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Volume 21 No. 2
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Lenovo signing on as NFL’s official PC supplier

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.