres, Mets, Cubs, Rangers, Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, Red Sox and A’s have all participated in international openers. The games will count as home games for the A’s.

At a time when motorsports is looking for ways to appeal to younger fans, the NHRA is rolling out a marketing campaign designed to connect with kids, young adults and older fans alike.

The organization developed the tag line “Nitro Generation” and creative that asks fans questions to determine whether they have the “Nitro Gene” in an effort to encourage fans to identify themselves as drag racing enthusiasts. For example, an NHRA banner ad asks, “Does the smell of burning rubber make you salivate? Our studies show you might have the Nitro Gene!” The banner ad includes a link to buy tickets for a coming race.

“This really resonates strongly across our fan base and allows us to talk to all aspects across it,” said Gary Darcy, the NHRA’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Fans see it and go, ‘Yeah, that’s me. I belong to that. My family belongs to that.’”

The NHRA is using “Nitro Gene” ads online, in print and during race broadcasts on ESPN. The association is supporting the ad campaign with a sweepstakes that will award a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and Ford F-150 truck to the winning fan.

To reach young adults, the NHRA is increasing its use of social media to promote the campaign. It is encouraging fans to post a photo of themselves illustrating why they have the “Nitro Gene” on the NHRA’s Facebook page.

To reach kids, the NHRA decided to extend its policy of admitting children younger than 12 free for races. It began doing that midway through the 2011 season.

The NHRA doesn’t track youth interest, but youth interest in the nation’s largest motorsport, NASCAR, has decreased in recent years.

The campaign was developed by the NHRA marketing team, Darcy said.

RaptorAccelerator is the lead investor in a new $4.5 million round of equity funding in Krush Inc., an action sports product website.

Boston-based Krush Inc. was founded last year and sells and previews new products and apparel for about 150 brands in the action sports industry. Brands include Quiksilver, Oakley and Nike. In addition, the company collects consumer data for its clients.

RaptorAccelerator will take an undisclosed equity stake in Krush and become a development partner as it looks to broaden the company’s reach into traditional stick-and-ball sports.

“We saw a real opportunity in the apparel space,” said Sean Barror, co-managing director of RaptorAccelerator. “There are a lot of applications to what Krush can do in the traditional sports space, and we felt like Krush fit our profile nicely, not just in action sports but in other sports as well.”

Krush’s business model calls for companies to preview and showcase new products and apparel to consumers on the Krush site before they are officially launched. The model provides users of the site exclusive opportunities to buy products before they hit the market. It also serves as a data collection system for the brands as they launch their new products.

The company would not disclose any revenue information.

“It is a consumer-driven model and the intention is to help leading brands activate their consumer base,” said Gina Ashe, chief executive officer of Krush. “The platform lets brands showcase their planned products and we generate data for the brand.”

RaptorAccelerator is the sports and entertainment advisory division of the Raptor Group, the Boston-based financial holding company run by James Pallotta.

The division, launched last year by Pallotta, is run by former HSBC Holdings banker Mark Pannes and Barror, who previously worked in executive roles for Madison Square Garden Sports and the Boston Celtics.

Like all of its investment deals, RaptorAccelerator will take a hands-on role with Krush as it looks to generate more revenue growth at the company.

“We will look to expand the reach of the brand into other related genres of the business,” Barror said.

The investment in Krush comes after RaptorAccelerator last year took operational control of the Italian soccer club AS Roma. Pallotta is a partner in the group that bought the team, with RaptorAccelerator assigned to overhaul the operations of the franchise.

RaptorAccelerator, which has offices in Boston and Austin, Texas, also counts Charity Partners Inc. and SecurityPoint Media as clients.

Terry Lefton
NFL coaches’ headsets will be festooned with different logos next season, as Motorola is out as a league sponsor after 13 years. Sources said Motorola had an offer on the table of about $50 million a year over five years, roughly 25 percent more than its prior deal, but could not reach agreement with the NFL on pricing and value. Members of the league’s business ventures committee were told recently that Motorola was not renewing. Club marketers contacted had not been informed of the move, or told whether any of the inventory would now revert to team control.

“Sure, we’d love to have something on the sidelines to sell [i.e., headsets], but those are some of the league’s largest deals, so I can’t see them giving up that real estate,” said one senior marketer for an East Coast NFL team.

Wireless remains one of the most lucrative sponsorship categories, and since Motorola signed its last NFL sponsorship, the NBA has signed a huge deal that does not include on-court branding. Based

Motorola, whose name has gained millions of dollars in exposure on NFL coaches’ headsets, won’t be back for the coming season.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
solely on TV exposure, Repucom estimated the value of NFL coaches’ headsets for the 2011-12 season at $90 million, and, of course, the deal included more than just NFL sideline exposure.

NFL officials are also hopeful that the dramatic rise of tablet computers like Apple’s iPad will allow for a large deal, which would include sideline rights for tablets. Emarketer estimates there were 33.7 million tablets in the U.S. by the end of 2011, with iPads representing 28 million (83 percent) of that total. By the end of 2012, some estimates suggest there will be an installed U.S. base of 54.8 million tablets.

No one expects Apple to pay for NFL rights, but certainly anyone with a competitive tablet could use the NFL’s reach to lay claim to the No. 2 spot in the market, especially if the deal included coaches toting branded tablets on the sideline (SportsBusiness Journal, Nov. 7-13, 2011) and the use of tablets as team playbooks. However, those moves would require the approval and cooperation of the NFL’s competition committee, which in the past has moved with the speed of analog technology, so we’re doubtful that such a deal will be in place for the coming season.

As far as which handset/tablet brand might pick up those rights?

Various sponsorship experts suggested that Samsung, which has a TOP global Olympic sponsorship and a sports-friendly U.S. CMO in the person of former Pepsi marketer Ralph Santana, might be a good fit, particularly since its Galaxy tablet and phones are leading competitors to Apple’s iPad and iPhone, enough so that there are numerous patent infringement lawsuits.

However, there were some strained relations after the last NFL/Samsung sponsorship (2005-10) for the HDTV category that would need to be mended first.

Other leading Korean handset brands that might covet the “Americanization” that NFL ties would provide include LG and HTC. Another intriguing issue is whether the NFL would accept non-endemic branding on its headsets, similar to when E-Trade replaced Gatorade with branding on college sideline coolers. “Doubtful,” opined one NFL club’s CMO, “but if it’s a big check and long term, never say never.”

WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY: It only takes a bit of Internet trolling to find a depiction of Peyton Manning in every NFL jersey. Normally, we’d rather answer questions than pose rhetorical ones, but bear with us on this.

Reebok’s NFL jersey rights expire at the end of this month. Nike’s five-year deal begins April 1. So if Manning, only the highest-priced free agent in NFL history, signs with a new team before the month is out, which apparel company will fill the demand by manufacturing Manning’s new uniform shirt?

We’ve been getting mixed signals on this from the various parties involved in this murky scenario. The situation is further clouded by the fact that Reebok has few blanks left. “We’ve been in a situation where we’ve been liquidating our NFL supply,” said David Baxter, Adidas vice president of sport performance, adding that, to the best of his knowledge, a jersey from the team Manning will play for next season would be “forward looking” and thus prohibited contractually.

Does that mean Nike would be willing, able or inclined to fill the expected hot market before its rights are in effect, especially considering Manning’s longtime affiliation with Reebok? Or will there just be a void in the market? Stay tuned.

MASTERS IN MARKETING: As it has previously around college football venues, Sports Illustrated is stepping up marketing at golf’s majors. Beginning with next month’s Masters tournament, SI will have a 60-by-60-foot tent at courses on high-traffic locations near Augusta National; at Union Square, San Francisco, for the U.S. Open; at Chicago’s Navy Pier for the Ryder Cup; and at Kiawah Island for the PGA Championship.

SI will originate Web video content from the tent, including discussions from its writers and editors, and display golf photography.

Ad support comes from Southwest Airlines; Macy’s, launching an exclusive line of Greg Norman for Tasso Elba apparel; and Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday.

Terry Lefton can be reached at