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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

John Force hired motorsports marketing agency JMI to become his first sales agency of record for the next three years.

The hiring follows decisions by longtime Force sponsors Castrol and Ford to discontinue their financial support of John Force Racing in 2015. Their decisions leave Force with a little more than a year to find more than $7 million in replacement support.

“When you have partners like Castrol for over 25 years and partners like Ford Motor Co. over 15 years, that’s a major hit,” Force said. “I’ve known of [JMI] and the work they do. I believe they can get the job done.”

Force said that JMI will focus on finding primary sponsors for two cars, a funny car he drives and a top fuel car his daughter Brittany drives. They also will search for manufacturing support for John Force Racing.

JMI plans to pitch Force to companies interested in reaching do-it-yourself consumers. They plan to target fashion and personal care brands for Brittany.

Jon Flack, JMI’s chief operating officer, will lead the agency’s sales efforts.

The majority of the agency’s business in the U.S. is in corporate consulting. The only other driver it represents is Jeff Gordon. The agency has worked with Gordon since 2010 and landed him a deal with Vizio. It also works with Gordon on his businesses, which include a wine business and car dealerships.

“We’re very selective about who we take on,” Flack said. “We know what we do and we do [consulting] well, and if we’re going to step into that [property sales] world, we want to align with premium brands.”

Force, 64, is a legend in drag racing. He won 10 straight funny car championships between 1993 and 2002, and has won 15 overall since 1990. His team is a family operation with him, son-in-law Robert Hight and daughter Courtney driving funny cars, and daughter Brittany driving a top fuel car.

The funny cars are in the top 10 of the NHRA standings this year, while the top fuel car Brittany drives is ranked 13th. Force has several large sponsors that have long-term contracts with the team, including Traxxas, the Auto Club of Southern California and Mac Tools.

Force hopes the combination of his age and stardom and his daughter’s youth will persuade new brands to support the team. He said, “We’re 300 miles an hour, and we’re going to go in the board rooms and show them when you buy John Force, you get everything it takes to promote a company.”

Pepsi is mounting what it’s calling its biggest NFL marketing offensive yet. For the first time, the company will link America’s biggest sports property with all of its Pepsi-branded beverages — Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Pepsi Next and Diet Pepsi.

It also will get the first opportunity for a sponsor to market the Super Bowl Halftime concert over the entire season. That’s because Grammy-winning singer Bruno Mars was slated to be announced as the halftime headliner for Super Bowl XLVIII live in-studio during Fox’s pregame show on Sunday. Last year, Beyoncé was announced as the headliner for the halftime show in mid-October, and Madonna’s halftime appearance at Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 wasn’t official until December 2011.

Pepsi hopes to take advantage of the early announcement with five months worth of “consumer engagement opportunities” around the show. What will be billed as “Bruno Mars and Friends” will allow Pepsi to generate considerable consumer interest and Web traffic as additional artists are revealed. Consumers are also expected to be able to win access to rehearsals and other behind-the-scenes opportunities.

It is unclear if Pepsi will sign a marketing deal directly with Mars, which would then fully integrate the pop-culture phenom into Pepsi’s marketing. Pepsi was negotiating with Beyoncé last year even before she was signed to do the

Pepsi will build toward its Super Bowl halftime after heading back to football with the Giants and other team accounts.
Super Bowl.

“Super Bowl Halftime this past season generated 5 billion brand impressions,” said Adam Harter, Pepsi vice president of consumer engagement, who directs the brand’s sports and entertainment marketing. “This year, we wanted to start that conversation right at Sunday’s kickoff and take it through to the most watched musical event of the year. Announcing the halftime talent sooner extends our ability to leverage the NFL. New York is Pepsi’s home, so there are certainly high expectations here. Now, we have to deliver on those.”

Sources said that after the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium, Pepsi can opt out of its four-year halftime show sponsorship, which is separate from its leaguewide rights deal. So there’s pressure on the NFL to deliver as well.

In recent years Pepsi, an NFL corporate sponsor since 2002, has harnessed the marketing power of the NFL to tout its smaller but growing categories like Diet Pepsi and Pepsi Max, hoping to blunt Coke’s advances in those market segments.

“We’re looking to broaden our leveraging of the NFL,” said Harter. “As the property has grown and the fan base has grown, we realized we were missing an opportunity to speak to a larger percentage of that fan base. We’re trying to reach all types of fans: casual to hard-core; the male 18-to-24 drinking Pepsi Max and we also want to speak to the female NFL fans who consume Diet Pepsi, and the Hispanics that overindex against Max.”

Meanwhile, in the first year of its 10-year NFL renewal, Pepsi will have rights to players from every NFL team in uniform. A new “Are You Fan Enough?” thematic gets dedicated creative, and a Parking Lot Heroes bus tour in which fans outside of NFL venues in Baltimore, New York, New England, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Miami, Dallas, Charlotte and Jacksonville will be asked to deliver messages to their favorite teams. The best message will then be played on stadium scoreboards.

Terry Lefton
NFL quarterback turned TV analyst Steve Young is next in line for a “Journey to Comfort” spot for Unilever’s Dove Men + Care personal products line, we’re told by agent and agency sources. Young joins a litany of athletes who have helped the Dove Men + Care line gain share in the mushrooming market for male personal care products.

Since its launch in late 2009, the brand has also used athlete endorsers including Doug Flutie, Dwyane Wade, Drew Brees, Magic Johnson, Steve Nash and John Elway.

> JET-SET HOSPITALITY: Holding the country’s biggest sporting event in America’s biggest market will make demand for Super Bowl hospitality (and everything else) reach record levels long before Super Bowl XLVIII is played in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2. Super Bowl corporate hospitality is always at a premium, but such is the demand that the New York Jets are taking the unusual step of selling their own corporate hospitality during Super Bowl week, in concert with Lonny Sweet’s Connect Group, which is leasing four midtown restaurants taking more than 15,000 square feet at 33rd Street and Eighth Avenue.
It’s a bid with experiential sports marketing agency Engine Shop to attract dollars from what will certainly be the biggest market ever for Super Bowl hospitality by fashioning what he is calling “The 50-Yard Lounge.”

The Jets have reserved the entirety of Lugo Caffé, just across from Madison Square Garden, from Tuesday through game day of Super Bowl week. It will become Jets House, which the team will program and sell to corporate sponsors, media partners, suite holders and season-ticket holders.

Marc Riccio, Jets senior vice president of business development, said the team hopes to sell 1,500 or more tickets a day, with pricing to be determined. Jets House will be open from 10 a.m. until the wee, small hours.

Like the successful NFL House hospitality suite, which the league produces with SportsMark, Jets House will have player and chef appearances and concerts, and some team sponsors are expected to host private parties on-site.

“There’s a business opportunity for us and unprecedented demand from our business partners,” Riccio said. “We want to give them something that fits authentically with their team relationship.”

Jets House will be packaged with team sponsorships, and on-site branding opportunities will be available.

> RAVEN-OUS SPENDING: We’re forever fascinated by the correlation between winning and sales of marketing assets, whenever it can be quantified.

Specific to the NFL champion Baltimore Ravens, Kevin Rochlitz, vice president of corporate sales and business development, reports that in an offseason without any large deals up for renewals, sponsorship revenue increased about 10 percent. New sponsors include Procter & Gamble’s Cover Girl brand; the Royal Farms chain of convenience stores; Ashley Furniture; T. Rowe Price; Thompson Creek, the new official window company; and McCormick Spices, which is replacing Heinz as the team’s Red Zone sponsor, with radio and in-stadium assets.

Renewals included Southwest Airlines and the Maryland Lottery, which will be marketing a $2 lottery ticket for the first time.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: His noncompete clause having expired, Genesco Sports Enterprises co-founder Charlie Turano has resurfaced as an executive vice president at Randy Bernstein’s Premier Partnerships agencyin Santa Monica, Calif. “Charlie’s a guy with strong contacts at properties and brands and a great business development person for Premier,” said Bernstein, adding that he’s known Turano for more than 25 years, ever since they both worked for MISL teams. With the new position, Turano, who sold his half of Genesco in 2005, will relocate to California.

Terry Lefton can be reached at