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Volume 20 No. 42
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Armato takes new role as chairman at Leverage Agency

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