Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

American Express has planted a velvet rope at Barclays Center after the curtain closed on its extended run at Madison Square Garden.

The financial services company has become a founding partner of the Brooklyn Nets and their new arena after signing a five-year deal. Industry sources valued the agreement at more than $2 million annually.

As the official credit card of the Nets and Barclays Center, American Express receives exclusive rights in the payments category, where it can provide the same presale perks and access for card members that it did at MSG, plus naming rights to a pair of arena destinations.

American Express gets naming rights to The 40/40 Club restaurant on the suite level.
American Express filled the same sponsorship category at the Garden for more than 15 years, but that deal ended at the end of last year after the two parties could not agree on the terms of an extension. Their relationship dissolved in part after MSG signed a massive bank deal with JPMorgan Chase in September 2010, confirmed Richard Lehrfeld, American Express’ vice president of global media, sponsorship and experiential marketing.

The two companies coexisted at the Garden for two years. Chase took over the payments category in May 2011, increasing the value of its deal at MSG to $40 million a year (SportsBusiness Journal, May 30-June 5, 2011).

Turning to Brooklyn, American Express saw a golden opportunity to form a new relationship with the Nets at their $1 billion arena opening this fall, the first NBA facility constructed in New York in 45 years. The two parties started talks about 12 months ago, Nets officials said.

Those discussions, with Wasserman Media Group assisting on the buy side, led to one of the most comprehensive sports deals for American Express, including naming rights to both The 40/40 Club restaurant on a suite level and the arena’s box office. The official name of the restaurant has not been decided, Nets officials said.

It is an aggressive move for American Express, which is also a leaguewide sponsor of the NBA. Outside of New York, the brand has a major presence in Los Angeles as a founding partner of Staples Center and L.A. Live. American Express has its name on a premium lounge at Staples Center, which is the only other major league facility where the company has naming rights to a dining and hospitality space.

“We don’t put our name on a lot of things because it’s really about how we can support our card members and build access programs,” Lehrfeld said. “But this is our backyard [with its headquarters in Manhattan] and New York is our largest market. It was an interesting opportunity presented to us, and we thought we would take it on and do it.”

American Express has its name on express lanes at ticket windows at other venues, but the Barclays Center deal is the first time the company has its brand atop a facility’s entire ticketing operation. The American Express Box Office and its 12 ticket windows inside Barclays Center’s main entrance will be one of the first commercial signs patrons see as they enter the building, said Brett Yormark, CEO of Barclays Center and the Nets.

American Express’ partnership extends to exclusive amenities for its card members, a critical piece of its marketing efforts at all sports and entertainment venues where it has a presence, Lehrfeld said.

Card members get early access to tickets and merchandise for all events. That piece of activation has already kicked in with early on-sales for Jay-Z’s eight-show residency to open Barclays Center starting in late September, and for Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli and Journey.

In addition, American Express acquired the exclusive rights to develop special experiences for card members such as attending a Nets practice and participating in a meet-and-greet session with the team’s coaching staff, Lehrfeld said.

American Express card members also get access to private events at The 40/40 Club and preferred seating at the restaurant. Jay-Z, part of the Nets’ ownership group, owns the restaurant brand. The restaurant has two other locations, in Manhattan and Atlantic City.

As part of the deal, American Express bought one of 11 event-level Vault suites, Yormark said. Those bunkers are valued at $550,000 a year.

American Express’ deal with the Nets will not conflict with earlier deals they signed with Barclays bank, the arena’s naming-rights holder, and Ticketmaster, a founding partner and the facility’s official ticketing provider, Lehrfeld said.

American Express issues credit cards through Barclays, which owns the facility’s banking category, and American Express has a partnership with Ticketmaster through its ticket access and membership reward program.

“The U.S. Open [where American Express has a high-profile deal that runs through 2015] has Chase as a sponsor,” Lehrfeld said. “The key for us is making sure we can still provide for our customers and the bank gets what they want.”

Beyond Barclays, the arena has eight founding partners. Two more deals will be announced in the coming weeks, and the Nets are selling two more, in the airline and technology categories, Yormark said.

Lenovo has signed on as the NFL’s newest corporate sponsor in a three-year deal making it the league’s official PC supplier.

Lenovo will launch the agreement this week with an employee event at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, featuring NFL names including Jerry Rice and DeAngelo Williams, along with some football skills competitions. Lenovo’s U.S. headquarters are in nearby Morrisville, N.C.

“We’ve built up our brand presence in the U.S. and increased our market share from seventh to fourth,” said David Schmoock, senior vice president, Lenovo Group, and president, North America, Lenovo. “We want Lenovo to get in the consideration set of 18- to 35-year-olds as we continue to expand our presence in the U.S., and the power and reach of the NFL should help us do that.”

The deal is the latest in an expansion of marketing activities in the U.S. for Lenovo, the world’s No. 2 PC maker. In the U.S., Lenovo is the No. 4 PC brand, but its American retail distribution has grown exponentially, from 400 to 4,000 stores over the past three years. Globally, most analysts say it will pass HP as the world’s top PC brand late this year or in early 2013.

David Rabin, Lenovo’s executive director of North American marketing, said the NFL was an important investment, both to reach target consumers and small to medium-sized businesses, as well as its retailers.

“When you make a long-term investment in a property the size of the NFL, you are sending a powerful message,” Rabin said. “We’re one of the biggest brands in the tech world that a lot of people still haven’t heard of, so we’re picking a brand as powerful as the NFL to partner with.”

IBM dropped its broad-based computer category rights this year after a 10-year run. Lenovo’s category rights include PCs, laptops and work stations. Tablet PCs are not included.

Rabin said Lenovo’s media buys are still being finalized but will include NFL-owned media and those of its rights holders. Deals with NFL teams and individual players in support of the NFL sponsorship are also in the works. Retail promotions are also planned, as Lenovo is getting pass-through rights as part of the deal. Lenovo also will use the NFL for hospitality and a technology demonstration platform.

Lenovo, which entered the U.S. market with its purchase of IBM’s PC business in 2004, had previous sponsorships with the International Olympic Committee and NBA. It has been a PC supplier to the NFL for around six years and did some small marketing programs last season around the Super Bowl and “NFL Honors” TV program.

Wasserman Media Group’s Raleigh office handled negotiations and will implement activation for Lenovo.

StubHub has completed a three-year deal with English Premier League club Everton, extending the ticket resale marketplace’s push in the U.K.

Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard marks the club’s new partnership with StubHub.
Rumored for several weeks, the Everton agreement follows a deal StubHub signed earlier this month with EPL club Sunderland. The pacts are the first official team deals for StubHub since it began its entry into the British marketplace last fall.

Financial terms were not disclosed, though U.K.-based media reports of the deal averaging $2.6 million a year were described by company officials as too high. The agreement, however, is said to be the largest single commercial deal in Everton’s history, excluding its kit sponsorship and retail pacts.

Somewhat similar to StubHub’s U.S.-based partnerships, the company will gain a variety of marketing assets as well as a designated box office at the club’s home stadium, Goodison Park.

“Both this deal and Sunderland are an exciting starting point as we gain traction and prove out the concept of the open marketplace,” said Nick Harford, StubHub head of international business development and partnerships.

Harford recently joined StubHub after stints with EA Sports, EPL club Arsenal and IMG Media.

StubHub is in a fight for market share with more established European rivals, most notably Viagogo, formed by StubHub co-founder Eric Baker. Viagogo holds deals with sports entities such as Roland Garros, Bayern Munich and EPL club Aston Villa.

Terry Lefton
It is as certain as the sun rising: If this is an Olympic year, there’s a Subway Olympic marketing effort in the works.

We were certain that when the brand signed Apolo Anton Ohno early last year it wasn’t just so that he could run the New York City Marathon, which Subway also sponsors. Sure enough, once we dug through the restaurant chain’s current love affair with the avocado, it turns out Ohno will be featured on point-of-sale material in Subway’s 25,000 U.S. stores during the London Games and on TV ads that will run during Subway’s heavy NBC Olympic buy.

Winter Olympian Ohno will co-star with avocados in some of Subway’s summer advertising.
Since McDonald’s is the longtime International Olympic Committee TOP sponsor in the quick-service restaurant category, IOC rules prevent Subway from using decorated swimmer Michael Phelps or any participating athletes in marketing just before or during the Games. Ohno, a Winter Olympic athlete, will do the job nicely, the same way Phelps was featured in Subway ads during the 2010 Winter Games.

Ohno will continue Subway’s relentless sales push for sandwiches with avocados.

Other Subway endorsers to get some airtime include gold-medal gymnast Nastia Liukin, who did not qualify for this year’s U.S. Olympic team. Blake Griffin, off the USA Basketball squad after knee surgery, will also appear in some ads. Even new Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will be featured in his first TV ads for Subway.

“There are very few places left where you can reach a large and diverse media audience, but the Olympics are one of the best and one of the only places to get that, especially in the summer,” said Subway CMO Tony Pace, adding that Subway has been working with all of its Olympic-tied “famous fans” for some time and continues to feature them within an “official training restaurant” platform.

Any love letters yet from McDonald’s, which wasn’t thrilled with Subway’s use of Phelps during the Winter Olympics?
“There’s always some arm twisting, but we are sticking to long-term themes with our athletes,” Pace said. “We’ve always abided by the rules and we both know that the preponderance of Olympic revenue comes from broadcast rights. Obviously, we are a big supporter of NBC and the Games in that regard.”

DROP BY DROP: Consumer products company Fuse Science, which signed Tiger Woods last November to one of his first endorsement deals after the golfer’s sex scandal, continues to add athletes. Latest in the fold are Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. Both are repped by Alex Radetsky of Radegen Sports Management.

Fuse Science, which signed Tiger Woods, now has more athletes under its umbrella.
Next on board for Fuse with a similar equity-based deal is New York Knicks center and 2012 Olympian Tyson Chandler. More importantly, there are some product launches coming and expanded distribution, via an agreement with Mission Products, through which Fuse says it will gain distribution within CVS, Duane Reade, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s and Rite Aid locations.

Scheduled for a Labor Day Weekend launch are products delivered by drops under the tongue. Fuse CEO Adam Adler described PowerDrops as “5-Hour Energy in a drop form with 20 percent of the caffeine.” Another product, ElectroFuse, is a Gatorade challenger also delivered in drop form. That launch is particularly interesting since Woods was once a Gatorade endorser and because his image will be used on packaging and in market for both products, Adler said.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

Looking to authenticate its desired position as America’s sports bar of choice, the 847-location Buffalo Wild Wings chain has taken title sponsorship of the former Bowl for the next three years.

The bowl game at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., between teams from the Big Ten and Big 12 conferences, which was originally the Copper Bowl and has been the Insight Bowl or Bowl since 1997, now becomes the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Officials would not release pricing, but the deal was being shopped at $2 million a year. Assets included with the deal are six ad units within the Dec. 29 ESPN game telecast, opening and closing billboards, broadcast graphics and inclusion in the game logo, which will appear at midfield, on each 25-yard line and on the game trophy.

Initial activation should begin next month and include mobile marketing efforts and ticket giveaways. The eventual plan is to tie in every Buffalo Wild Wings, with the chain expected to have around 900 locations by year’s end. Among those is a restaurant across the street from Sun Devil Stadium, which will morph into a “Super Buffalo Wild Wings” in December. The company is also expected to use bowl game imagery in its creative.

Insight has been associated with the Arizona bowl game since 1997.
Photo by: AP IMAGES
“We’re trying to be a brand for fans and create a stadium experience in our restaurants,” said Kathy Benning, Buffalo Wild Wings’ executive vice president, global marketing, brand and business development. “If we do this right, the bowl game will be like our restaurants and our restaurant experience will be tied in directly to our bowl game.”

The new bowl sponsorship comes as the chain is trying to link itself to sports more closely than ever. Its tag line is “Wings, Beer and Sports,” and its newest locations are being designed to be more like a stadium.

“We’re looking to build awareness and establish authenticity. We want sports fans to feel like Buffalo Wild Wings is their second home,” said Bob Ruhland, the brand’s vice president of marketing communications, adding that the chain had also looked at NFL and NCAA sponsorship opportunities before going with a bowl game.

Other restaurant chains with bowl game title sponsorships include Chick-fil-A, Outback, Little Caesars and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s.

Scout Sports and Entertainment negotiated the deal for the brand and will handle on-site activation.

Robert Shelton, executive director of the Fiesta Bowl — which administers this non-BCS game — called Buffalo Wild Wings a “dream partner.”

“They’re looking to grow their image as a destination for sports fans. They have a big interest in the areas of the country where the Big Ten and Big 12 are and they have a restaurant right next to the stadium,” Shelton said. “We couldn’t ask for much more.”