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Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

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

Unilever personal care brand Dove Men + Care has signed an advertising partnership with MLB Advanced Media, extending its multiyear run of using sports as a key piece of its marketing strategy.

In the latest effort, Dove Men + Care video and display advertising will appear across and team pages and during video segments, and will be connected to social media extensions. The creative will feature fatherhood-related stories from players such as the Detroit Tigers' Torii Hunter, the Tampa Bay Rays' Ben Zobrist and the Chicago White Sox' Chris Sale.

Dove Men + Care several years ago conducted its first sports-related marketing through baseball, but since has become more synonymous with basketball and football through its high-profile “Journey to Comfort” segments featuring Magic Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Drew Brees and others. More recently, the brand has used former tennis star John McEnroe, and is sponsoring this fall’s New York City Marathon.

In each instance, Dove Men + Care is seeking to forge a more genuine depiction of adult males as opposed to veering toward the extremes of macho or clueless.

“There’s nobody talking to this group as real men with real issues,” said Rob Candelino, vice president of brand building for Unilever’s skin care business. “We’re offering what we believe to be a whole new narrative on how men are depicted in advertising, and it’s something we’re very proud of.”

The MLBAM partnership will roll out as a 10-week series, beginning this week and extending through the duration of the 2013 season, with each week featuring a new player. Videos and other content will be housed at MLBAM also is running its first national sweepstakes through the Instagram social media platform. Fans submitting their own father-son baseball photos can enter to win a trip to Opening Day next year.

Fenway Sports Management has signed a one-year agreement with Citigroup to serve as the title sponsor for Frozen Fenway 2014.

Citi will replace Sun Life Financial, which held the naming rights for the last Frozen Fenway, held in January 2012. The 2014 event will feature a Jan. 4 college hockey doubleheader involving Merrimack College, Providence College, Notre Dame and Boston College. A second doubleheader Jan. 11 will showcase UMass Lowell, Northeastern, Boston University and the University of Maine. Public and private skates will be held during a 17-day period beginning Dec. 29.

The multiday hockey event returns after taking 2013 off.
The 2012 event attracted more than 90,000, and generated $28.8 million in Boston-area visitor spending, according to Boston’s convention and visitors bureau.

Financial terms for the Citi-Frozen Fenway deal were not disclosed, but industry sources pegged the deal in the low six figures.

“We’re very enthused to be able to have this relationship with Citi, and the support of Hockey East and our other partners to bring this event back again,” said Sam Kennedy, Fenway Sports Management president and Boston Red Sox executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The Citi naming-rights deal was led by Frank Huckabone, FSM executive vice president of sales. Huckabone had been involved in a deal for Citi to sponsor sister company Roush Fenway Racing.

Other Frozen Fenway sponsors for 2014 include Budweiser, Gulf Oil, Cross Insurance, AAA, Ford, Lumber Liquidators and Pfizer.

No activation details were disclosed for Citi, which handled the negotiations itself.

EA Sports will essentially double its launch marketing efforts this year for the forthcoming “Madden NFL 25” video game, thanks to the arrival of the gaming industry console transition.

The video game publisher will conduct its usual promotional blitz for the game, set for release Tuesday on gaming platforms. Legendary running backs including Jerome Bettis, Curtis Martin and Barry Sanders are scheduled this week to visit the Bristol, Conn., headquarters of ESPN, EA Sports’ longtime business partner, for appearances on programs such as “SportsCenter” and “Mike and Mike in the Morning.”

The popular game comes out for existing consoles this week.
EA Sports was also set to air the fifth annual “Madden NFL Pigskin Pro-Am” Sunday night on NBC. The publisher also introduced a $99 promotion in May that included a special 25th anniversary edition of the game along with a year of NFL Sunday Ticket from DirecTV.

But with the releases of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PlayStation 4 scheduled for November, marking the first major video game hardware transition in eight years, EA Sports will ramp up the “Madden” promotional machine once again. “Madden NFL 25” will be one of about two dozen games available at launch for both of the new consoles.

The company will air another made-for-TV special, the “Madden NFL 25 Skills Challenge,” this fall on ESPN and the NFL Network, pitting former stars in a skills competition aboard the USS Midway in San Diego.

EA Sports has aligned with GameStop to allow purchasers of the Xbox 360 version of the game to upgrade to the Xbox One version for $10. Also, ESPN is working with EA Sports to further embed “Madden” game simulations into its coverage this fall on “Monday Night Football” and other football studio programming.

“Madden” promotional spending has generally hovered in the low eight figures. EA expects an increase this year, but efficiencies of scale should keep the percentage small.

“It’s a bit of a challenge to balance the message between the platforms. We’ve had hardware transitions before, of course, but this is a unique situation. Particularly so, given this is the 25th anniversary of the game, too,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports director of marketing.

“But what we’re trying to convey is there’s no wrong answer. We think the NFL season will help carry ‘Madden’ along, with the current-generation version coming out at the beginning of the season, and the next-generation coming out towards the end.”

“Madden NFL” each year is one of the most popular sports video games in the world, and the company earlier this year said the franchise has sold more than 99 million units in its quarter-century lifetime and generated $3.7 billion in net revenue. A cover vote in the spring yielded Sanders as the choice for the current-generation cover and generated more than 40 million votes, more than twice the total for the cover vote in 2012. EA Sports later announced the runner-up in this year’s vote, Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson, will be on the cover of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions of the game.

ESPN executives said the spike in the cover vote total and the additional “Madden” integrations into their content represent the further growth of a partnership now in its ninth year. “We’re considerably ahead of where we were last year in terms of involving ‘Madden’ in what we do. This is a situation where our programming department, technology group, social media teams, and so forth, are all in lockstep,” said Brian Dailey, ESPN director of games and partnerships.