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Volume 21 No. 1
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National McDonald’s ad is a first take for Stephen A. Smith

Terry Lefton
Get ready for the first national TV advertisement featuring basketball talker Stephen A. Smith.

Smith, who was recently parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” is being paired with LeBron James in a TV spot from no less a marketer than McDonald’s. From what we’re told, the ad was shot last month near ESPN’s Bristol, Conn., headquarters and scheduled to break later this month. The spot features Smith considerably more than James — in fact one source said James actually is referred to but not depicted — a factoid that’s also fascinating. The ad touts various versions of McDonald’s Extra Value Meals and was created under the aegis of Arnold Worldwide.

The ad will include LeBron James, but Smith will be the star.
We don’t necessarily concur with a colleague’s assessment that this is a sign of what’s perverse in the marketing world, but rather we believe a brand harnessing the commercial appeal of the notoriously self-important ESPN personality indicates to us that “Stephen A.” does have his audience. Headline Media, New York, represents Smith.

> MORE FIZZ, LESS SALT: Pepsi, an MLB corporate sponsor since 1997 and one of the sport’s longest-standing corporate patrons, is close to finalizing a five-year extension of its MLB league deal. Sources said the agreement is relatively similar to what was in place with one big difference — the new deal will not include rights for salty snacks, a category in which Pepsi is a major player through its Frito-Lay unit. To be fair, we never saw much activation leveraging Pepsi’s national MLB rights and those salty snacks.

As for the beverage side of the house, we’re told by various sources that activation plans for the upcoming MLB season are incomplete. However, with the MLB All-Star Game in Pepsi’s home territory of New York, not to mention at Citi Field, where Pepsi is a founding-level partner, we’re expecting a relatively large splash around the midsummer classic.

> ROSTER EXPANSION: Oakley, which is better known for eyewear than licensed sports togs, is joining MLB’s roster of apparel and accessory licensees. The deal starts this year with apparel bearing the marks of the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which are located near Oakley’s Orange County headquarters.
Oakley has been an MLB eyewear licensee since 2008 and has made sizable sponsorship investments at the home parks for both teams, so each will have dedicated retail space, and in-bowl signage. In addition, Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has endorsed Oakley sunglasses for some time.

Sources said that Oakley’s MLB apparel line, which one assumes will eventually include more than two teams, will be composed of high-end men’s and women’s licensed clothing. The apparel rights also will be relatively broad, including outerwear, golf shirts, T-shirts, jackets and hoodies, available in April in time for the opening of MLB’s season. To start, distribution will be limited to online, the team’s home parks and select Oakley retail locations within the New York and Orange County areas.

MLB on-field cap rights holder New Era will produce caps for the new Oakley line. Also included are rights within one of the hottest (and increasingly over-licensed) categories — tech accessories, including hot-selling products like iPad and iPhone covers and cases and other tech-related products.

We’re curious about how this deal will sit with MLB’s incumbent apparel and accessory licensees. However, whatever licensee dissatisfaction over perceived dissolution of MLB rights could be tempered by what appears to be limited distribution, at least initially. If that changes, expect grumbling worthy of a major leaguer.

Quiksilver has been granted rights for MLB team-branded board shorts and flip-flops.
> IN THE SWIM: In another new but limited distribution MLB licensee, Quiksilver has been granted rights for team-branded board shorts and flip-flops. We have already seen the swim trunks licensed by the NFL and NBA, and the initial MLB offering includes products featuring the logo of Quiksilver and the Angels, Yankees, Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. Distribution will be online, in Quiksilver stores, team shops and stadium stores.

No word on whether the board shorts will be sold anywhere near the swimming pools at Chase Field in Phoenix and Marlins Park in Miami.

The Ravens have promoted Kevin Rochlitz.
> ROCKIN’ RAVEN: Along with the excitement generated by fans of the Baltimore Ravens following the team’s Super Bowl triumph, there’s some reason for celebration in the team’s front office. Kevin Rochlitz, vice president of national partnerships and sales and a 10-year Ravens employee, has been promoted to vice president of corporate sales and business development, the position previously held by Mark Burdett, who left for a local TV sales job. In announcing the promotion, Ravens President Dick Cass noted that the Ravens’ national sales team has reached or exceeded its sales goals for each of the past five years.

With no large sponsorship renewals due, Rochlitz said that new categories are the focus for the Super Bowl champions, including the insurance, gas and convenience store categories. A planned $35 million renovation at M&T Bank Stadium also should provide some new sponsorship revenue opportunities, including potential naming-rights deals.

Terry Lefton can be reached at