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Volume 20 No. 46

Marketing and Sponsorship

AT&T has signed a multiyear renewal of its sponsorship of MLS, U.S. Soccer and the Mexican Soccer Federation. The deal, valued by an industry source at eight figures annually, was completed last week with Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm.

AT&T remains title sponsor of the All-Star Game, as it was last year in Chester, Pa.
“AT&T is a significant partner for us,” said David Wright, senior vice president of global sponsorship for MLS and SUM. “The fact that they are back in a big, big way is incredible news.”

Wright declined to comment on the financial details of the deal. The source said the annual value of this deal is higher than that of the prior deal, which expired at the end of 2012.

With the deal, AT&T remains title sponsor of the annual MLS All-Star Game, which will be played this year on July 31 in Kansas City. The communications company has held title sponsorship of the game since 2009, when it first partnered with MLS and U.S. Soccer.

New for AT&T with the renewal will be title sponsorship of MLS’s Rookie of the Year award. It will continue as title sponsor of voting platforms for the league’s goals of the week, month and year, as it has been previously.

“We’ve recognized the growing passion for soccer in the U.S.,” said Greg Skasko, director of sponsorships for AT&T. “The engagement from our promotions has been very strong. It’s a multicultural fan base and really hits the 18-34 demographic. We also love that MLS is tech-savvy and so are their fans.”

AT&T also will be the presenting sponsor of what is expected to be U.S. Soccer’s biggest match of 2013, when the U.S. men’s national team plays a World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus on Sept. 10. U.S. Soccer is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

“Between the centennial and these qualifying matches for the World Cup, this is one of the biggest years in the history of U.S. Soccer,” Skasko said. “Being a part of it, especially with our partners at the Mexican national team as the opponent for that crucial match in Columbus, is huge for us.”

AT&T, which has sponsored the Mexican Soccer Federation since 2005 — when the communications company was known as Cingular — will be the title sponsor of Futbol Fiesta, a fan zone at Mexican national team matches that includes product demonstrations and fan interaction.

AT&T also is blending sports and entertainment with its engagement of the Mexican pop music duo Jesse & Joy to write and record a song called “Corazon de Campeon (Heart of a Champion)” that will be played during Mexican national team matches.

Other deal points with the Mexican Soccer Federation include sweepstakes promotions and in-store player appearances.

The Marketing Arm was the lead consulting agency for AT&T on the deal. AT&T’s activations at this year’s MLS All-Star Game and the U.S.-Mexico match in Columbus will be managed by Team Epic.

IMG’s golf division is acquiring Ken Kennerly’s IGP Sports & Entertainment Group to boost IMG’s efforts to manage more events in North America and create a presence in the golf-rich Jupiter, Fla., area.

Event management and ownership is one of the top two revenue producers for IMG Golf — player representation is the other — with close to 50 events around the world. But even though IMG’s revenue from the events business has more than tripled in the last 10 years, roughly half of those events are based in Asia, including the WGC HSBC Champions in China, and many more are in Europe.

The Honda Classic is among the events managed by IGP Sports & Entertainment.
By acquiring IGP, which manages the Honda Classic, IMG Golf now has management of a PGA Tour event in the U.S., something the company has been without for some time. IMG also manages an LPGA major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but the company’s roster of events in the U.S. is otherwise very slim.

Expanding that base of North American tournaments will be a priority, said Guy Kinnings, IMG’s co-managing director for global golf.

The addition of Kennerly’s group shores up what has been a weakness in recent years, as IMG Golf rebuilds from a volatile 2012 when several high-profile agents departed.

“It’s essential that we’re in the PGA Tour,” Kinnings said last week from Augusta, Ga., where he was entertaining clients and associates from around the world at the Masters. “With the assets that Ken already has, plus his experience, it brings it all together.”

Neither IMG nor Kennerly would disclose the terms of the agreement, but IGP and its 14 employees will be fully folded into IMG’s golf division.

Kennerly’s office in North Palm Beach, Fla., will become a hub for IMG Golf, Kinnings said, putting an important stake in the ground in the Palm Beach County area where so many PGA Tour players now live. Kinnings and Kennerly both described the Jupiter, Fla., area, near North Palm Beach, as the “new Orlando,” meaning the players are clustering in Jupiter like they used to swarm to Orlando.

Kinnings has said since last year that IMG Golf needed a presence in South Florida. The office eventually will house more than 20 employees, many of the new additions coming from the Cleveland office that was established more than 50 years ago when Mark McCormack founded IMG. The Cleveland office will remain open, Kinnings said, but the new South Florida office will have a much stronger golf presence. It also will be used as a meeting place for IMG Golf’s executives based in Europe and Asia when they travel to South Florida.

Kinnings said the company is in the process of deciding who will be relocated.

Opening an office in South Florida “has been a big, big focal point,” Kinnings said. “It’s a next step that we had to take.”

Kennerly comes to IMG after close to 25 years in the golf industry, both running events and managing players. He started at ProServ and later Advantage International before landing at Golden Bear and working with Jack Nicklaus in the 1990s. Kennerly started his own firm in 1996, managing players and events, and grew it both organically and through acquisitions.

His claim to fame, however, has been the resurrection of the Honda Classic in his backyard at Palm Beach Gardens. The tournament, which boasts the longest-running title sponsor on tour, has been with Honda since 1982. Its move to PGA National in 2007 and improved management are often credited for the tournament’s rebound as the fields gradually became stronger.

IGP has managed the event since 2006.

Kennerly’s firm also oversees the Mid-Atlantic Championship on the Tour as well as corporate events and the management of golfers Glen Day, Mathias Gronberg, Dicky Pride, Duffy Waldorf, and Golf Channel analyst Charlie Rymer.

Kennerly estimates that a quarter of PGA Tour events outsource their management and operations to firms like his. Revenue typically comes from a fee, and there also can be a revenue share.

The Valero Texas Open, the PGA Tour tournament just prior to the Masters, was managed by Greg Norman Productions for the first time this year. Other competitors in the space include Octagon.

“When I saw that Norman was managing the Valero, I thought, ‘That should have been IMG,’” said Kennerly, who learned of the Norman-Valero deal while he was in talks with IMG. “There are opportunities out there.”