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Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

March is one of the busiest months of the year for Buffalo Wild Wings, and through a deal to become an NCAA corporate partner the dining chain will be producing its own version of March Madness.

The Minneapolis-based company has agreed to a multiyear deal that will make it one of 15 corporate partners for the NCAA’s growing sponsorship program. Corporate partner deals with the NCAA typically go for the high seven figures to eight figures annually. Buffalo Wild Wings will occupy the casual dining category.

The dining chain wants to be the viewing party destination for March Madness.
Three of the NCAA’s 15 partners — AT&T, Capital One and Coca-Cola — are corporate champions, the highest level, while the other 12 reside at the partner level.

The NCAA’s rights holders, Turner and CBS, have been working on the deal with Buffalo Wild Wings since last year, industry sources say.

This figures to be the busiest year for Turner and CBS since they jointly signed the 14-year, $11 billion contract with the NCAA three years ago. Half or more of the partners and

champions are in a renewal year in 2013, industry sources said. Among those whose deals will expire after the 2013 tournament are believed to be Coca-Cola, Capital One, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hershey, Kraft, Lowe’s, Unilever and UPS.

But some progress has already been made. Enterprise has renewed its NCAA deal, according to Patrick Farrell, chief marketing officer for Enterprise Holdings. The company did a multiyear extension that continues to deliver a full complement of media and promotional rights to the NCAA’s 89 championships.

Meanwhile, industry sources indicate that Coca-Cola also has agreed to extend its relationship as an NCAA corporate champion.

Buffalo Wild Wings will use its NCAA partnership to broaden efforts to become the viewing party destination for March Madness, just as it did in football throughout the bowl season. It title sponsors the bowl game in Tempe, Ariz.

Its move to become a partner is a logical next step, given that the restaurant has been one of the most active advertisers on CBS’s and Turner’s NCAA tournament coverage. Along with its ad agency, Fallon, Buffalo Wild Wings rolled out a campaign in 2012 called “More March.” Those three 30-second spots asked restaurant guests what they would trade for more of basketball’s craziest month.

Buffalo Wild Wings’ advertising spend on March Madness in the past was substantial enough that most industry experts thought it would be a relatively small step up to the partner level.

The company works with several agencies in addition to Fallon. New York-based Horizon Media does BWW’s media buying, and Horizon’s affiliate agency, Scout Sports & Entertainment, works on consulting.

Emirates is in talks with the NBA for a leaguewide deal as the airline looks to build out its sports sponsorship portfolio.

Both the NBA and CAA Sports’ corporate consulting division, which represents the Dubai-based airline, confirmed the discussions.

From the NBA’s side, the league is working to fill a sponsorship category that was vacated by Southwest Airlines in 2010 after eight years. With little property sponsorship spending among domestic airlines — none of the major U.S. sports properties currently has a leaguewide airline deal — the NBA is taking a more global approach to finding an airline partner as it courts Emirates.

“We continue to have good conversations in this category with some global players,” said Mark Tatum, executive vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA.

Officials at CAA Sports did not comment on behalf of Emirates other than to confirm the talks.

Emirates has been aggressive in sports with recent deals that include a $240 million renewal with the EPL’s Arsenal.
Photos by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
A memo obtained by SportsBusiness Journal sent recently by Emirates to the NBA outlines some potential aspects of a deal, including the airline activating around a proposed title sponsorship of “Race to the Finals” for the NBA’s postseason. In addition, the memo mentions a proposed “Future Champions” platform that “focuses on the NBA’s emerging stars that have yet to win their first NBA championship” as well as a global digital and television media spend.

While no deal is imminent, the prospect of an NBA agreement for Emirates would follow the company’s recent aggressive sponsorship strategy. Late last month, the airline announced a sponsorship with the ATP that makes Emirates the official airline of the tour along with sponsoring the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, through 2017. Emirates also becomes the presenting sponsor of the ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy ceremonies and the ATP Newcomer of the Year award. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

That ATP deal comes after Emirates in November signed a reported five-year, $240 million renewal with EPL’s Arsenal that puts the Emirates logo on the front of the team’s jersey as well as continued naming rights of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

In the United States, Emirates is a sponsor of the U.S. Open and the U.S. Open Series through a deal announced last year. Emirates also was a sponsor of last year’s NBA China Games.

“[Emirates] is making their spend on a global scale and I can see them spending more money,” said Jeannie Goldstein, a partner with Chicago Sports & Entertainment Partners, a sports consulting agency. “It is interesting that Emirates is using U.S.-based [properties] to promote their brand positioning. From a league level, the category is wide open. There are no league [airline] sponsorships, but you have a little base of potential. There is a lot of global opportunity in the NBA, and they have good reason to be talking to them.”

U.S. Figure Skating began searching for a sponsor of the “kiss and cry” area six years ago. It met with beauty companies, makeup brands, hair care products, bottled water brands and a host of other companies.

In each meeting, it emphasized the history of the kiss and cry zone, the colloquial name for the area where skaters await judges’ scores. Doubles skaters often peck each other on the cheek there. Solo skaters, overwhelmed by a triumphant performance or crushed by a disappointing fall on the ice, sometimes sob. And cameras zoom in to catch each kiss and cry.

The kiss and cry zone is a focal point for all kinds of emotions at skating events.
The U.S. Figure Skating Association considered the area, which gets as much as 10 minutes of exposure per hour during competition, to be one of its most prized marketing assets, but for six years it failed to find a sponsor willing to brand it.

“We knew what a great delivery platform this could be for the right partner,” said Ramsey Baker, USFSA senior director of marketing and communications. “It was frustrating.”

The sales effort changed a year and a half ago when USFSA’s sales agency, Van Wagner, emailed a brand manager at Procter & Gamble’s Puffs. The brand manager connected Van Wagner with Puffs’ media agency MediaVest. Talks expanded from there to include Puffs’ creative agency, Publicis, and the planning agency Carat. Everyone involved with the tissue brand saw an opportunity to marry a product that’s often used in emotional times with a location at skating events that’s known for its emotion.

“We realize that’s an emotional place for the skaters, and Puffs is all about helping people put their best face forward, so we realized it was a natural fit,” said Laura Dressman, Puffs communications manager. She added that the deal was done by Puffs, not P&G, which is a sponsor of the International Olympic and U.S. Olympic committees.

Baker said, “We found the right balance of the group of folks around the Puffs brand. The media side saw the media value. The creative side saw the creative opportunities. The PR side saw the PR opportunities. They all worked together and said, ‘This is the right thing to do.’”

The deal runs through the 2014 Sochi Games. It is valued in the high six figures.

Under the agreement, the kiss and cry area will be rebranded the “Puffs Kiss and Cry.” There will be Puffs-branded tissues available to skaters, a kiss and cry booth in the concourse at U.S. Figure Skating Championships and Skate America competitions, sampling at those events, signage and more than 25 commercials in USFSA broadcasts.

The P&G company is the first tissue brand to tie itself to the kiss and cry area in more than a decade. Kimberly-Clark’s Kleenex was the official facial tissue of the 2002 Salt Lake Games, and its product was available in the kiss and cry area during Olympic figure skating events.

In addition to the new deal with Puffs, USFSA last year signed a series of renewals that extend through 2014. The renewals include: Prudential, title sponsor of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships; Smuckers, title sponsor of Skating Spectacular; AT&T, title sponsor of the athlete lounge; and Hilton, title sponsor of Skate America.

The renewals and new deal with Puffs means USFSA and Van Wagner are sold out of broadcast inventory and signage for the first quarter of the year. USFSA’s overall television sponsorship increased by 30 percent from last year, Baker said. It generated $4.6 million in sponsorship and broadcasting for the year ending June 30, 2011, according to its most recent tax filing.

Mobil 1 recently signed a renewal with NASCAR that will extend its decade-long sponsorship of the sport through 2017.
Financial terms of the five-year deal weren’t available. Mobil 1’s previous deal was valued at more than $1.5 million a year.

The new agreement expands Mobil 1’s official designations from official motor oil and lubricant to official motor oil and lubricant technology partner of NASCAR. It’s the second renewal Mobil 1 has signed since it struck a six-year agreement to replace Unocal 76 as the sport’s official lubricant in 2003.

Mobil 1 has also sponsored NASCAR teams since 1990.
In addition to expanding its official designations, Mobil 1 picked up the presenting sponsorship of a feature on the new The “Automotive Technology Center engineered by Mobil 1” will feature stories, imagery, video, live chats and fan polls about race cars and races.

Rebecca Aldred, Mobil 1 global brand manager, said that getting digital exposure was critical for the company. She added that being able to develop a feature and sign on for it with NASCAR, which reacquired its digital rights from Turner Sports last year, was a plus.

“That allowed them to provide flexibility to meet our needs, which perhaps they would not have been able to in the past,” Aldred said. “NASCAR did an excellent job of meeting us on our needs.”

Mobil 1 research shows that NASCAR fans are twice as likely to try the brand when they know it is the sport’s official motor oil. The company will continue to use the NASCAR logo on its products at retail and in marketing.

The motor oil company has sponsored NASCAR teams since 1990 and is currently a sponsor of Stewart-Haas Racing and Tony Stewart’s No. 14 car.

The brand also sponsors the Vodafone McLaren team in Formula One, and it featured Stewart in advertisements with F1 driver Lewis Hamilton in recent years. But Hamilton left McLaren for Mercedes this year, so Mobil 1 is in the process of finishing new creative around Stewart for 2013. Aldred said the new ads will be released in the spring.

Dodge has signed on as a presenting sponsor of the Red Bull Signature Series, which will open its second season on NBC this Saturday.

The company will use the sponsorship to promote its Dodge Dart, which will be incorporated into the series’ four events in 2013. Nike and Casio are both returning as sponsors of the series. Financial terms weren’t available.

The Red Bull Signature Series will receive 23 hours of programming on NBC. Events, which will include the Red Bull Dreamline, a BMX trail competition, and the Red Bull Wake Open, a wakeboarding contest, will re-air on NBC Sports Network.

The first year of the Red Bull Signature Series averaged 715,000 viewers over 25 original telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network.

— Tripp Mickle

Terry Lefton
As noted in these pages, balancing the various, and in some cases competing, constituencies to fashion the MLB/MLBAM sponsorship deal with T-Mobile wasn’t quite as tough as the 1,555-foot tightrope walk across Niagara Falls. Still, there was a substantial degree of difficulty.

Our view a week removed from the deal is that, other than getting a lot of moving parts to work in sync, the most notable element about the deal is that it is a harbinger of a new kind of sponsorship. The precursor to all this was packaging media and IP rights, which is hardly new. Then a few years back, we began to see content and IP rights melded, as in the case of Verizon’s NFL rights deal. T-Mobile’s move onto the field of play with branded wireless dugout phones is the indication of a new kind of sponsorship, one in which sponsor integration on the field is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Properties will proceed gingerly, of course, and we will hear how the integration must be natural.

Is the Nationals’ Bryce Harper hearing a change in the way leagues do tech deals?
Still, if MLB/MLBAM can cash a big paycheck for wireless telecom integration, what are the sideline rights to the NFL worth, where Motorola’s rights ended after last season? We hear Samsung is in deep discussions with the NFL for a deal that would give its smartphones access to those valuable NFL sidelines, which already offer great TV exposure for Gatorade. If the MLB/MLBAM deal can get done, how long can it be until tech auctions for other properties are complete?

According to urban legend, Willie Sutton said he robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.” While we don’t put most sports marketers in the same category as those on the “Most Wanted” list, in this case the motivation is similar.

Traversing those tightropes and sorting out the competing interests of the league, clubs, national and local sponsors, along with the stewards of the game and tech wizards, is not easy. However, at a time when most fans are engaged with a third screen of some kind all day, not to mention at the event itself, how anachronistic does it look to see NBA coaches using clipboards and NFL coaches flipping through Polaroids on the sideline? Further complicating the deals are the varied and competing interests within the tech sector. What’s the difference between a tablet and a phone? Largely that depends on the manufacturer, though which rights get streamed to which is also something we have found to be beyond Byzantine.

Then you have the interests of the wireless carriers, which can be brought into line, assuming carrier X sells handset Y. We notice, for example, that NFL rights holder Verizon sells Samsung handsets, among others. If you are wondering how it is that Dell would fit in with Lenovo’s NFL rights for PCs and tablets, so are we, but for right now that is a rhetorical question.

Again, it’s a balancing act. Verizon has another year to go in its NFL rights deal. What would it take to bring them back? Uncertain, because of a tech landscape that moves more quickly than Adrian Peterson reverses his field. The company is in its third year of a four-year deal conceived when tablets brought to mind an analgesic instead of a handheld computer.

“We’re looking at how we can impact the [NFL] game, not only on the field, but also the experience for that connected fan from home to game,” said Monique Harrison, associate director of national sponsorship for Verizon. “We want to impact a bit on the field and that means everything from coaches to players and player safety. It’s time for us to enter that space where technology plays a part there in a greater way.”

“You’ll continue to see the integration of technology into the organic makeup of sports,” said former AT&T sponsorship chief Tim McGhee, who now heads consultancy MSP Sports. “The push and pull from the various constituencies involved will be fascinating to watch.”

It’s a value add everyone’s looking at.

“Advertisers are looking to integrate into the field of play, and properties are looking at organic ways to do that,” said Mark Tatum, executive vice president, global marketing partnerships at the NBA, which is considering allowing advertising on its jerseys for the first time. “It has to fit naturally and you will see other examples. These are very complex deals. You can’t ever compromise the integrity of the game, and there is a minefield of marketing issues, but that’s what everyone’s focused on.”

Still, for all the talk about how vital content rights are in all of these deals, we have yet to be convinced that any sort of proprietary content, even NFL games, is compelling enough that it will convince consumers to switch carriers. While every dealmaker will insist on those rights, it seems more important for differentiation or a means to demonstrate a handset’s capabilities than a real competitive advantage. For now, the third screen is the least desirable for consumers. If that changes, the size of those deals will start to threaten media rights deals.

“Proprietary content is almost table stakes, but it can be a great way to demonstrate your network capabilities,” said Mike Belcher, T-Mobile vice president, media and sponsorships, adding that being presenting sponsor of the MLB All-Star Game FanFest in New York this summer was another key asset. “In-game technology integration is something we insisted on in this deal and something we’ll insist upon for any deal moving forward.”

IN THE SOUP AGAIN: Longtime NFL corporate patron Campbell Soup Co., one of the league’s oldest corporate partners, is close to announcing a three-year renewal of its league rights deal. The announcement will likely come during Super Bowl week, according to sources.

The revitalization of the once moribund Chunky soup brand through NFL-themed marketing remains a textbook case for the league. More recently, Campbell has reduced its marketing around multiple players in Young & Rubicam’s “Mama’s Boys” campaigns, launched in the sponsorship’s first year in 1997, to just one, with New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, along with his mom, sharing the spotlight this season.

Soup sales have been hit by concerns about calories and sodium content. However, we’re told that next year’s Super Bowl being played in New Jersey, the site of Campbell’s headquarters, was one factor convincing the company to renew.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Brands preach the value of integrated marketing efforts, even as their company splits functions of marketing, media, sponsorship and in-store marketing. Integrated efforts to consumers must begin from within; that’s the idea behind Stephen Chriss’ new role at Mondelez International, the former Kraft Foods. Chriss, senior director of consumer engagement and marketing services, adds domestic media to his role directing other marketing efforts behind cookies, crackers, candy and gum. “We’re breaking down silos and that’s how it should be,” he said. … Three vice presidents in the NBA’s marketing partnerships unit have achieved seniority. Kerry Tatlock, Kelly Flatow and Dan Rossomondo move to senior vice president. Rossomondo leads the charge in global business development and media sales; Flatow heads the marketing solutions group; and Tatlock returns from London to a new role, sharing best practices and generating new global revenue and integration.

Terry Lefton can be reached at