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Volume 21 No. 2

Marketing and Sponsorship

Reebok’s CCM Hockey brand is close to signing a multiyear head-to-toe apparel and equipment endorsement deal with 15-year-old hockey phenom Connor McDavid, the No. 1 pick of the Ontario Hockey League.

If the deal is completed, as expected, it would be the most significant deal Reebok has signed with a young hockey player since 2005, when it signed Sidney Crosby, 17 years old at the time and now an NHL star, to a five-year deal. McDavid would be the youngest hockey player to endorse Reebok.

Glen Thornborough, Reebok CCM vice president of global marketing, confirmed that he was in discussions with McDavid, his family and Bobby Orr, the NHL hall of famer and founder of the Orr Hockey Group, which represents McDavid.

“We want to align with the best in the world, and we believe Connor McDavid is in that class,” Thornborough said.

Orr Hockey Group partner Rick Curran confirmed that the agency was completing an equipment deal for McDavid, but he would not identify the brand.

Thornborough would not say when a deal might be announced but said the company was in advanced discussions with McDavid’s representatives. “I won’t get into the terms of it, but it would obviously extend into when and if he is in the National Hockey League,” Thornborough said.

McDavid will be eligible for the 2015 NHL draft.

McDavid was chosen as the first pick overall by the Erie Ontario Otters after the Ontario Hockey League granted him “exceptional player” status, which allowed him to be drafted into the major junior hockey league one year early. He is the third player to be granted the status by the OHL, a major feeder of talent into the NHL.

McDavid’s precocious talent has been compared to that of Crosby by hockey experts including Crosby himself.

“It is not an everyday occurrence in the industry that a player like Connor comes along,” Thornborough said. “We are not in the habit of signing kids that age, but there are special occurrences and this is one.”

Orr Hockey Group’s Curran said, “Bobby has seen a lot of good hockey players, and he said [McDavid] is definitely one of the more impressive players he has ever had the opportunity of watching play at that age.”

McDavid has been using Reebok hockey products for years, Thornborough said, including the new CCM RBZ hockey stick, which Reebok developed in collaboration with TaylorMade. That stick was released in stores in August.

Carl Edwards has been one of Subway’s famous fans for five years, but next year will be the first time he has had a general market spot with the sandwich chain.

Carl Edwards has touted Subway for five years.
Edwards last week filmed a spot for Subway’s “I Got It Made” campaign. The spot shows Edwards ordering his favorite — chicken teriyaki sandwich on wheat bread with spinach — interspersed with other people ordering their favorite sandwiches. Subway developed similar spots with Apolo Anton Ohno and Michael Strahan ahead of the Olympics. It plans to air one with Osi Umenyiora and Ryan Howard soon.

The Edwards spot will begin airing in February prior to the Daytona 500. It will air as part of Subway’s general media buys across prime time and sports programming such as the NFL.

Subway chief marketer Tony Pace said the company wasn’t worried about non-NASCAR fans recognizing Edwards.

“We think all of our famous fans resonate outside of the sport they participate in,” Pace said. “Even if people don’t know who Carl is, they might say, ‘Who is that?’ and go learn something about him.”

The “I Got It Made” spot was filmed at a Subway in Matthews, N.C. In addition to shooting that ad, the restaurant shot a new spot with Fox Sports personality Jay Glazer. The spot shows Glazer trying Edwards’ celebratory backflip off a stock car. Glazer injures himself and struggles to eat with Edwards at Subway later in the day.

It’s similar to the spot that ran two years ago featuring Glazer trying to keep up with Edwards on a bike. Glazer plays the stooge; Edwards plays the star athlete.

Pace said that Subway will expand its positioning as the “Official Training Restaurant” of athletes by putting “Official Training Restaurant” on the back of the firesuits of Edwards’ No. 99 pit crew team next season. The words will be stitched beneath the Subway logo during six Sprint Cup races.

“It’s a great way to take that idea to NASCAR,” said Paul Bamundo, Subway’s director of sports marketing.

Pace declined to discuss a recent report that Subway was in talks to add Dale Earnhardt Jr. to its roster of famous fans. He said the company is interested in “true fans” of its restaurants.

Terry Lefton
LeadDog Marketing is expanding its Hispanic practice through the acquisition of Brad Rothenberg’s BRC Group, San Francisco, and with it, BRC’s Alianza de Futbol Hispano property, which calls itself the largest grassroots soccer program in the United States, with 10 stops across the country.

Rothenberg and BRC partner Richard Copeland founded the agency in 2003. They will now be on the management committee within LeadDog leading that agency’s Hispanic efforts. “LeadDog gives us resources we just don’t have, and they are just fanatical event operators,” Rothenberg said.

Said LeadDog founder Dan Mannix, “Alianza is a great property that will grow, and we already have a 40-person multicultural/Hispanic staff that BRC will complement nicely. Obviously we get a presence in San Francisco with this, and we are expanding our Hispanic offerings even more.”

LeadDog, New York, continues to grow in all aspects. Mannix said the agency should close its 2012 books with around 150 employees and 25 percent growth to around $30 million in billings. NASCAR, Rodale and WWE are among the biggest sports clients.
> TECH TOUCHDOWN: Lenovo, the NFL’s official personal computer as of this season, is turning to the Web for some activation with new endorsers Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins’ rookie quarterback sensation, along with Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte.

The Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III is starring in fantasy football-themed online vignettes for Lenovo that are tied to a sweepstakes.
A digital media campaign will direct consumers to the Funny Or Die website for a series of “fantasy coach” vignettes in which the players appear in uniform. Seeking fantasy points, the “coach” asks RG III to take a page out of Greg Schiano’s playbook and fake a kneel down at the end of a game, instead running for a touchdown. Similarly, the quarterback is asked to bounce a pass off his center and catch it “to get fantasy points for passing and receiving.” Lenovo products are integrated within the production, but in keeping with the mores of digital marketing, there’s no overt selling message.

“We use our NFL rights to demonstrate our ties and authenticity, and at the same time be a little different because we don’t have the media spend of some of the large league partners,” said David Rabin, Lenovo executive director of North American marketing.

An accompanying sweepstakes overlay offers a top prize composed of nearly every NFL event. The winner gets trips to the Super Bowl, Pro Bowl, NFL Combine, NFL draft, training camp and a season-ticket package to their favorite team.

Eventually, Lenovo will build a technology demonstration platform within the NFL, a la IBM, the league’s last technology sponsor. As a sponsor that signed a month or so before the season began, the sponsorship has been leveraged though heavy hospitality with the Carolina Panthers, the Redskins and the Bears, where Lenovo has complemented with local sponsorships. Lenovo has buys across the NFL’s prime-time games on NFL Network, NBC and ESPN, and we’ve also seen Lenovo/NFL end caps at top consumer electronics retailer Best Buy.

So how about an early evaluation on the efficacy of those expensive NFL marketing rights?

“For consumers and business customers, the NFL had added a lot of credibility and we’ve been able to reach new consumer and business segments,” Rabin said. “Over time, [NFL rights] will increase sales for us and increase the premium that we can charge for our products.”

Terry Lefton can be reached at

Wasserman Media Group has expanded both its consulting business and its Canadian presence with the acquisition of Catalyst Sponsorship Consulting, a Toronto firm with golf expertise and relationships with large Canadian companies, including Royal Bank of Canada.

Catalyst is an 18-person firm started by former Bell Canada sponsorship director Steve Marshman in 2005.

“He knows how to use golf as a marketing platform as well as anyone, and his relationships in Canada are deep,” said WMG Managing Director Malcolm Turner, to whom Marshman will report.

WMG Chairman and CEO Casey Wasserman noted that his firm had worked with Marshman for a few years and therefore knew it could be a successful acquisition.

“Mergers and acquisitions fail much more often because of people and silos than they do because of financial reasons,” Wasserman said. “This fits culturally and geographically.”