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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

Two months after it was acquired by Calera Capital for an estimated $250 million, the Competitor Group has signed a collection of deals with new and returning partners.

Competitor has signed a three-year deal with Transamerica Insurance in the health/accident insurance category that covers all 83 of the company’s global running and triathlon races, including the full Rock ’n’ Roll running series. It also has signed a new two-year nationwide partnership with PowerBar, a two-year nationwide renewal with Gatorade and a one-year renewal with Jamba Juice across the Rock ’n’ Roll series. The value of the deals was not available.

Scott Dickey, president and CEO of Competitor Group, said the deals came together despite the distraction of the company’s impending sale.

“Management was very involved in due diligence, and was consumed by the activity of the sale, so we didn’t get to spend as much time on new business as we would have liked,” Dickey said. “There was a little bit of a sigh of relief that there wasn’t significant upheaval within the company afterward.”

The signings bring the number of serieswide sponsors of the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon series to 13. These deals previously have been valued in the low to mid-six figures.

In addition to the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon deals, Competitor has signed a handful of regional and series partnerships. Outdoor retailer REI has the title sponsorship of the nine-race Muddy Buddy Adventure obstacle course series and the presenting sponsorship of the eight-race TriRock Triathlon Series.

Alaska Airlines has become CGI’s first airline partner, signing on to sponsor the California Rock ’n’ Roll races in Pasadena, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose. And health care provider Kaiser Permanente was the title sponsor of the Feb. 17 Rock ’n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon.

Ed Walker, chief strategy officer for Transamerica, said the deal allows the company to market its “array of innovative financial services geared specifically to the endurance community.”

The deal allows participants to buy $9 race insurance, which allows them either to obtain a refund or transfer registration to a different event in the case of a race cancellation or an injury. Dickey said approximately 15 percent of registrants to running and triathlon races do not show up because of injuries or scheduling conflicts.

“Very few properties have a cancellation or transfer policy,” he said. “This is going to be a big part of differentiation as we market our properties.”

Fred Dreier is a writer in New York.

For a second consecutive year, sponsors’ displays will fill the midway at Daytona International Speedway.

The track has 45 companies activating in the midway this year. That is a slight increase from the 40 companies that activated last year and gave the track the highest number of corporate displays for the Daytona 500 in more than three years.

The track has several new companies and brands building their displays, including Aaron’s, Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville and A&E, which is promoting its show “Duck Dynasty.” Jack Daniel’s is a brand that’s returning to the Daytona 500 after several years of skipping the event.

“We’ve had a nice uptick on the display side,” Daytona President Joie Chitwood III said. “We’ll maximize that [midway] display space and fill every inch we can.”

The speedway is benefiting from an uptick in activation among NASCAR’s official partners. Its three manufacturers — Ford, GM and Toyota — all build enormous displays to show off their cars, but they’re putting special emphasis on those activities this year to

Chevrolet is ramping up its activation with the unveiling of a new production car.
coincide with the debut of the new Gen 6 car.

Ford has a 20,000-square-foot display, Toyota is showing off its Toyota Tundra, and GM took advantage of the media attention around the new cars to unveil its Chevrolet SS production car. The unveiling, which happened Saturday, marked the first time Chevrolet had unveiled a new car brand at a NASCAR track. It typically unveils its production vehicles at auto shows.

“The fact that they’re using this stage to unveil their new production car speaks volumes to the power of an event like the Daytona 500,” said Norris Scott, NASCAR’s vice president of partnership marketing.

Other NASCAR sponsors set up in the midway include 3M, which has an 18,000-square-foot display, and New Holland, NASCAR’s new official agricultural equipment partner. Sprint, which runs one of the largest interactive displays at NASCAR races, renamed its event The Sprint Unlimited to support its efforts to highlight the company’s unlimited data packages.

In addition to activating at track, NASCAR sponsors are launching a host of new TV commercials this week. Sunoco will debut a new “If I Had a Nickel” ad, Coca-Cola will release a spot featuring its Coca-Cola Racing Family of drivers, and Goodyear will show new creative that features NASCAR footage.

Ford is going a step further by buying an entire 30-minute window on Fox. At 11:30 a.m. Saturday, the network will air a show called “The Fusion Evolution” that will highlight the development of the company’s Ford Fusion Sprint Cup Series car.

Coca-Cola, Mars and Coors Light plan to have retail activation in the market. Coke and Mars will have displays at Kroger grocery stores in the Daytona market, and Coors Light will have the NASCAR logo on its packaging in markets nationwide.

Under Armour Inc. is used to making waves in the sportswear industry, and Gene McCarthy’s resignation as the sports apparel company’s top footwear executive certainly caused a few ripples — although not in the way in which Under Armour is accustomed.

McCarthy resigned from Baltimore-based Under Armour on Jan. 24. The former global director of sales and retail marketing for Jordan Brand at Nike, McCarthy was hired in 2009 to make Under Armour a top player in the shoe market.

McCarthy is at least the fourth high-level executive to leave Under Armour since August 2011, a departure rate that worries some industry analysts.

Under Armour’s footwear line increased its annual revenue from $136.2 million to $239 million during McCarthy’s 3 1/2 years at the helm, a steady but unspectacular rate of growth.

McCarthy’s exit “is concerning after a number of high profile departures over the past year,” analyst Michael Binetti of UBS Investment Bank said in a research note.

Chris Svezia, a senior analyst with Susquehanna Financial, said, “There has been more executive departures [with Under Armour] than any other company I cover.”

Under Armour’s growth often means the company has to hire executives from the outside, Chief Financial Officer Brad Dickerson has said. The company’s departures also get far more press attention than the talent Under Armour brings in, he said.

The biggest effect of McCarthy’s departure will be in Under Armour’s footwear business. The 17-year-old company still controls just a small portion of the national, non-cleats shoe market. Under Armour captured 1.8 percent of the $7.5 billion running shoe market in 2012 and 0.6 percent of the $3.7 billion basketball shoe market, said Matt Powell, a retail analyst with Charlotte-based SportsOneSource.

Kip Fulks, Under Armour’s former chief operating officer, now heads the company’s footwear department.

Looking beyond footwear, Under Armour last week unveiled its biggest marketing campaign to date, showcasing the brand’s crop of young endorsers outfitted in the company’s latest products. The campaign, dubbed “I Will,” includes athletes such as Bryce Harper, reigning National League Rookie of the Year.

Jack Lambert writes for the Baltimore Business Journal, an affiliated publication.