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Volume 20 No. 46

Marketing and Sponsorship

Citi is finalizing an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to return as the official retail bank of Team USA for the 2014 Sochi and 2016 Rio Games.

The deal, which sources valued at more than $15 million over four years, ensures the USOC will retain both of the banking partners it signed prior to the London Olympics. TD Ameritrade last week announced it planned to return as the official brokerage of Team USA for the 2014 and 2016 Games.

Paralympian volleyballer Kari Miller (left), Citi exec Maria Veltre (center) and Olympic swimmer Cullen Jones at an April 2012 event
The USOC declined to comment. In a statement, Citi said, “The sponsorship proved to be a significant asset to our brand and our business and we are considering extending it.”

Citi’s renewal was far from guaranteed. The company ousted CEO Vikram Pandit, who attended the London Games, and replaced him with Michael Corbat last October. Corbat announced plans to cut 11,000 jobs and eliminate $1.1 billion of costs annually beginning in 2014. Cost cutting usually hits marketing budgets and could have pressured the USOC deal.

Also, like TD Ameritrade, Citi signed a unique deal with both the USOC and NBC in 2011. Citi bought a package that included a Team USA sponsorship and advertising on NBC during the London Games that was valued at more than $25 million. It was the first time the USOC and NBC had sold a package like that.

Headed into the Sochi Games, the USOC and NBC have found it difficult to offer a similar sponsorship and media package. That’s because the USOC sells sponsorships that last four years and include both winter and summer Games, but companies and media buyers don’t typically buy advertising three or four years in advance.

But Citi, like TD Ameritrade, saw enough value in its USOC partnership to return exclusively as a Team USA sponsor and buy its media separately from NBC prior to the Sochi and Rio Games.

“It’s a great sign that major corporations continue buying into the power of the Olympics, and it’s also a great indication of what [USOC Chief Marketing Officer] Lisa [Baird] and the USOC have done,” said Gary Pluchino, senior vice president of IMG Olympics, who had no knowledge of the Citi deal. “Corporations have come in late before a Summer Games, ramped up quickly and seen the value in it, so they re-up quickly for the next Games.”

Sources familiar with Citi’s plans said that it will bring back the “Every Step of the Way” program it developed for the London Games. The marketing program allowed Americans to use Facebook and Twitter to direct $500,000 to nonprofit sport organizations selected by 13 athletes with Citi endorsement deals. The initiative was recognized by PR Week as the Cause-Related Campaign of the Year.

The company is expected to sign several winter Olympians to promote ahead of the Sochi Games. It also has held talks with some national governing bodies about sponsoring their teams. Corbat is on the board of trustees of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

The Citi and TD Ameritrade deals capped off a strong start to the year for the USOC. In the last two months, the organization also has announced a renewal with Hilton HHonors and a new deal with J.M. Smucker Co. It is still working on a renewal with AT&T.

Citi works with GlideSlope, MEC and Matter on its Olympic marketing.

Major League Soccer has signed a one-year deal with Foursquare, the location-based social networking site, for the 2013 season.

Financial details were not disclosed, but Chris Schlosser, vice president of MLS Digital, called the deal an expansion of a partnership the league had with Foursquare last season. Schlosser said MLS received 4 million impressions via Foursquare and that partnership during the 2012 season.

Teams use Foursquare to target fans with promotions.
“That’s a strong number that we’d love to reach again and strive to surpass,” Schlosser said. “We love Foursquare’s innovation. Our partnership allows us to leverage their check-in functionality with our very tech-savvy fan base and to offer special deals to fans in our stadiums.”

J. Crowley, director of media partnerships for Foursquare (and younger brother of Foursquare CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley) called the deal a “promotional agreement.” He added that Foursquare’s partnership with MLS is the company’s largest sports deal. It also has arrangements with teams in the NFL and NHL and with the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, among other sports entities.

Foursquare benefits from the MLS partnership from the promotion it receives for its product online, in social media, on local and national TV broadcasts, and via in-stadium announcements. Foursquare does not receive a cut of any revenue derived from sales spurred by the league’s use of the platform to offer discounts to fans. For example, during this month’s opening weeks of the 2013 MLS season, fans who connected to Foursquare on their mobile devices received a welcome message when checking in, along with an offer for $10 off the $59.99 subscription price for MLS Live, which will stream up to 230 matches this season on computers and mobile devices.

Fans arriving at stadiums similarly could be directed to discount offers at merchandise and concession stands. Portland fans, for example, attending the Timbers’ first two home matches could “unlock” an offer on Foursquare for 20 percent off merchandise at the Jeld-Wen Field team store.

“That’s a big part of our value proposition to teams,” Crowley said. “The promos are unlocked by fans in the stadium and near the point of sale. Unlike a generic ad that everybody sees, these offers feel earned.”

After Foursquare partnered with MLS last season, it was contacted by Manchester City and Fulham of the English Premier League and created deals with those clubs, Crowley said.

The MLS-Foursquare deal has additional club-level extensions. Each club has created pocket guides for fans on Foursquare, suggesting places to visit in and around the stadium, including bars and restaurants. And as a new element compared to last year’s partnership, clubs can include their own sponsors for co-branded offers via Foursquare.

The deal is not exclusive in that regard, though. MLS clubs can still work in other social media platforms like Facebook, or work with daily deal companies such as Living Social.

CDW, the presenting sponsor of the ShotLink scoring system, has renewed its marketing partnership with the PGA Tour for four more years.

The new deal will run through 2016 and provide CDW with status as the official technology partner for the PGA Tour and the Champions Tour. Financial terms were not available.

As part of the agreement, CDW will continue to present ShotLink, and also will have a commercial presence on scoreboards at tournaments. Business-to-business hospitality and customer engagement at PGA Tour events will continue to be a staple of CDW’s marketing package.

CDW has been a tour partner since 2008. Tom Wade, the tour’s global commercial officer, said that CDW’s partnership has enhanced the tour’s technological capabilities and that CDW will continue to provide its broad range of IT services for the tour’s headquarters and its events, specifically disaster recovery planning, network security and on-site operations.

CDW also is using its ShotLink technology, which measures data on every shot struck, as a platform for its first ShotLink Intelligence prize. A $25,000 gift from CDW was recently awarded to Lucius Riccio at the Columbia Business School for using ShotLink data to determine the tour’s best ball striker on long approach shots. The top ball strikers were Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Robert Garrigus and Tiger Woods. Riccio teaches business analytics at Columbia.