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Volume 21 No. 1
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From fan insights to Twitter to athlete (over)exposure to Tebow

Going through some notes, quotes and quips from our recent IMG Sports Marketing Symposium in New York City:

We conducted a “fan panel” at the conference where a focus group of five hard-core fans talked about their sports consumption habits and behavior with five sports marketing executives. The most surprising takeaway to me was when they were asked where they go first for their sports news and information. All five said Twitter simultaneously, without hesitation. I anticipated a split among ages and more mention of local online news sources or major online sports sites. The second avenue for sports news was team blogs, but not a team’s website, which was mentioned as a place for merchandise/commerce but not news. Also of interest, not one of the fans on the panel has ever bought concessions at a venue from their mobile phone.

From left, fans Larry Levy and Shane Reid share thoughts with WWE’s Andrew Judelson and MLS’s Howard Handler.
Tom Shine, senior vice president of sports and entertainment marketing worldwide for Reebok, acknowledged that his company losing the NFL on-field uniform and apparel deal to Nike was a blow. “It was a difficult pill to swallow, but the number that was out there didn’t make economic sense,” he said, citing a reported $1 billion deal over five years. Shine, however, said that the old business model around licensing deals is gone. “The model of being a guarantor and royalty collector is gone,” he said. “There are no more companies that are willing to take on this financial pounding in the future.”

John Bello, former NFL Properties president and SoBe co-founder, on if the NFL’s referee lockout hurt the brand: “They are succeeding in spite of themselves. I don’t even know why they advertise, because I don’t think they can do anything wrong.”

“Obviously they must be doing something right with their brands or people wouldn’t want to work with them anymore.”

IMG’s Alan Zucker,
on the overexposure of some athletes
A few highlights from a fun panel on the state of athlete endorsements. The market is tight and competitive with today’s reality stars encroaching on athlete deals, while celebrities and musicians have delved further into the endorsement realm as well. The market is one of “haves” — athletes getting major and multiple deals — and “have-nots” — everyone else. That makes talent agents and brands focus more on authenticity and storytelling. Unilever’s Rob Candelino talked about how athletes representing the much-acclaimed Dove Men+Care brand creative has worked. “Every one of them has told a story or a sentimental moment that has shaped them as men. We think that has been a winning formula because it resonates with our brand. If we started trying to be a sports brand, then we’ve lost the plot,” he said. “I think far too often nowadays, brands, particularly ones that don’t have both feet firmly entrenched in sports, subcontract their responsibility of brand equity to the athlete. If you do that, you’re done.” … IMG’s Alan Zucker on whether he fears overexposure when it comes to some athletes: “People talk about overexposure all the time. Whether it’s Tiger Woods or Peyton Manning or Danica Patrick. ‘I see them everywhere,’ people say. Yes, they are everywhere, but people keep calling. So obviously they must be doing something right with their brands or people wouldn’t want to work with them anymore.” I know I’ve been critical of the hype regarding Patrick over the years, but she does understand the brand/endorser relationship — and like Peyton — is really good at it. Watching her in multiple ad efforts for Nationwide proves how comfortable she’s become in front of the camera and, to me, she comes across likable and as though she really cares.

Jockey International CMO Dustin Cohn outlined how the brand has been quick to respond to Tim Tebow-mania over the last year. But when asked if Tebow is overexposed, roughly 60 percent of the audience in attendance said yes. Cohn was not concerned by the number, saying, “He is a guy who transcends sports. He is a role model regardless of what happens on the field. So off the field, we’re still going to want to associate with him. If we can break through with our message, then we are accomplishing our communication goals.”

Matt Jauchius, Nationwide Insurance executive vice president and CMO, on what he expects in his property relationships: “A property needs to understand my business. I do this because it’s fun, but I’m trying to sell insurance, which sounds funny, but if you don’t understand how insurance works then it’s hard to do business together. And a sports partner that just uses me as a source of writing a rights fees check, that doesn’t go very far with me.”

CORRECTION: In my column last week, under MLB’s Biggest Let-Down, I let myself and the reader down in misidentifying the Miami Marlins. After a million-dollar makeover that we reported on early and often, and one I found to be well-done, I should have known better. My apologies for the error.

Abraham D. Madkour can be reached at