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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

Terry Lefton
Maybe all the NFL licensees on the floor of the Las Vegas Convention Center would have made more profitable use of their time at the sports books on the nearby Strip, because they were clearly clairvoyant. Seattle and Denver, the two teams every licensee was touting as being the best matchup for licensing sales, were indeed the Super Bowl finalists.

What we didn’t realize until the show was in addition to being a front-running team all year, Seahawks-branded merchandise has been selling well all year — and not just in the Pacific Northwest, but across the country. We talked to retailers from Texas, Chicago and Florida who all said they’ve been unable to get sufficient Seahawks merchandise all season long. Of course, one reason was the team’s stellar record from the beginning of the season (an 11-1 start), but in addition, the Seahawks’ neon green color, sort of an electric lime, has been trending nationally. At the show, you could find that vivid shade on everything from New Era ski caps to Tervis tumblers.

Licensees said Seahawks-branded merchandise has been selling well all year.
All photos by: TERRY LEFTON / STAFF
“Seattle’s obviously new to the party, but they really have started to get some national appeal,” said John Sabo, Fanatics senior vice president and general manager.

“Denver had a big year last year, but Seattle has really grown this year as a national property,” said Leo Kane, NFL senior vice president of consumer products. “If the Seahawks were to win, they’d be at the top of the [sales] list, which doesn’t usually happen to teams that don’t have multiple championships.”

For fall, New Era was looking to extend the spectacular two-season success of its NFL knit caps by selling a Seahawks pom-cap with the unexpected fashion twist — turquoise blue and pink, and decorated with palm trees (see photo).

“That ‘action green’ colorway is blowing out everywhere,” said Stu Domanowski, New Era director of fan gear.

While most licensees were hopeful that New England would not return to the championship in fear of consumer burnout, in the Pacific Northwest, “Fans are starving up there more than most cities, so the retailers there have been jumping on board,” said Marck Brock of Hunter Manufacturing, which was showing licensed ceramic and hard plastic versions of the traditional red plastic Solo cup, long a tailgating standard.
> NO VIDEO CHANNEL: An unexpected result of the lawsuit settlement between former collegiate athletes and EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co. has been that IMG’s CLC has been left without a video-game licensee for 2014 — the first time in 21 years it won’t have an NCAA-licensed console game. Considering that at one point, video games were the largest individual CLC category and Electronic Arts was CLC’s largest licensee, “that’s a considerable revenue void, so we’re shopping hard for a new licensee there,” said Dave Kirkpatrick, CLC vice president of non-apparel marketing, who added that CLC growth should come from licensing the marks for the developing college football playoff system.

The Stanley Cup-designed popcorn popper has been a hot seller.
Outside of video games, hard-goods sales grew 4 percent last year, he said, led by collectibles (up 53 percent), footwear (up 15 percent), housewares and sporting goods.
> CUP CRAZY: When we first spotted Pangea Brands’ popcorn maker fashioned after a Stanley Cup at the NHL’s licensing show this summer, we thought it had a great chance to catch on as a novelty, but wondered about its $99 price tag. Turns out that was no barrier for consumers seeking the perfect holiday gift for hockey fans.

Pangea’s Jeremy Kelley said his company sold a million dollars worth of Stanley Cup poppers over the last  two months of 2013. Of course, that’s already made Pangea think about other Stanley Cup products. Sure enough, up next from the company that brought you the Pro Toast sports logo toaster is a Bluetooth speaker fashioned after the NHL’s championship trophy and using the same mold as the popper.

While the popularity of “man caves,” in which  the requisite giant HDTV is surrounded by licensed products and  sports memorabilia is well documented, a plethora of products at the show showed us that now signs marking the territory are de rigueur.

Licensed “Man Cave”  and “Kid Cave” signs  were everywhere, including the always-fetching retro designs from Winning Streak Sports, the heavy-gauge metal from Authentic Street Signs, and WinCraft’s endless variety of hard goods.

Turns out all those placards have restrictions from various properties on their sign language. Trying to avoid confusion with its Fan Cave in New York City, MLB had told its licensees for the past few years that it would not license “Fan Cave.” Now sign makers have permission, but the signs must include the words “Fan Cave” along with “Man Cave,” which seems just to add confusion.

Meanwhile, MLB and other properties will allow signs proclaiming the “Nations” of the Red Sox, Yankees and whichever. However, if you’re an NFL licensee, the only allowable “nation” is for the Oakland Raiders.

Game Face is hoping fans will go for their “full face tattoo,” while Hunter offers a fold-up pet bowl.
> LICENSING LINES: Sunglasses have joined cellphone accessories as the most overlicensed items at the show. The NFL has started to shed cellphone accessory licenses, so we assume that means others will follow. With many of the cellphone cases stressing fashion over function, they have become more like T-shirts. We continue to like Mizco’s offerings in this area, and as noted they were among the first to market with licensed “Power bank” backup cell batteries, and Bluetooth speakers. … Winners of the “never seen a license on that before” award go to NFL-licensed Steel Cubes’ “freezable metal ice cube replacement,” the fold-up pet bowl from Hunter, and Game Face’s temporary “full face tattoo,” which grew out of a “Shark Tank” investment by Mark Cuban.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

Toyota has renewed its sponsorship of BASS with a deal running through 2017 and extending across the individual tournaments that make up the organizing group’s annual calendar.

Financial terms of the deal were not available.

Toyota has been a BASS sponsor since 2004. Its most recent deal dated to 2011.

Dionne Colvin-Lovely, national media marketing manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc., cited the dynamic of the sport and its audience as a reason for the continued relationship.

“We’ve learned that there’s a family aspect to the sport,” she said, noting how BASS provides Toyota with a platform to showcase not only its full-sized pickups like the Tundra, but also its sedans, such as the Camry. “It’s a true example of a 360-[degree] approach.”

The renewal includes a prize money increase for the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year purse, which is allocated based on points at season’s end among the top 50 anglers in the Bassmaster Elite Series. The purse last year was $685,000. It increases to $900,000 this year and $1 million in 2015.

Toyota’s sponsorship additionally covers the Bonus Bucks team tournament, which targets amateur anglers.

“We’re always looking for ways to be innovative in the space, and this is one way we’re able to do that,” said Jim Baudino, engagement marketing manager at Toyota.

BASS CEO Bruce Akin said his sport’s “brand-loyal fans” were a factor in the renewal. “[Toyota] is at every event,” he said. “They leave a big footprint, and the Bassmaster fan has really taken to the partnership.”

The BASS deal is part of a deep sponsorship roster for Toyota that includes facility naming rights; individual clubs across both major and minor leagues in team sports; and college athletic programs. Additionally, among its other niche partnerships, Toyota this year is unveiling a program called the Toyota Triple Challenge with its sponsorship of supercross. The program calls for the packaging of three races — in Anaheim, Dallas and New York — and if one rider wins all three races, that person will win $250,000 and a Tundra.

Similar to BASS, the supercross relationship “is relevant for our truck, youth and family target,” Baudino said.