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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

HP has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with NASCAR and plans to collaborate with the sanctioning body to develop business solutions it can sell globally.

The agreement, which sources valued at $2 million to $3 million annually, makes HP Enterprise Services the sport’s official technology partner. The company is NASCAR’s first partner in that category and the first technology-related company it’s worked with since exited its official deal in 2009.

HP CEO Meg Whitman with NASCAR CMO Steve Phelps at the HP Discover conference
Photo by: HP
The deal developed as a result of HP’s work with NASCAR creating the sport’s Fan & Media Engagement Center. The Charlotte-based center uses HP software and hardware to track and analyze social media trends so that the sport, tracks, teams and sponsors better understand fans.

HP developed the center for NASCAR without signing an official sponsorship, and it had limited rights to promote its ties to the sport. But it has begun pitching the Fan & Media Engagement services to clients and last week brought NASCAR chief marketer Steve Phelps to Las Vegas to speak about the center at HP Discover, an annual event showcasing the company’s products and business solutions to more than 10,000 business and government clients.

The company plans to use its sponsorship of NASCAR to develop additional technology and business innovations that it can then pitch to clients. It will hold quarterly meetings with NASCAR in which the parties discuss ways to “co-innovate” and develop technical solutions that help NASCAR’s business and the sport, said Charles Salameh, vice president and general manager of HP Enterprise Services, who drove the deal from the brand side.

“The partnership works as a lighthouse program,” Salameh said. “We’ll build technology in a real-world environment. … Rather than use a PowerPoint presentation [of what we have developed], we can say, ‘Come look at our partner NASCAR.’”

The approach marks a shift in the way HP approaches sports marketing. For years, its most visible sports marketing efforts centered on using athletes like Shaun White and Michael Phelps in advertisements designed to convince consumers to buy its PCs. It also sponsored the NBA from 2008 to 2012. The deal was the company’s first professional league sponsorship and it used the NBA to promote its laptops, which were used at scorers tables, and other products with NBA-themed advertising.

But as the company’s PC and printing business divisions have stagnated in recent years, it has looked to drive future revenue by becoming a one-stop shop for corporations’ technology needs from computers and servers to networking and software. As a result, it’s less interested in using its NASCAR sponsorship to reach the sport’s fans than using NASCAR as a high-profile, business partner it can showcase to companies in which it wants to sell innovations that integrate its computers, servers and software. The company didn’t even make media or activation commitments to tracks, teams or drivers in its deal.

“This is not an opportunity for us to sell anything based on brand,” Salameh said. “It’s an opportunity to showcase how technology helps businesses solve problems. Our real focus is to look at the challenging business issues NASCAR faces — whether that’s tracking their fans or providing their sponsors with more insight into how fans see sponsorships at a race — we are there to help solve that problem. This is why the Fan & Media Engagement Center was created. There could be other business challenges that NASCAR has that could have relevance to other companies.”

The approach HP is taking with NASCAR is common in the world of Formula One where teams like Lotus and Red Bull partner with Microsoft and Siemens, respectively, to use their technologies to improve car speed and measure the durability of auto parts. Most of those deals are value-in-kind agreements, and the brands use their ties to the teams to promote their technology expertise to business clients.

HP dabbled in that world when it sponsored the Williams BMW F1 team from 2002 to 2005 and the Renault F1 team in 2011 and 2012, but the NASCAR deal represents a different spin on that formula.

The company didn’t work with an agency on its NASCAR deal, and it doesn’t plan to work with an agency in the future. The deal comes on the heels of its decision to exit its arena naming-rights deal in San Jose 2 1/2 years before the 15-year, $47 million deal officially ended.

NASCAR’s Steve Phelps discussed the Fan & Media Engagement Center at HP Discover in Las Vegas.
Photo by: HP
The deal is NASCAR’s second major sponsorship agreement this year. It announced a multiyear deal with Sherwin-Williams last month. It’s also the sport’s eighth new partner in the last year. But perhaps most important, HP gives NASCAR its first technology partner, which is a category NASCAR Chairman Brian France has pushed his sales team to fill for two to three years.

“It’s a major step in technology and innovation for NASCAR,” said Jim O’Connell, NASCAR’s chief sales officer. “The joint commitment we’re making to bring innovation to the sport fulfills Brian’s vision. It’s a logical next step [for NASCAR]. We’ve had a lot of success in building green partnerships, and this is the first step in what we believe will be a successful process in adding technology and innovation partners.”

NASCAR began making a deliberate push to engage technology companies two years ago. It partnered with Google in 2012 on the company’s April Fool’s joke and partnered with Twitter to create a designated page that aggregates NASCAR-related tweets.

HP is the first partnership that it has converted from a non-cash agreement to a traditional sponsorship. NASCAR officials and track and team executives hope that the deal opens the door to other Silicon Valley-based companies, which don’t have a history of sports sponsorship but do have a huge place in the U.S. economy.

“This is a first step, and it’s a really significant step,” O’Connell said.

Terry Lefton
In the NFL, linebackers substitute for wide receivers about as often as the Cleveland Browns win the Super Bowl — which is to say never.

Nonetheless, that’s the case in the latest version of the Campbell’s Chunky soup “Mama’s Boys” campaign from Young & Rubicam, in which Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews replaces New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz as spokesman. Y&R, along with Campbell’s, an NFL corporate sponsor since 1998, was filming the latest round of “Mama’s Boys” creative last week in Chicago. No word on creative specifics, but we hear several of Matthews’ Packers teammates will also appear in the campaign.

Clay Matthews replaces Victor Cruz as spokesman for Campbell’s Chunky brand.
Last season’s Chunky soup ads with Cruz marked the revival of “Mama’s Boys,” which was introduced in 1998 and has employed various NFL players, including Reggie White, John Elway, Terrell Davis, Michael Strahan, Donovan McNabb and Brian Urlacher, along with their moms. Campbell’s dropped the campaign prior to the ’08 season amid slumping soup sales.

For Matthews, the Chunky effort marks another relationship with an NFL sponsor, as he is also aligned with league partners Verizon, Gillette, Nike, and licensee Fathead. He has non-league deals with Muscle Milk and Boucher Automotive Group in Milwaukee and a local memorabilia deal with Legends of the Field. Verizon, Gillette and Nike are expected to use Matthews in national ads during the NFL season. So the question we are asking is whether Matthews is replacing Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu as the most marketable NFL player on the defensive side of the ball.

Having signed a five-year contract extension with the Packers during the offseason, Matthews can afford to be picky, and apparently he has been when it comes to marketing gambits. Athletes First represents him, and Ryan Williams, director of athlete marketing, said Matthews this year has turned down four national deals.
“That new [on-field] contract makes it easier to say no, but we’re still looking at offers,’’ Williams said.

> POWER OF INCUMBENCY: Reliable licensing industry sources tell us that more than 15 firms were in the chase for the rights to sell Super Bowl merchandise at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey during next year’s Super Bowl. Most were surprised by the revelation that Delaware North won those rights, since the concessionaire is far more renowned as a facilities concessionaire rather than a company that services special events. However, the fact that Delaware North is the concessionaire on every other football game day at MetLife Stadium no doubt helps, as does the union relationships and on-site facilities that it has at the facility. Nonetheless, we did hear some grumblings among every competitor of note in the chase for the rights. “In their RFP, we were asked for originality and creativity, but I just don’t think that factored into this decision,’’ said one longtime licensed merchandise executive. As part of the same RFP, MainGate won the rights to sell Super Bowl product in New York-area hotels.

> ALL-STAR AFFAIR: Equinox, Herrick Law, AP Photo and Casa de Campo golf resort are in as sponsors for The Legacy Agency’s Breakfast of Champions at the Gramercy Hotel in New York City on July 15, the day before the 2013 MLB All-Star Game. The event, owned and created by Legacy, is a meet-and-greet with MLB players that is targeted at the city’s business community. ESPN will broadcast on-site with Michael Kay emceeing. A title sponsor is being sought for the event, which is not sanctioned by MLB. If the formula is successful, Legacy Agency hopes to mirror similar formats to piggyback on other jewel sporting events.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

USAA, the insurance brand that serves military members and their families, has signed Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III to an endorsement deal.

Griffin, whose parents were in the Army, is the first active NFL player signed by USAA, which is in its third year of a four-year NFL league deal. USAA, the NFL’s official military appreciation sponsor, also has marketing ties to former Dallas Cowboys and Navy quarterback Roger Staubach.

“He [Griffin] was at the top of our list,” said Don Clark, USAA executive director of marketing. “Obviously, his military ties are strong and impressive, and they’re something that will further solidify our relationship with the NFL. As the son of two Army sergeants, he understands the military lifestyle along with our core values of discipline and dedication.”

USAA will use Griffin to buttress its NFL ties and amp up its message of military appreciation with a multimedia campaign. Shooting is expected to begin this week. His parents are part of the deal as well and will be used in the marketing.

“Everyone in marketing, especially sports marketing, talks about authenticity,” said David Abrutyn, senior vice president/global head of consulting at IMG, USAA’s sports agency. “This fit is so apparent, you really don’t have to explain it.”

“This deal made so much sense, we had been thinking about it for a year,” said Mark Heligman at CAA Sports, which represents Griffin.

Griffin’s other endorsements are with Adidas, Gatorade, Nissan, Subway, EvoShield and Peach State Sports.

Meanwhile, USAA has NFL team sponsorships with Denver, San Diego, Washington and Seattle, and is looking to add a few more before this season. Clark added that USAA’s NFL ties have helped increase brand awareness and escalated positive perception of the company.