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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

In an effort to bolster sponsorship revenue, Charlotte Motor Speedway this year increased its efforts in North Carolina and landed seven regional sponsors that combined to boost revenue by more than $1 million.

The speedway, which will host this weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race and next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, closed deals with Snyder’s-Lance, a national snack-food company; Kangaroo Express, a regional convenience store company; Bayer Advanced, a weed killer developer; Brookwood Farms, a barbecue brand available at retail; Oskar Blues, a microbrewery; Highlands Hickory Market, a hot dog company; and the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

“The speedway hasn’t typically had a lot of local participation from sponsors, and typically that was because there weren’t a lot of big companies in the area,” said CMS President Marcus Smith. “But over the last 10 years, a lot of companies have grown or moved in, and there’s an opportunity for us.”

Snyder’s-Lance is a Charlotte-based company celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. The company, which has a market cap of $1.8 billion, chose to hold part of its birthday festivities during the All-Star Race. It is sponsoring a pre-race concert by Josh Turner, and the concert will begin with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in honor of the company’s 100 years. Some 2,000 Snyder’s-Lance employees will be in the crowd during the concert and attending the race.

Kangaroo Express, which is a division of Cary, N.C.-based Pantry Inc., will build the first 24-hour convenience store inside the speedway, selling everything from hot dogs and propane to batteries and soda. The company will run a shuttle through the campground bringing race fans to and from the convenience store and sparing them from having to jump in their cars and drive to an off-site retailer.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame has sponsored CMS in the past, but this will represent its largest activation at the track, said CMS head of sales Dan Farrell. It will be the host of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Pit Road Party prior to the Coca-Cola 600.

Brookwood Farms, Oskar Blues and Highlands Hickory Market will all have their products sold at the track and be able to use CMS logos in their marketing. Bayer Advanced will have a display for its Brush Killer Plus product.

Two agencies with clients deep in the college sports marketplace are looking to answer questions and offer insights about that dynamic and volatile space, all in the midst of this week’s upfront presentations in New York.

Fishbait Marketing and GMR Marketing will host a two-hour college sports marketing forum on Tuesday at the B.B. King Blues Club on West 42nd Street. Marketing executives from agencies and brands, as well as football and basketball coaches, are scheduled to answer questions. The audience is expected to be made up of executives from agencies, brands, TV networks and other affiliated areas.

Mike Boykin, executive vice president at GMR, said he expects 140 to 170 people to attend the free event to discuss the changes in the college landscape, best practices in the space, and how to manage and reach goals through college sports.

“The college space is red hot right now, but it’s also going through a lot of changes,” Boykin said. “We just want to have a discussion about what’s working and what’s not.”

Boykin and Fishbait’s Rick Jones will host the event. GMR’s clients include NCAA partners Northwestern Mutual, Lowe’s and Hershey. Fishbait represents the football and basketball coaches associations.

“We’ve been talking about doing something like this for a year,” Boykin said. “We just had to find a gap in the upfront, and that’s what we did. This is for anybody in the space or who’s looking to get into the space.”

Boykin emphasized that there will be no sales presentations as part of the forum.

“There are a lot of moving pieces in college sports, and it’s growing,” he said. “We’re just looking to offer some thought leadership and education.”

Among the expected guests are Chad Dern from Northwestern Mutual, George Pyne from IMG, Tom Lamb from Lowe’s, Michael Kelly from the BCS, former Nebraska coach and athletic director Tom Osborne, Learfield’s Andy Rawlings, ESPN’s Rob Temple, Will Funk from Turner Sports and Tom McGovern from Optimum Sports. St. John’s basketball coach Steve Lavin is among the coaches expected to be there.

Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.

NASCAR has signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with Sherwin-Williams, adding its first official blue-chip sponsor in five years.

The deal, which sources valued at more than $2 million a year, gives NASCAR its first official paint partner. The sport has had DuPont Performance Coatings, which recently was acquired and renamed Axalta, as its official finish partner for more than a decade.

In addition to becoming an official partner of NASCAR, Sherwin-Williams gets rights to the NASCAR Touring & Weekly Series and Grand-Am Road Racing, which will become United SportsCar Racing next year after its merger with the American Le Mans Series. It also will be title sponsor of the Fastest Lap Award in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series, and it gets track hospitality packages during several NASCAR races.

The deal marks the first national sports sponsorship for Sherwin-Williams in years. The company, which is based in Cleveland, also sponsors the NFL Browns, MLB Indians and NBA Cavaliers. Its marketing team saw an opportunity to use NASCAR across all 3,500 of its retail outlets because the sport has a 10-month season and visits multiple states.

“When you look at the demographic of their fans and the brand loyalty the NASCAR fans have, it seemed like a perfect match,” said Ellen Moreau, Sherwin-Williams’ vice president of marketing communications. “The long seasonality and where all these tracks are — we can work with that.”

Sherwin-Williams is the first nationally recognizable brand NASCAR has signed as a new official sponsor since cut a deal in late 2008. The sanctioning body has closed a number of large renewals since then, including deals with Mobil 1, MillerCoors, Goodyear and Sprint, but the bulk of its new business has been with “green,” environmentally aware companies. It signed an eight-figure-per-year deal with Growth Energy, an ethanol lobbying group, in 2010, and followed that with smaller deals with companies such as Creative Recycling, Green Earth Technologies’ G-Clean and Liberty Tire Recycling.

NASCAR officials are optimistic that Sherwin-Williams represents a step back toward the large, visible brands the sport signed with regularity prior to the recession.

“This is a 150-year-old company, as blue chip as they come, and they’re the largest paint seller in the country,” said Jim O’Connell, NASCAR’s chief sales officer. “It’s a partnership that reaches across the entire industry, and I think symbolically it shows NASCAR is still great for business. It’s a great reaffirming presence for the sport.”

Sherwin-Williams, which plans to announce its deal on Wednesday in Charlotte, has not finalized its activation plans around NASCAR. While Moreau said the company would activate at its 3,500 stores nationwide, she didn’t know if it would advertise on national TV or set up displays at tracks.

There could be an opportunity for Sherwin-Williams to expand its sponsorship in 2014 by adding the official finish category. NASCAR is in the final year of its deal with DuPont, and it’s unclear if the Carlyle Group, which bought DuPont and renamed it Axalta, will extend the deal.

Sherwin-Williams’ automotive finish division already has a presence in the sport. It provides paint to Roush Fenway Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing.

O’Connell said Axalta has expressed interest in continuing its sponsorship and said NASCAR prefers to keep long-standing partners when possible.

“Since we have someone in that category, it would be premature to talk to Sherwin-Williams about that now,” O’Connell said. “Could we potentially consolidate? Yes. But we could also go forward with two partners in two categories who are both great partners.”

Sherwin-Williams doesn’t have a sports marketing agency. Moreau said it negotiated the NASCAR deal independently and plans to use internal staff for its activation.

Rosalee Johnson has dreamed of singing the national anthem at a major sporting event. In fact, it’s on the 26-year-old’s list of 30 things to do before she turns 30.

So when she heard Charlotte Motor Speedway was hosting an “American Idol”-style competition to select national anthem and “God Bless America” singers for its NASCAR races, she spent her lunch hour belting out her best rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a mobile recording studio outside the racetrack. She immediately posted it on her Facebook page and Twitter account and wrote, “Hey everybody. I’ve auditioned to sing the national anthem at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Please vote. The winner is whoever gets the most votes.”

Driver Kenny Wallace helped kick off auditions for the Speedway Superstar Tour in Charlotte.
The video is one of more than 200 collected last week as part of a new, social media campaign developed by CMS. The Speedway Superstar Tour, as the program is called, is a 10-city trek to select singers of the national anthem and “God Bless America” during this weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race and next weekend’s Coca-Cola 600. The idea is to collect videos from hundreds of contestants and have them share those videos with friends, who will then come to CMS’s website to vote and possibly consider buying race tickets.

The video Johnson posted shows just how effective the strategy can be. She has 1,377 friends on Facebook, and many of those shared it with their friends, helping her get 1,212 votes within a week of the video’s posting.

“The thing we like about what we’re doing with this enhancement is encouraging and empowering these fans to become social advocates on our behalf and expanding our reach beyond our traditional audience,” said Tim Schuldt, CMS vice president of consumer marketing and sales. “The name of the game [in marketing] is fragmentation of media outlets. The way people are receiving and choosing to receive information has changed and this allows us to reach them.”

CMS hired Charlotte-based Red Moon Marketing to run the program. It is the latest in a string of Speedway Motorsports Inc. tracks to adopt the program. Las Vegas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway ran similar programs this year, CMS President Marcus Smith said.

“We thought it was a great way to engage communities around where our fans are from,” Smith said. “I’ve been measuring it on two fronts: both on ticket sales related to mobile marketing but also the publicity and exposure it generates.”

In its first four days, the microsite had 97,000 page views, 9,000 video views and 48,000 unique visitors. The speedway typically averages 66,000 uniques a day, but unlike that traffic, Facebook fed most of the 24,500 visitors a day to the microsite.

CMS chose to take the tour to markets where it doesn’t typically buy much media or pull a large audience, such as Wilmington, N.C., Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Fayetteville, N.C. It also went to some of its strongest markets, such as Greensboro, N.C., Winston-Salem, N.C. and Columbia, S.C.

CMS sponsors Best Buy and Coca-Cola signed on to be presenting sponsors of the tour. Financial terms weren’t available. The majority of the 18 tour stops were at Best Buy locations, and they received promotion on Time Warner Cable and local radio.

Schuldt said the tour cost 10 percent of their marketing budget. Initial return-on-investment numbers were “pleasing.”
“The awareness levels in these markets will be much stronger than they would have been without it,” he said. “That’s what we wanted to do.”

Major League Soccer has signed a six-year agreement with Topps that gives the card company the designation “official trading card producer” for MLS. Financial terms were unavailable.

Andrew Farrell's autographed card will be part of this year’s collection.
Topps, which aims to release its first MLS collection in July, receives exclusivity on cards, player stickers and sticker albums. The company plans to produce special cards of MLS stars such as Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls and Robbie Keane of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Autographed cards — featuring Andrew Farrell, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft by the New England Revolution, among others — will be part of this year’s collection, as well. The card company will activate at league events, including the All-Star Game in July and the season-ending MLS Cup championship match.

Maribeth Towers, MLS senior vice president of consumer products, said discussions with Topps started six months ago. The league’s trading card license with Upper Deck expired after the 2012 season.

Topps, which had never partnered with MLS before this deal, has trading card licenses with the English Premier League and the Bundesliga in Germany.

“We were impressed by Topps’ concepts for us and the success they’ve had in England and Germany,” Towers said.
Topps brand manager Jeff Heckman, who worked for the Los Angeles Galaxy from 2001-03 in sales and youth soccer programs, said his company needed little convincing about the growth of MLS.

“I saw the beginning of the trajectory when I was with the Galaxy and now I see MLS getting very close to the top four major leagues in North America,” Heckman said. “When the MLS license became available, we didn’t hesitate to bid. We see a lot of opportunities to develop business.”

MLS and Topps completed the agreement without agency involvement. Topps also has partnerships with the NFL, MLB, UFC and WWE.

Zaxby’s has struck sponsorship deals with 25 universities in an effort to market itself as the official chicken of college sports.

The deals were brokered by IMG College, which has the multimedia rights to most of the schools.

The Athens, Ga.-based restaurant chain has 570 locations across 13 states, most of them in the Southeast, and that’s reflected in the schools with which Zaxby’s signed. Zach McLeroy, CEO and co-founder of Zaxby’s, called the deals a “monumental partnership” and said they “keep us true to our roots” as a company started in a college town.

Financial terms of the deals, or the overall cost, were not available.

Zaxby’s has developed a special collective logo featuring the 25 partnering colleges designed to identify itself as “The Official Chicken of College Sports.” The restaurant will be integrated into football and basketball games at each of the participating schools with broadcast radio spots and video board programming features such as the “Zaxby’s Sack Cam” and “Zaxby’s Dunk Cam,” as well as online ad placement on each school’s athletic website.

Listed by conference, Zaxby’s has deals with Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt in the SEC; Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech in the ACC; Baylor in the Big 12; Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten; Arkansas State and Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt; and Houston, Southern Miss and Tulane in Conference USA. A separate deal with Clemson also was struck.

IMG owns the rights at most of the schools, but CBS Collegiate Sports Properties has LSU and Learfield Sports has rights to some of the schools as well.