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Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

The Breeders’ Cup has hired Front Row Marketing Services to sell sponsorship inventory for horse racing’s annual championship event.

Both Front Row Marketing Services President Chris Lencheski and Breeders’ Cup CMO Drew Sheinman said they expected to announce new corporate partnerships before this year’s event at Santa Anita Park in the Los Angeles area on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2. But neither Lencheski nor Sheinman would reveal details of any upcoming deals.

Sponsors have been receptive, Lencheski says.
The Breeders’ Cup has seen a number of sponsorships, including deals with Grey Goose and Emirates, expire in recent years. The event has several endemic partners, including ExpressBet, the Daily Racing Form and a number of thoroughbred horse breeding farms, but its only nonendemic sponsors now are John Deere, Lalique and Mont Blanc. Lencheski said that the event has a virtual “clean plate” to sign new partners.

Front Row Marketing Services was hired a few weeks ago, and Lencheski said he has been in discussions since then with principals of large corporations, both international and domestic.

“We’ve had a very good reception from big companies I have worked with before,” he said. “The reception has been very positive and I would expect to announce something before the races.”

Categories that are open for sponsorship deals include airlines, automotive, banking and spirits.

The Breeders’ Cup hired Front Row after meeting with several agencies, Sheinman said. Front Row is a subsidiary of Comcast-Spectacor, and Sheinman said the company’s connection to Comcast-owned NBC, the broadcast partner of the Breeders’ Cup, was a large part of why they were retained. Sales were handled previously in-house, but Sheinman said the changes are part of a larger plan to expand the Breeders’ Cup from a two-day event to weeklong global festival.

“They have the unique ability to tap into all the Comcast resources available,” Sheinman said.

Another attraction is the presence of Lencheski, who has experience working with the America’s Cup and Formula One Racing, Sheinman said. Those events are similar to the Breeders’ Cup in that they all attract a global and affluent audience.

Lencheski and Front Row will work in collaboration with Sheinman and the Breeders’ Cup to sell the inventory.

Licensed sports merchandise distributor Fanatics is making a push into mobile e-commerce, and recently hired former Groupon Vice President David Katz to lead the effort.

Under Katz, Fanatics will release its first set of dedicated mobile applications before the end of the year. And the company is creating a new mobile development center in San Francisco to accelerate its efforts on wireless platforms. The San Francisco team will supplement a smaller, existing team of Fanatics mobile personnel in Boulder, Colo.

Groupon recently announced that nearly 50 percent of its North American transactions occur on mobile devices, in part due to the efforts of Katz, and the online discounter’s iPad app was named by Apple as one of the top 25 most downloaded free apps of all time. Fanatics is seeking similar measures of mobile growth. The retailer currently generates about 30 percent of its traffic on mobile devices, and a smaller, undisclosed percentage of actual revenue.

Until now, mobile e-commerce across the industry has been on a slower wave of growth due to several issues such as connectivity and security concerns. But as those matters become increasingly solved and younger consumers show more comfort with smartphones and tablets, revenue growth is expected to accelerate.

Digital industry forecaster eMarketer said earlier this year that total U.S. mobile e-commerce revenue is projected to nearly triple from $24.8 billion last year to $71.2 billion in 2015. Fanatics, like many retailers, is seeking to take fuller advantage of that oncoming wave of growth.

“We’re clearly a big nexus point in terms of the advancement of mobile e-commerce, and when you combine that with the passion of sports, there’s a huge opportunity,” Katz said. “So it’s our job to really take the friction out of the experience.”

Katz will initially have a team of about 30 people working for him, with an increase from there expected by early next year. The mobile effort will apply to both its Fanatics and FansEdge brands.

The Professional Bowlers Association has signed a new multiyear sponsorship deal with shaving brand Barbasol and a multiyear renewal with jerky brand Jack Link’s, and is in talks to renew its deal with Geico to serve as a presenting partner.

The sponsorship agreements arrive on the heels of television deals the PBA signed earlier this year with ESPN and CBS Sports Network, as well as an effort to have celebrity owners be part of each team in the eight-franchise PBA League. The PBA created the league last fall.

Geico sponsors the PBA’s New York franchise, the KingPins. The property expects to have presenting sponsors for the other franchises by Thanksgiving.

“What we’ve done is significantly reorient our value proposition and allow brands to participate directly in the narrative of our story instead of it just being around media units,” said Geoff Reiss, PBA chief executive.

Specific financial terms for the new deals were not disclosed, but they were generally pegged as “significant” six-figure deals.

The PBA has been represented in the market for the past year by Maine-based Shamrock Sports & Entertainment. Shamrock also worked with marketing research group Repucom to determine the value of Geico’s team deal this past season. Repucom determined the insurance carrier’s $200,000 buy for this past season conservatively delivered nearly twice that in marketing value.

“The product is much more aligned with pop culture and personalities now, and we’re now seeing the benefits,” said Brian Corcoran, Shamrock president and owner.