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Volume 20 No. 42
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Card players: Panini to present NFLPA college all-star game

Terry Lefton
While its parent company is Italian, trading-card marketer Panini America is putting its name on one of the most American of institutions — a bowl game.

Panini has signed on as presenting sponsor of the NFL Players Association’s Collegiate Bowl, in which draft-eligible college football players showcase their talents in an amorphous “National vs. American” format. Collegiate Bowl III will be played at 6 p.m. ET Jan. 18 at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., and televised on ESPN2.

Under the deal, Panini gets in-game branding, including venue signage, uniform patches and signs on the playing field and goal posts, as well as integration into the coin toss and postgame awards presentation. There also will be integration into the weeklong buildup of events, as well as marketing, advertising, online and social media activations.

“Our player relationships, even before they start competing in the NFL, are critical to building product and our business, and this is a nice way to start those relationships early and get the brand out there,” said Panini America CEO Mark Warsop. “With the NFL portion of our business growing, we want to gather player assets and use them to extend the window and eventually have NFL product on the shelves 12 months out of the year.”

Other sponsors of the Collegiate Bowl include EA Sports, Fandeavor, Gatorade, Nike and PrimeSport.

> POUR IT ON: Anheuser-Busch has renewed its sponsorship deal with the Cleveland Browns and FirstEnergy Stadium. Earlier this year, the Browns unveiled plans for $120 million in renovations scheduled to be completed over the next two years at their home field, and A-B will be a big part of that, with a branded Bud Light party deck similar to ones it has at other sports venues across America.

Sources said the agreement was for five years. In addition to serving as the beer sponsor of the NFL, A-B has local sponsorship agreements of varying size and exclusivity with 28 of the 32 NFL teams.

> SPORTS MEDICINE: New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery is teaming with IMG for therapy and medical research programs. Under the new program, Hospital for Special Surgery will operate a sports therapy facility at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. The hospital also will offer medical services to the athletes, coaches and sports organizations represented by IMG and its employees.

IMG and the hospital also hope to determine protocols for injury prevention and collaborate on research leading to injury prevention and recovery among high-performing athletes. In addition, they hope to create education and training programs, including professional education conferences at IMG Academy for physical therapists, trainers and other sports performance specialists.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: Chief Marketing Officer Bill Sanders leaves BDA Sports Management after 15 years to launch a personal brand management department within PR firm PMK BNC in Los Angeles. Sanders called his parting with BDA “very amicable” and noted that he will still work with longtime BDA client Yao Ming along with “a variety of entertainment and sports clients. PR for people is like marketing for corporate brands,” he said. “There’s always a need.” … Former Philadelphia Eagles Chief Marketing Officer Tim McDermott returns to South Philadelphia with the same title for the Philadelphia 76ers, about a year after leaving the NFL team, and after a brief stop as CMO with conservation advocacy group Trout Unlimited. The CMO gig with the Eagles was McDermott’s second tour of duty with the team, and he was also CMO at the Washington Capitals and held sales and marketing titles with the San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars. … Steve Violetta to CEO of the Staten Island Yankees, in a placement by Scott Carmichael’s Prodigy Sports. He has held executive positions with the San Diego Padres, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Terry Lefton can be reached at