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Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

When it comes to sponsorship sales, who will put the puck in the net for the New York Islanders, even years before their planned 2015 move to the Barclays Center?

Hockey hall of famer Mike Bossy, the Islanders’ new vice president of corporate sponsorship and partnership marketing, made a sales pitch to the Barclays/Brooklyn Nets business partners assembled at a summit on the floor of the arena last week, and it was apparent that the Brooklyn organization is paramount.

The New York Islanders’ Mike Bossy addresses business partners of the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets.
“This time of transition is a great opportunity,” said Bossy, after euphemistically calling the Islanders’ current, 41-year-old Nassau Coliseum home “vintage.” Still, the Barclays Center/Nets organization is driving the truck and gripping the wheel more firmly every day.

“Certainly, there’s still an Islanders sales staff, but we are running the business side of the Islanders today,” said Barclays Center/Nets CEO Brett Yormark. “They coordinate all decision-making through us. Our goal is to contemporise them and ensure a great transition to Brooklyn for a team with a great history.”

The Barclays organization is competing with outside developers and rival Madison Square Garden for the rights to rehab Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale. If the Barclays bunch wins, control would get even tighter, and the Islanders could relocate to Brooklyn earlier than their planned move two years from now.

Beyond the addition of hockey to Barclays, consider the advantage that having an affiliated building some 22 miles east could give a promoter — and you can understand why MSG is also in the mix for renovating a building that has long been considered the NHL’s worst facility. “We’re looking to create a lot of scale for our events and relationships in the sports and entertainment community, and just think about the corridor of consumers we can tap into that stretches from Brooklyn out across Long Island,” Yormark said.

SUPER DAYS AHEAD: Yes, the next Super Bowl will be in New Jersey, but in what we expect will be the first of many New York-area venues looking to grab a piece of the biggest domestic sporting event, Barclays Center is planning a big week of programming before the NFL championship at MetLife Stadium, 14 miles away. The goal is for programming from Thursday to Saturday before Super Bowl Sunday, including a high-profile Nets game, a top-shelf boxing card and a marquee mega-concert.

The working thematic: “Kickoff in Brooklyn.”

Expect a logo and marketing platform for the three nights, a formula that also will be used for the first anniversary week of Barclays Center in late September and a planned New Year’s Eve gala concert. These are all examples of what Elisa Padilla, vice president of marketing, said will be a bigger emphasis on marketing platforms along with an increased focus on multicultural marketing efforts.

AIR TRAFFIC: With JetBlue having signed a one-year deal as the official airline of Barclays Center before the building opened, look for a dogfight when it comes to the Brooklyn building’s airline category. Barclays appreciated JetBlue’s “Bound for Brooklyn” marketing campaign enough to give it an award as one the top sponsor activators. However, prospects like the pending $11 billion merger of American Airlines and US Airways, which will necessitate a rebrand, and increased marketing activity from United Airlines make the category a bit more attractive than in prior years. Aeroflot has a carve-out for foreign airline rights and is expected to renew. Otherwise, it’s about mining the burgeoning technology field for new dollars and selling Brooklyn’s reputation for cool.

“Yahoo’s CEO said they paid a billion dollars for Tumblr because Yahoo wanted to be cool,” Yormark said. “We cost a lot less than a billion, and when someone gets involved with us, that Brooklyn hip and cool makes an equity transfer, so we are looking for brands that want to get younger.”

LOYALTY PAYS: By the time Barclays Center marks its first anniversary on Sept. 28, SBJ’s 2013 Sports Facility of the Year will have hosted a total of 2.3 million people at more than 200 events. With that much traffic, naturally there’s a frequency/loyalty program in the works.

“We’re looking to add value, to promote trial, frequency and retention, and give our best customers a reason to go from partial-season tickets to half or full by adding benefits or get the person who went to one concert to go to four, or buy across our whole college basketball schedule, not just the one where their school is playing,” Yormark said.

Adding benefits like streaming proprietary arena content is also being considered. Yormark said he expects to see presentations for several different frequency/loyalty programs within this month and launch in the fall.

PLAY OUTSIDE: Nothing gets a sales force more excited than new inventory. Taking advantage of the broad exposure of the Barclays arena site in densely populated Brooklyn, the Barclays Center is looking at adding what will likely be a combination of static and electronic signage outside the arena on nearby Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, with what’s being called “Brooklyn Outdoor.”

Speaking of incremental inventory, Barclays Center marketers presented an array of presenting sponsor packages available for the arena’s second year. We’re not sure if all of these will be sold, but there are for sale signs on separate packages for the Nets’ regular season, the postseason, the site, and all social and mobile content connected to the arena.

The IndyCar Series continues to search for a presenting sponsor that could replace Izod as its title sponsor in the future.

Izod has two years left on its deal with the series, but it’s had discussions with IndyCar about exiting the deal early. The company has cut back its activation around the series and stopped advertising during races on NBC Sports Network.

“They’re trying to figure out where we fit in their portfolio,” said Greg Gruning, IndyCar executive vice president of corporate sales, who declined to comment on Izod’s future as a title sponsor.

The search for a presenting sponsor began a year ago when Gruning and former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard approached Verizon and others with a sales deck. Gruning said that IndyCar continues to pitch companies on becoming a presenting sponsor and having the option to replace Izod as a title sponsor.

“We’ve got some conversations going,” Gruning said. “With Mark Miles coming in [as CEO of Hulman & Co., which owns IndyCar], a lot of people are watching. We’d like to have some help on the TV ratings front a bit, but we’ve had active conversations and there’s interest out there.”

IndyCar ratings have been down on broadcast and cable this year. The Indianapolis 500 averaged a 3.7 Nielsen rating and 5.7 million viewers, a 14 percent and 16 percent decrease from last year. For nine telecasts to date across ABC and NBC Sports Network, IndyCar is averaging 1.47 million viewers, down 24 percent from the same point last season.

Izod is in the fourth year of a six-year agreement that included two options for two-year extensions that would take the deal through 2020. Sources familiar with the deal said the company pays approximately $6 million to the series annually in rights fees and historically spent an additional $5 million annually on media and activation.

Gruning said that selling the presenting sponsorship is IndyCar’s top sales priority and added that he would like to have a presenting sponsor “sooner rather than later.”

The series last year was asking for more than $6 million annually for the presenting sponsorship, sources said. Gruning declined to comment on the asking price. He said, “Cash is important but activation is paramount.”

In addition to looking for a presenting sponsor, Gruning said that his sales team is searching for partners in the technology, financial services, and health and wellness categories.

Nationwide Insurance has extended its exclusive negotiating window with NASCAR, giving the company through the end of summer to determine whether it will renew its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s secondary series.

The Ohio-based company’s sponsorship agreement gave it until the end of June to negotiate exclusively with NASCAR, but sources said Nationwide officials requested more time so that they could take into consideration what TV network will broadcast the Nationwide Series in the future.

With its name on NASCAR’s secondary series, Nation-wide is one of the sport’s most active sponsors.
ESPN presently holds the media rights to the Nationwide Series, but its deal ends after 2014. The broadcaster is set to begin exclusive renewal discussions with NASCAR in July. If it can’t reach an agreement by the end of August, then NASCAR could look to sell the Nationwide Series rights to another broadcaster.

Media has been one of Nationwide’s primary vehicles for getting a return on its $10 million to $12 million deal to title sponsor NASCAR’s secondary series. The company, which became the series’ sponsor in 2008, spends more than $5 million on media with ESPN, and it has used NASCAR-themed ads over the last five years to connect with fans and raise brand awareness, so the series’ future television deal is something sources said Nationwide officials wanted to evaluate before committing to a renewal.

Nationwide declined to comment on the extension of the exclusive negotiating window with NASCAR. In a statement, Nationwide chief marketer Matt Jauchius said, “We continue to have productive conversations with NASCAR about our position in the sport and plan to be active for many years to come.”

NASCAR chief marketer Steve Phelps expressed optimism that the company would return as a sponsor in the future.

“Nationwide has been very successful in using our sport as a platform to enhance its brand and drive its business,” Phelps said in a statement. “The company has also stated publicly how much value they glean as a series entitlement sponsor. They are a great partner and we are confident that they will remain in the sport for many years to come.”

Nationwide replaced longtime sponsor Anheuser-Busch in 2008, bringing an end to a 25-year run of the Busch Series. The company touted results of the sponsorship in 2010. It claimed that consumer awareness increased by more than 50 percent and leads rose 183 percent in the second year of the sponsorship. The company said that policies purchased by NASCAR fans exceeded goals.

The company has been one of NASCAR’s most active sponsors. It developed commercials featuring Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. that have run in programming unrelated to NASCAR. It took trackside activation display to more than 15 motorsports facilities in recent years. It also expanded its spending in the sport to include sponsorship of Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse in four Sprint Cup races.

Speaking at the Intersport Activation Summit in Chicago last month, Jim McCoy, Nationwide’s director of strategic sponsorships, said, “We’ve built a well-rounded program that has built a lot of credibility with the fan. We want to make sure the relationship is working as hard as it can for us. Where are the opportunities in terms of where the relationship can go from here in order to continue to grow from a brand health standpoint? We need fans to make that connection at a higher level of who we are and what we do. Where we see a gap, we want to close that gap, and we’re working hard with NASCAR to do that.”

It’s unclear to whom NASCAR would turn if Nationwide opted not to renew its deal. Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and AutoZone were among the companies that expressed interest in title sponsorship of the series in 2007, the last time it was sold.

Procter & Gamble is increasing its commitment to USA Gymnastics through a renewal that makes it the title sponsor of the sport’s marquee event, the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

The deal, which sources valued in the mid- to high six figures annually, runs through 2016 and makes the company USA Gymnastics’ biggest sponsor.

P&G (represented here by Pantene) has been a USA Gymnastics sponsor since 2008.
Photo by: ICON SMI
In addition to becoming the title sponsor of the P&G Gymnastics Championships, the company receives more than 20 commercial spots during coverage of the event on NBC and NBC Sports Network and rights to use the USA Gymnastics logo in marketing materials ahead of the Rio Games. It will retain the title sponsorship of the Secret U.S. Classic, which it uses to promote its deodorant and antiperspirant brand, and it has the ability to make one of its other brands the presenting sponsor of the P&G Championships.

P&G, which is an International Olympic Committee and U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor, has sponsored USA Gymnastics since 2008 and made the organization one of its primary, Olympic marketing vehicles ahead of the 2012 London Games.

“This is a great way for us to pivot off our Olympic partnership and amplify what we do in that space in a very authentic way,” said Matt Hollenkamp, P&G’s North America sports marketing manager. “It’s a way to help bridge in between Olympic Games and be more relevant. With our female beauty brands, it helps reach a key target audience.”

The deal is critical for USA Gymnastics. Visa had been the title sponsor of the organization’s championships since 2004, but the company this year decided to cut back on its spending with national governing bodies. It wanted to reduce what it paid USA Gymnastics from $3.2 million over four years to $375,000, and the organization rejected the offer.

USA Gymnastics President and CEO Steve Penny said that the deal with P&G will allow the organization to not only replace Visa but also hit its annual goal of $3 million in sponsorship revenue.

“The P&G deal closes a big gap in what we wanted to accomplish,” Penny said. “This gives them the largest entitlement we have in the sport and gives them a real strong foothold with us for the next four years.”

The deal is the fourth major sponsorship USA Gymnastics has closed in the last year. It also signed a new deal with Under Armour and finalized renewals with AT&T and Hilton.

Penny said that the organization continues to have conversations with Visa about returning as a sponsor and also is looking at finding a financial services partner.

“We’d like to have one more major partner in our stable at least, but we’re in a really good place right now,” Penny said.

Terry Lefton
The NHL rules in Canada, but Toronto Blue Jays outfielder and two-time MLB home-run champion José Bautista is the newest endorser for Coke north of the border. In keeping with the locale, we’re told that Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos will also appear in the point-of-sale ads, and social media video was shot last week at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.

The use of Bautista’s image on Coke Zero packaging, along with TV ads, is also expected later this year. Other endorsements for the man who’s undoubtedly the
most marketable MLBer in Canada include Sony PlayStation, Pizza Pizza (Canada’s largest pizza chain), TD Bank and Booster Juice, the Canada
Bautista has several other endorsement deals, including Canada’s Booster Juice.
equivalent of Jamba Juice.

Alex Radetsky’s Radegen Sports Management represents Bautista for marketing.

> SOUNDS OF THE GAME: Bose, by our estimation one of the least-capable activators of pricey NFL sponsorship rights, has finally enlisted some professional help. CAA Sports has won an agency shootout to become global sports shop for the consumer electronics brand.

Bose also has deals with golfer Rory McIlroy and PGA Tour rights in China. Contractually, this is the final NFL season for a Bose NFL sponsorship that began in 2011. We gather that CAA Sports will have a lot to do with whether it is the last one for Bose as the NFL’s official home audio sponsor. However, agency officials would not comment.

The Bose victory adds to a few recent consulting wins for CAA Sports, including Guinness and KPMG.

> SUBWAY STOP: ESPN radio raconteurs Mike & Mike have been pitching for Subway restaurants for what seems like forever, and the quick-service restaurant’s “Subway Fresh Take Hotline” tag for on-air interviews is as much a staple on the daily radio show as ham and cheese are at Subway.

However, Golic and Greenberg had never appeared in a TV ad for the QSR with the most locations — until now. The loquacious pair shot a brand spot for Subway last week in Spark Hill, N.Y. Appearing along with the Mikes is New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck, another longtime Subway endorser, along with Australian snowboarder Torah Bright. Headline Media Management, New York, represents Mike & Mike.

> BIRD FEEDING: Agencies are anxious for word from Jim Smith, Atlanta Falcons senior vice president of sales and marketing, regarding sales assignments at the proposed new NFL facility adjacent to the 21-year-old Georgia Dome.

Some time ago, various sports sales shops were asked to compete for premium sales, naming rights and top corporate sponsorship sales work, with assignments expected June 1. The agency names we first heard as chasing sales rights surrounding the stadium, scheduled to open in 2017, include Front Row Marketing, IMG, Legends and Van Wagner.

More recently, however, we are hearing that while Legends has been quietly handed the assignment for premium seating sales, other assignments have not been set and some new agencies have recently been asked to join the chase anew.

The morass may now became a bit less opaque, since the Georgia World Congress Center Authority gave 360 Architecture its blessing last week for a design concept on a 1.8 million-square-foot multipurpose facility that would hold 70,000 people and could cost as much as $1 billion. Plans call for the Georgia Dome to be demolished when the new stadium opens.

> GRAZING: MLB official lawn-care company Scotts is leveraging the coming All-Star Game in New York City with the culmination of its first season as presenting sponsor of the Pitch, Hit & Run youth baseball skills competition, an affiliation that helped get Scotts into more than 1,800 Wal-Mart stores with an “Ultimate Home Field Advantage” promo that showcased both Scotts and Miracle-Gro products.

PH&R finals will take place at Citi Field during the weekend before the July 16 All-Star-Game. Scotts will also showcase its grass “carpet” at MLB Fan Fest and do baseball field and facility refurbishments in Queens, said Chris Strunk, manager of sports marketing sponsorship.

Wasserman Media Group is Scotts’ sports marketing agency.

Terry Lefton can be reached at