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Volume 23 No. 28

Marketing and Sponsorship

In a career that has taken him from NHL player to agent and general manager, Brian Lawton’s latest endeavor is away from the ice — in the sales and technology space.


Brian Lawton
Key executives: Angelina Lawton, founder and CEO; Brian Lawton, legal adviser and board member
Employees: 21
When founded: January 2011
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Clients include: NASCAR, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Sounders FC, Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Twins, San Jose Sharks
Key product: Digideck
Product price: Starting at $25,000

Sportsdigita, a venture Lawton started with his wife, Angelina, launched in 2011. Since then, behind a sponsorship sales platform called Digideck, Sportsdigita has won clients in every major pro league and quadrupled its sales over the last year into the low seven figures.

“It’s another chapter,” said the 48-year-old Lawton, the former Minnesota North Stars center who later sold his player agency to Octagon in 1998, served as Octagon’s managing director of hockey, and went on to become general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2008 to 2010. “I handle the contracts and legal work and sit in when I can as a member of our board, but all the creativity and the bulk of the work comes from Angelina.”

The Digideck product, which sells for $25,000 and up, is an interactive alternative to a traditional presentation like PowerPoint. It allows for the inclusion of motion graphics and video and creates 360-degree panoramas of in-venue sponsor inventory.

Sportsdigita sells Digideck to teams and leagues, who then use it in their respective sales pitches to prospective sponsors. The platform enables those targeted companies to see what their brands would look like as game-day signage.

Sportsdigita’s Digideck allows for motion graphics, video in sales presentations.
Among the 25 teams that have purchased Digideck are the Cincinnati Reds, Dallas Mavericks, Colorado Avalanche, San Diego Chargers and Seattle Sounders FC. NASCAR and Michael Waltrip Racing also are clients.

“Digideck helped us move to a digital process and upgraded our overall look,” said George Killebrew, Mavericks executive vice president of sponsorships. “It also increased the speed that our salespeople could generate and deliver a proposal to a prospect.”

Angelina Lawton came up with the concept for Digideck while working two years as senior vice president of corporate communications with the Lightning at a time when Brian also was with the team.

“One of my jobs was to craft the sponsorship pitches, and I always thought there had to be a better way if you had the resources to make the pitches more interactive and exciting,” Angelina Lawton said. “When Brian’s time in Tampa Bay was done, I thought I could bring the idea to life.”

Companies such as Iomedia, which has its Virtual Venue product for the New York Yankees and Knicks and other teams, produce platforms with 360-degree panoramas of stadiums and arenas to help fans choose seat locations. The sponsorship sales platform produced by Sportsdigita is more rare.

Sportsdigita opened in January 2011 with three employees and now has 21. Former Minnesota Twins executive Brock Maiser is the senior vice president of sales. Digideck is sold as a three-year package, which includes round-the-clock service and support by the Sportsdigita staff. The company also has developed eBrochure, a ticketing platform that lets teams provide season-ticket holders with an interactive portal to personalize their buying experience. It has been purchased by the Colorado Rockies, Dallas Stars and Columbus Crew.

Terry Lefton
Over the 16 years of its “Mama’s Boy” TV campaign for Chunky soup, longtime NFL sponsor Campbell’s has sometimes employed real moms of NFL players and other times used actresses. Last year’s Chunky soup ads with New York Giants wide receiver/salsa dancer Victor Cruz used a bogus mom and grandmother for the player. This year’s ads with Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews entering a “momcave” behind his locker also do not include his genuine mother, Leslie Matthews.

This is either a pity or an outrage, depending on how well you know the NFL lineage of the Matthews family. The remarkable truth: Six Matthews across threegenerations have earned NFL paychecks.

Clay Matthews Sr. was a defensive lineman in the 1950s for the San Francisco 49ers. His sons also played in the NFL: Clay Matthews

Jr. was a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns and others; Bruce Matthews was an offensive lineman for Tennessee and Houston and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Bruce’s son, Kevin, was undrafted but played three seasons for Tennessee. Clay Matthews III is the current Packers star, and his brother, Casey Matthews, plays linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles.

We won’t even get into Kevin’s two younger brothers, who play on the offensive line at Texas A&M.

Do we detect a pattern here? Certainly. Yet some marketing genius at Campbell’s, or possibly ad agency Y&R, decided a genuine mother from what could be described as the

The “mom” with Clay Matthews in the spot is an actress, not his real mother, Leslie.
first family of the NFL was unfit for service as a Chunky NFL spokesmom.

Campbell’s spokeswoman Megan Haney acknowledged an actress was playing the role of Matthews’ mom this year and said, “For many years, we have used an actress to play the role of ‘mom’ for the Mama’s Boy campaign. … We remain consistent in our approach this year.”

By way of reparations, NFL sources tell us there is talk of employing authentic mom Matthews in appearances for Campbell’s “Sacks For Soups” cause-related program, which donates thousands of cans of soup to food banks for each sack by the currently injured Matthews III.

We know of at least one case (former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb) in which an actress playing a mom was eventually replaced by the bona fide mother. Here’s hoping they fix the recipe next year.

> NET GAIN: With an influx of talent joining the Brooklyn Nets, including Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Kidd, the last of whom signed on as coach, fans are expecting a playoff run this year, and sponsors are ponying up. Ad rates for the team’s broadcasts on YES Network are up, and the net is carrying five preseason games instead of its usual complement of two. There will be 76 regular-season games telecast on YES, the same as last season.

“We’re ahead of last year’s fourth-quarter [total as of] now,” said Howard Levinson, the network’s senior vice president of ad sales. “If you look at this calendar year, we should have our best Nets year ever. Looking at the 2013-14 season, we are tracking to have our best season ever.”

Autos, including Honda, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Cadillac, Dodge, Chrysler, Chevy, Ford and BMW lead the way, and represent between 33 percent and 40 percent of the sales pie. Other larger advertisers are pregame and postgame sponsor Verizon, Barclays, McDonald’s, KFC, Empire State Development, MetroPCS and MillerCoors.

> DROPPING A DIME: The annual March of Dimes Sports Luncheon, which is the sports industry’s most attended industry event at 700 people, returns to the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on Dec. 4. MLB all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera and WNBA star Skylar Diggins will be honored as Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year.

Jon Miller, president, programming, NBC Sports, will receive the Corporate Leadership Award, while Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark will get the Sports Leadership Award. Luncheon sponsors include Allstate, as presenting sponsor; Anheuser-Busch as luncheon sponsor; along with HBO Sports, MLB, MSG, NFL, NHL, NBA/WNBA, MLS, U.S. Tennis Association, WWE, NBC Sports Group, SportsNet New York/New York Mets, Turner Sports, YES Network, Brooklyn Nets, CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Lagardère, and the USA Today Sports Media Group.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: Todd Fischer, State Farm manager of marketing communications, is leaving the insurer after five years to rejoin GMR Marketing at the agency headquarters in Milwaukee as vice president of client management. Fischer worked at GMR for three-plus years before joining State Farm, and his agency experience also includes stints at Zipatoni and Arc Worldwide. … Former ESPNer Ed Willett is joining WGT Media as vice president sales and sponsorships from a newly established Manhattan office representing World Golf Tour, WGT Golf and WGT Baseball. Willett has been vice president, business development, at the LPGA since 2011. … Former NBA and NHL marketer Ken Rosen has joined SME Branding, New York, to establish a new video production department. Rosen was last with Madison Avenue Sports. … Danielle DeLancey has joined the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl Host Committee as chief of staff for CEO Keith Bruce. DeLancey last served as director on the bid committee for Super Bowl L, coming to the Bay Area in 2016.

Terry Lefton can be reached at