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Volume 20 No. 41

Marketing and Sponsorship

Gameday Entertainment has expanded its business to cover event marketing and management and professional representation, company officials said.

To date, the Denver firm has been a merchandise vendor for teams, facilities and events. The company, doing business as Gameday Merchandising, has deals with 10 major league facilities and two Pac-12 schools.

It also runs retail for the NBA All-Star Game, the World Football Challenge, and, most recently, America’s Cup 34, where Gameday is the master licensee for all unbranded product. Privately held Gameday generates $30 million in annual revenue, said Jeff Neal, the company’s CEO.

Gameday principals plan to use those relationships to expand their business, said Neal, a sports industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience as an attorney, agent, promoter and entrepreneur.

The company recently signed deals to represent sports artist Malcolm Farley for negotiating licensing, marketing and event opportunities, and with Denver concert promoter Barry Fey, whom Gameday will assist with concert and book deals, licensing agreements and the promotion of special events. Fey is the father of Gameday exec Alan Fey.

Gameday is also the exclusive marketing and licensing agent for the Branch Rickey Award, an award given by the Rotary Club in Denver to honor humanitarian efforts in Major League Baseball.

Separately, Gameday Entertainment is in discussions with NBA and college basketball coaches for full representation, including employment contracts, sponsorships, clinics and video production, Neal said.

“This has been in the plans since we first bought the assets of the company,” he said. “For us, it is an add-on; it is not a huge shift for us.”

Neal at one time represented former NBA players Detlef Schrempf, Rik Smits and Steve Kerr and signed marketing deals for them. At this time, Gameday would not be seeking contract work, Neal said.

Marty Garafalo, Neal’s business partner and Gameday Entertainment’s chief operating officer, has represented several athletes on the marketing side and owned and managed events in baseball, football and golf.

Budweiser’s sponsorship of Bobby Rahal put the brand in victory lane at the 1986 Indianapolis 500. Anheuser-Busch hopes Rahal’s son, Graham, can do the same this May.

Anheuser-Busch has signed an associate sponsorship with Chip Ganassi Racing that will put its Budweiser brand on the side of the No. 38 Service Central IndyCar that Graham Rahal will drive in this year’s Indy 500. Associate level IndyCar sponsorships with elite teams for the Indianapolis 500 typically are valued in the low to mid-six figures.

Budweiser can use point-of-sale material with Graham Rahal at any outlet it chooses.
The deal gives Budweiser distributors an opportunity to feature Rahal and IndyCar in point-of-sale materials throughout May. The brand plans to put up outdoor billboards featuring Rahal and the No. 38 car and use Rahal for in-market appearances.

By signing Rahal, Budweiser is able to tie itself more closely to the Indy 500 despite not being the official beer of the event. MillerCoors holds that position and uses it to promote its Miller Lite brand, which is the presenting sponsor of Carb Day.

Budweiser has a history of working with Ganassi Racing. The brand was featured on the rear wing of Juan Pablo Montoya’s No. 9 Target car in 2000. But working with Graham Rahal, whose primary sponsorship is with auto retailer Service Central, gives the brand more flexibility with its activation than it enjoyed more than a decade ago. Unlike Target, Service Central doesn’t sell beer, so Budweiser can use point-of-sale material with Rahal at any outlet it chooses.

“It’s a great opportunity for Graham and Service Central to be featured by a company that does a tremendous amount of in-market support,” said Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta. “Print ads, billboards, point-of-sale: It’s all great visibility for our team and our primary sponsor.”

The deal is a one-race agreement, but Lauletta said he hopes Budweiser will see enough success to return for another stint as an associate sponsor. Ganassi’s NASCAR team recently saw Liftmaster expand its 2011 associate sponsorship to include a primary paint scheme at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race this fall on Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing’s No. 1 car.

Fight promoter Richard Schaefer scanned the poster for this Saturday’s pay-per-view bout pitting Floyd Mayweather against Miguel Cotto, rattling off the names of brands sponsoring the fight.

“We needed two lines for all the logos,” Schaefer said, chuckling. “This is clearly eclipsing anything we’ve done before. We’ve gotten to the point where brands are putting themselves behind the sport.”

With Corona at the center of the ring mat, joined by sponsors AT&T, DeWalt, O’Reilly Auto Parts, History Channel and the Mexican state of Puebla, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions estimates the fight will bring in about $2 million in sponsor rights fees and a promotional value of at least $8.5 million. Both figures easily beat the company’s previous highs of about $1 million in cash and $4 million to $5 million in promotion, set when Mayweather won by split decision over Golden Boy principal owner Oscar De La Hoya on Cinco de Mayo weekend in 2007.

The sponsors’ promotional activity includes:

DeWalt advertising the fight in more than 1,300 Home Depot stores, with fight-themed contests in more than 250 stores and Spanish-language radio spots to promote the contests and the pay-per-view.

O’Reilly pushing the fight with a monthlong promotion in 3,800 stores, tied to movie theater telecasts of the pay-per-view. O’Reilly also will spend almost $1.5 million advertising the fight on Spanish and English radio in the two weeks leading up to the event.

AT&T advertising its GoPhone through a national English and

The ring mat for the Mayweather-Cotto fight is full of sponsors.
Spanish cable buy that includes footage promoting the fight.

NCM Fathom, which will distribute the fight for viewing in about 350 U.S. theaters, running trailers promoting the fight on 7,000 screens.

“You always could get the couple of hundred thousand dollars from a company to be on the ring mat for a big fight, but that’s not really what we want — not by itself,” Schaefer said. “We’ve been working for years now to convince brands how important activation is in this sport, as it has been in other sports. With this sponsor lineup, you see that the efforts are paying off.”

The fight also is getting strong support from HBO parent Time Warner Cable, Schaefer said. Turner will air drop-ins during the NBA playoffs this week, as well as running all four episodes of the HBO “24/7” series Tuesday night through Friday night. The show airs weekly on CNN — albeit on Saturdays at midnight. Time Warner also has devoted outdoor billboards, along with other advertising.

The one category that will deliver less promotional activation than Golden Boy typically gets is beer. Corona recently unseated longtime Golden Boy Productions sponsor Tecate, which has been the sport’s most visible sponsor in North America since entering in 2007.

Corona, which signed on with Golden Boy in March, dwarfs Tecate with its media spending. But it has no history of activating behind boxing in stores, as Tecate has, offering large retail programs that include rebate coupons for those who purchase the pay-per-view. Schaefer said retail promotion will come in future fights. But the deal wasn’t done in time for the brewery to put anything in place for this fight.

Corona’s Golden Boy deal will be similar to Tecate’s old deal, giving the brewery first crack at Golden Boy events, but not exclusivity across all of those events.

“This is all relatively new,” Schaefer said. “But we are convinced that, if you look at the Corona platforms, which are available on a national basis, this will give us even greater reach.”

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

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and three NFL marketing veterans are launching what they are calling a new model of sports and entertainment marketing agency.

Ross, along with Matt Higgins, former New York Jets executive vice president; former NFL corporate sales chief Peter Murray, a 13-year league veteran when he left in 2009; and John Tatum, Genesco Sports Enterprises co-founder and CEO, are combining to form Insignia Sports & Entertainment. Each of the four will have equity in the new venture.

Former HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg is also involved in the operation, which has an emphasis on content creation and distribution, but Greenburg’s role was unclear. Other agency capabilities are brand consulting, property and athlete representation, and technology ventures.

From left: Ross, Murray, Tatum and Higgins will all have equity in the new agency.
Since leaving the Jets in January, Higgins has been working for Ross’ Related Cos., launching RSE Ventures, which plans to develop sports-related companies. Higgins described Insignia as a supporting company for RSE Ventures, and it will serve the same function for Tatum’s Genesco agency, with both executives partners in the new firm.

“For the longest time, this business has been about sales and inventory,” Tatum said. “You can run a property business on that and you can market brands doing things that way, but this agency is to show brands how to interact with sports and entertainment in ways that are transformational instead of transactional.”

Accordingly, technology and content creation are two of the nascent agency’s larger missions. Some early examples are relaunching FanVision into a leading technology that will be a de facto standard across all venues. Another project is a plan by Ross to turn South Florida in general — and the Dolphins’ Sun Life Stadium in particular — into the home for Central and South American soccer in the United States, something that would make a valuable Hispanic marketing platform. Ross said he also soon will announce plans for three or four matches in Miami from top-name international teams.

“The idea is to transform and scale brands uniquely within sports and entertainment and have technology and content at the forefront of whatever we do,” said Murray, who will serve as CEO and hopes to hire as many as a dozen people by year’s end.

Murray will open Insignia’s downtown Manhattan offices with clients including the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for which Insignia is building a content platform for its 50th anniversary next year. Other sources said the group will continue to work with Samsung, which had been a client of Murray’s while he was at WME but Murray would not confirm that. Additional clients include the World Series of Poker; FanVision, which Ross purchased in 2009; and the Miami Dolphins, for which Insignia will serve as a national sales and marketing arm. Another client will be what Murray calls the first sports content and technology festival taking place in 2013 as part of the New York Television Festival.

RSE Ventures’ mission is to incubate firms like Insignia, but the lines between it, Insignia and Genesco are somewhat blurry. Each will operate independently, and when they have a chance to collaborate, they will.

To a large extent, the most important thing about this launch is the combination of marketing talent with Ross’ wherewithal and the top-to-top connections.

While the group represents an all-star squad of NFL knowledge and influence, Ross said it was mistake to think of Insignia as a Fenway Sports Group for football. “All the companies we own need this kind of expertise, starting with FanVision and the Dolphins,” he said.

Added Higgins, “When I speak to people about this, everyone asks about the [comparable companies], but I’m not sure there is one. Historically, sports has been late to the party when it comes to embracing innovation. We recognize that fans are increasingly utilizing the digital marketplace for everything from purchasing tickets to following their favorite entertainers and players to connecting with other fans. With both RSE and Insignia, we are trying to close that gap.”

With the NBA playoffs under way, look for a high volume of the marketing activity from league sponsors to be digitally focused.

NBA data shows that more fans are engaging with the league digitally, so much of the marketing will be Web-based. Emilio Collins, the league’s senior vice president of global marketing

It’s the playoffs, and the NBA would like a word with you — several, actually — as part of its “Big” ad campaign.
partnerships, cited a 74 percent annual increase in video downloads on NBA sites as an indication of the digital stampede.

Nike is bringing back its “Epic” ad and social media campaign tied to its Facebook page. A “How Do You Keep Your Cool?” Facebook promo from Dial’s Right Guard solicits consumer examples of “coolness,” offering NBA Finals tickets as a top prize. American Express will tie into TNT’s live streaming of playoff games, while wireless sponsor Sprint is backing an online playoff brackets game on in which fans select top highlights with an All-Star Game trip layered in as a prize.

Kia has added the Rookie of the Year to its other NBA awards, while Anheuser-Busch has a sweepstakes offering an NBA playoffs viewing party in the winning fan’s home market as the top prize. It also will produce commemorative bottles in the home market of the Finals victor.

Meanwhile, Under Armour will start a court-refurbishment program in five markets this month.

During the playoffs, new ads are expected from Adidas centering on a shoe launch around Chicago’s Derrick Rose. Sprint will break creative from new endorser Steve Nash for an electronics buyback program.

Turner will promote the NBA playoffs with its annual “Win Or Go Home” tag line, and the marketing campaign for TNT and Turner-run NBA TV will include a “building takeover” of the New York Times building in midtown Manhattan festooned with banners of various NBA all-stars.

The NBA’s “Big” institutional ad campaign will be tweaked during the postseason to focus on meaningful postseason moments.

On the experiential side, the NBA has an intriguing playoffs program at a Wal-Mart that will bring a mini NBA Fan Jam to a store in suburban Chicago. There will be appearances by players and legends, video game competitions, and a fashion show featuring licensed apparel. Fans also will be able to have their picture taken with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

The 20,000-square-foot NBA Nation fan tour, presented by Sprint, will make eight stops during the playoffs, even in markets where teams didn’t make the postseason. The fan tour hits Houston, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Charlotte, New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Hunter Nickell, the former Speed president, is joining the collection of high-ranking executives who used to work in NASCAR at IMG College.

Nickell, who will come in as senior vice president of partnership management and business development, will report directly to IMG College President Ben Sutton. Nickell will be on a peer level with COO Tony Crispino, chief sales and marketing officer Roger VanDerSnick, and Mark Dyer, the company’s chief innovation officer.

VanDerSnick and Dyer formerly worked at NASCAR and International Speedway Corp.

Hunter Nickell was formerly president of Speed.
Nickell’s job largely will be to integrate all of IMG College’s offerings, from multimedia rights to ticketing, licensing, stadium seating, digital programming and sponsorship sales.

“He’s going to be a multifaceted guy,” Sutton said.

Before Sutton sold the business he founded — ISP Sports — to IMG, Nickell served on ISP’s board for close to 10 years.

“Hunter is just the guy to come in and coordinate our approach so that we can go to the marketplace in a more coordinated fashion,” Sutton said. “It’s a large part of what I’ve done for the last two years. We’ll also tap into Hunter’s background in TV to develop our digital, video and linear TV capabilities. ”

Before Nickell ran Speed, he was connected in the college space as general manager of Fox Sports Net South for 12 years.

Nickell will work out of the IMG College headquarters in Winston Salem, N.C., and joins the company this week.

The Senior Class Award, which has been sponsored by Lowe’s since 2006, is up for grabs now that the home improvement retailer has decided not to renew its deal.

The award, started in 2001 to honor a college senior for accomplishments on and off the field, is being shopped by NCAA marketing partners CBS and Turner, as well as by the award’s founder and administrator, Kansas City-based Premier Sports Management.

The award comes with a valuable three-minute presentation on CBS between the two semifinal games of the men’s Final Four.

Lowe’s had worked with Premier and the NCAA to build a heavy activation plan around the Final Four that includes Jim Nantz as the spokesman. All 10 finalists for the honor typically travel to the site of the Final Four and participate in events and appearances.

The award started as an honor for men’s and women’s basketball players and has since spread across 10 sports. Each one is presented at the championship event for that sport. The finalists also appear at a corporate event on the morning of the Saturday semifinals with close to 50 of the sponsor’s guests.

“It’s grown immensely,” said Gary Heise, president of Premier Sports Management. “It’s a strong part of the NCAA’s corporate partner program, and the activation within the championship events around the country adds a lot to it.”

Because CBS/Turner and Premier are attempting to roll the award into a sponsorship package, financial terms for the Senior Class Award were not available.

Terry Lefton
Over his years as a marketer, Leonard Armato has had various roles, from representing athletes that included Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar De La Hoya at his Management Plus Enterprises, to serving as commissioner of the AVP Tour, and more recently serving as CMO and president of Skechers Fitness Group.

Now he’s going to try his hand at running a marketing services agency. Armato has joined the Leverage Agency, NYC, as chairman (a position once held by Tony Ponturo) and managing director. The agency has opened a West Coast office in Los Angeles to accommodate Armato, who will bring Skechers’ sports and entertainment needs to Leverage as his first business development contribution to the group. Leverage, founded by CEO Ben Sturner, has a client roster that includes the ACC, Ivy League, Top Rank Boxing, Harlem Globetrotters, “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Bike NY, New York City Triathlon and USA Volleyball.

“Too many agencies have a list of things they are selling. We want to be the agency that shows brands how to grow.”
Leonard Armato
Chairman, Leverage Agency
Photo by: Tony Florez Photography
Armato described “Leverage 2.0” as an agency with the ability “to unlock the latent equities in brands” with capabilities including property representation, consulting, social and digital media and public relations.

“It’s a time when, with social media and a splintered media landscape, every brand is asking what to do,” said Armato. “Too many agencies have a list of things they are selling. We want to be the agency that shows brands how to grow.”

Sturner touted the new addition by stating, “We’re looking for Leonard to add vision, strategy, leadership and some top-level connections.”

SPINNING THE NFL BOTTLE: While the NFL free agency period began in March, the unprecedented free agency in the carbonated beverage category for teams and venues began well before then and continues today. This category has long been one of the largest deals for teams and venues, and given its size and stature, the NFL is also a bellwether for where sponsorship is heading across sports. So that makes this offseason even more fascinating, because more than 20 NFL teams have carbonated beverage deals up for renewal. As always, it’s the competitive set that makes it compelling. At the end of last season, Coke and Pepsi had an even split of the 32 NFL clubs. Sources tell us that the recent Dr Pepper Snapple Group deal with the Bears (which includes RC Cola) is likely an NFL one-off and if that’s the case, that would leave an odd number of teams, meaning Coke or Pepsi will end up with a plurality.

Pepsi has held NFL league sponsorship rights since 2002, a deal that was quickly followed by a number of long-term team sponsorships, especially at what were then future Super Bowl sites.

Colas, a pillar of sponsorship rosters at NFL clubs, could see a shift in the balance of power.
Photo by: DAVE KAUP
So far this offseason, Coke has renewed with the Baltimore Ravens, in a deal that we’re told matches or exceeds the brand’s prior — and original— seven-year pact with the team. Kevin Rochlitz, Ravens vice president of national sales and partnerships, said that under the renewal, Coke will be presenting sponsor of the first Ravens “Beach Bash Weekend” in Ocean City, Md., on May 31. That event, also sponsored by MillerCoors, includes concerts, beach bonfires, a “Ravens Roost” parade and a “beer and bacon brunch.” Also being underwritten by Coke under the new deal is a “Living Positively” event, in which inner-city school kids will participate in an event at the Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium aimed at fighting childhood obesity. Coke will also ramp up recycling efforts within the stadium and add some tri-vision signage, along with receiving some team-controlled media for the first time. Coke’s Ravens deal covers carbonated soft drinks and bottled water.

Snapple has also renewed with the Ravens, continuing its “official iced tea and lemonade” designations.

We’re told that the Green Bay Packers have also renewed with Coke, which went into the offseason with seven pending renewals.

From a variety of carbonated sources, the only team we have heard that is flipping from blue state to red is the Philadelphia Eagles, which are close to ousting Pepsi and replacing it with Coke. Pepsi has been an Eagles sponsor since Lincoln Financial Field opened in 2003. An Eagles deal would give Coke a team to replace the Bears, and put it ahead of Pepsi in terms of the number of NFL team deals by the slimmest of margins. But we’re not necessarily assuming all the other teams will remain with their incumbent colas, so stay tuned for an updated leaderboard.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Former Millsport chairman and veteran sailor Bob Basche is returning to his nautical roots in Newport, R.I., as event project leader for the America’s Cup World Series, Newport. He tells us the post is somewhere between seaman and fleet admiral, with all the responsibilities of both ranks, but including oversight of local sponsorships and managing relationships with the state and the local host committee for the regatta, which will run from June 23 through July 1. Newport is the final stop in the inaugural America’s Cup World Series and the final race will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network … Cory Mingelgreen is the NFL’s first director of analytics within the league’s club business development department, joining the league after nearly three years at Pepsi as manager of pricing strategy. Mingelgreen reports to Brian Lafemina, NFL vice president of club business development.

Terry Lefton can be reached at