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Volume 21 No. 1

Marketing and Sponsorship

As Bridgestone Chief Risk Officer Christine Karbowiak scanned the room during the signing ceremony for the company’s Olympic sponsorship earlier this month, she took inventory of the nationalities represented. There were Americans, Germans, Japanese, French, Koreans and people from several other nations in the room.

“It was kind of like, ‘Whoa,’” Karbowiak said. “It was really international and that was way cool.”

It was cool because global reach was exactly what Bridgestone executives wanted to get when they signed a reported $344 million deal to join the International Olympic Committee’s global sponsorship program. The Japan-based tire company had been looking for ways to raise its profile worldwide, and executives decided last year that becoming the newest member of The Olympic Partner program would be an efficient way to do that.

“To become a truly global company, you need to be able to communicate a brand message consistently,” Karbowiak said. “Looking for that platform came together at the same time [we were] having the conversations with the IOC.”

Bridgestone opened talks with the IOC last year after Tokyo, where the company is headquartered, was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics. Representatives from the company attended the 2014 Sochi Games and finalized an agreement to become the IOC’s 11th TOP sponsor, and first new worldwide sponsor since 2010.

The deal gives Bridgestone exclusivity through 2024 in three categories: tires, non-motorized bicycle categories, and seismic isolation rubber used in bridges and infrastructure. Karbowiak said the company, which also makes golf clubs and balls, discussed the golf category with the IOC, but both parties found it too complicated to include in the agreement.

“This helps us elevate the brand to a global stage,” Karbowiak said. “People in Japan know the Bridgestone brand. In the U.S., it’s getting better and things like the NFL partnership and the NHL partnership and the PGA Tour relationship have helped increase visibility. The Olympics really is a universal language and it communicates with everyone.”

Bridgestone’s worldwide exclusivity won’t kick in until 2017. For the 2016 Rio Games, it will be able to activate only in Brazil, the U.S., Korea and Japan. Karbowiak said that the company plans to spend the next two years learning how the Olympics works and testing promotions in Brazil, the U.S., Korea and Japan before debuting a global marketing program around the sponsorship in 2017.

“This is a great way to create learnings and hit it hard before the Pyeongchang Games [in 2018],” Karbowiak said.

Bridgestone plans to spend the next month determining how it will structure a marketing team to work on the TOP sponsorship. The company’s chief marketer is headquartered in Japan, but Bridgestone drew on its European and Americas marketing teams in evaluating the Olympic opportunity.

Karbowiak said the company plans to talk to the IOC and other TOP sponsors about how they have structured their marketing teams and developed effective marketing programs in the past. Bridgestone plans to promote its TOP sponsorship in 20-plus markets, including Europe, Latin America, China, India and Australia.

“We see a number of opportunities that will be measurable [in those markets],” said Karbowiak, who declined to disclose how Bridgestone will measure its return on investment. “This is a long-term investment for us. This is a 10-year opportunity. We need to be focused on making this a hallmark for building our brand on a global basis.”

Lucas Oil has signed a five-year extension of its title sponsorship of the Pro Motocross Championship, which is managed by NBC Sports.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t available. Lucas Oil has sponsored the series since 2009. Its previous deal was valued in the low seven figures annually.

The five-year sponsorship means the series will continue to be known as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

Lucas Oil will produce all TV coverage from the motocross series.

Lucas Oil will have signage and on-site activation rights at the series’ 12 races, which are held between May and September, and it will receive four 30-second commercials during 39 hours of broadcasts on NBC and NBC Sports Network (three hours on NBC and 36 hours on NBCSN).

NBC signed a separate agreement that will see it pay Lucas Oil to produce all of the TV coverage from the motocross races. Lucas Oil will produce 63 hours of coverage annually. Of that, 24 hours will air on the motorsports network that Lucas Oil owns called MavTV, which is distributed in 27 million homes.

Lucas Oil signed its initial sponsorship of the motocross series in 2009. It was the company’s first sponsorship of a two-wheel form of racing, and Lucas Oil was launching a motorcycle products line at the time.

“This has been a good property to promote that line of our business,” said Bob Pattison, Lucas Oil executive vice president. “We’ve seen significant growth in our motorcycle line, and I attribute that largely to our investment in the outdoor motocross business.”

In 2013, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship averaged 536,000 viewers over three hours on NBC and 159,000 viewers over 21 hours on NBCSN. It drew 274,764 spectators over 12 races.

In addition to sponsoring the Pro Motocross Championship, Lucas Oil sponsors the NHRA, the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, the New York Mets, Indiana Pacers, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and a host of other sports properties.

When Clint Dempsey scored 30 seconds into the USA’s first World Cup game in Brazil, you could understand why Unilever executives were celebrating as loudly as any soccer fans.

For its Degree Men deodorant brand, Unilever is not only a sponsor of U.S. Soccer, but it also has a personal services contract with Dempsey, who is appearing in the company’s broadcast and print ads throughout the tournament in Brazil.

“A bunch of us were in New York, in our Twitter war room at [agency] Weber Shandwick,” said Unilever senior brand manager Ryu Yokoi. “There’s this incredible build-up to the World Cup, and suddenly our guy, Clint, scores 30 seconds in against Ghana. I was so excited, I think I strained just about every muscle in my body. We were basically freaking out. It doesn’t get much better.”

For U.S. Soccer, which has seen its men’s national team survive group play and now advance to the Round of 16 (with a match on Tuesday), sponsorship around a World Cup has never been bigger.

“It’s exponentially bigger; there’s really no comparison,” said Dan Flynn, CEO and secretary general of U.S. Soccer, who has been with the organization for 14 years. “We have more sponsors than ever before, and they’re doing more than ever before.”

There are 20 sponsors of U.S. Soccer, from Anheuser-Busch and AT&T to Visa and Yingli Solar (see chart). If the sponsors were placing their bets on the U.S. men’s national team capturing some front- and back-page headlines along with big television ratings at the World Cup, they have been justified. The team’s second game, a 2-2 draw against Portugal, was the most-viewed soccer match ever in the United States, with 18 million viewers on ESPN and 6.5 million viewers on Univision Deportes.

(Viewership data for Thursday’s match against Germany was not available at press time, but ESPN reported that its WatchESPN service peaked at 1.7 million concurrent viewers during the match, a record for the service.)

“As much as our own expectations were extremely high, those numbers surpassed even what we anticipated,” said David Wright, senior vice president of global sponsorship for Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm that represents U.S. Soccer. “We’re happy that our sponsors are being rewarded. Whether it’s been in retail or on the ground in Brazil, they’ve been very active.”

Degree gave winning fans a chance to meet endorser Clint Dempsey.
Degree, for which Unilever signed a two-year, $4 million deal with SUM in March to sponsor the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams, hosted 11 sweepstakes winners in Brazil. The contestants won tickets to the Ghana match. Three days later, they watched practice and took part in a meet-and-greet with Dempsey at the U.S. team’s training facility in São Paulo.

After scoring the early goal, Dempsey suffered a broken nose during the opening-game win.

“Clint may have been hurting, but he posed for photos with the fans and couldn’t have been more friendly,” Yokoi said. “And then U.S. Soccer invited all of us in to see their press conferences after practice. That made it even more memorable.”

Degree also made a media buy of television spots for ESPN’s coverage of the World Cup. During “SportsCenter,” the Degree Do:More Moment spotlights an important play during that day’s action in Brazil.

“We feel like our mantra of ‘Do More’ has resonated throughout the tournament,” Yokoi said. “When you look at the humidity and all of the conditions pushing the players to the limit in Brazil, the U.S. players pushing themselves to have success has been great for our brand.”

Among other U.S. Soccer sponsor activity for the World Cup:

Mondelez International calls its “official snacks of U.S. Soccer” campaign its biggest multibrand effort ever.

Mondelez International: In what the company is touting as its biggest multibrand campaign to date, Mondelez has 40 million packages of products of its major brands like Oreo, Ritz, Trident, Honey Maid and Sour Patch Kids labeled as the “official snacks of U.S. Soccer” and featuring the hashtag #PassTheLove to promote sharing a passion for soccer. The same can be found on 17,000 retail displays in stores.

Mondelez’s current deal with U.S. Soccer continues through next year’s Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“Internally, our three goals for the U.S. Soccer sponsorship are winning in-store, selling more product, and bringing our employees together,” said Stephen Chriss, Mondelez’s senior director of U.S. media and consumer engagement, speaking last week in a phone interview from Brazil. “We’re winning in-store, with customer activation from Wal-Mart to Piggly Wiggly and everywhere in-between. The tremendous press coverage and all of the attention the U.S. team is getting from longtime and new soccer fans means we’re getting the results we wanted for our products, [and] the U.S. team being so competitive is great for our company culture. It’s been a fun time.”

More than 1,300 Mondelez employees watched the U.S.-Germany match last Thursday together at one of the company’s offices in New Jersey.

McDonald’s: His team had just conceded a last-second goal for the 2-2 draw against Portugal, but American goaltender Tim Howard had fans he wanted to acknowledge. So before heading for the locker room, Howard had the presence of mind to walk to the corner of the pitch and wave to a young group of fans and their parents.

At the start of the game, those youngsters had walked with the teams out onto the pitch as part of the McDonald’s player escort program. As a FIFA sponsor, McDonald’s has 1,408 children (1,200 from Brazil) participating in the program. As a U.S. Soccer sponsor, McDonald’s arranged for 26 kids from the United States to escort the U.S. starters at the beginning of its first two matches. The winners were randomly chosen from a national sweepstakes. Entrants had to submit an essay explaining why soccer means so much to them. The youngsters also took part in a beach soccer game in Brazil that Howard visited.

McDonald’s has a personal service agreement with the goalie.

“Tim’s humble attitude really had a positive effect on the kids,” said John Lewicki, head of global alliances for McDonald’s.

Glad: Through its parent company Clorox’s sponsorship agreement with U.S. Soccer, Glad has 1.5 million U.S. Soccer-branded packages of trash bags in supermarkets. One of its television and digital spots challenges consumers to treat its ForceFlex drawstring bags like a soccer ball. “Kick it, it can take it,” goes the narration as a bag is kicked from a kitchen to outside a family home and onto a soccer field.

Glad is activating through packaging and a sweepstakes; Century 21 (below) is a fresh renewal.
Glad is holding a sweepstakes for a post-World Cup vacation to Brazil (a trip valued at $25,000).

“A large part of our consumer target are moms who love soccer and are watching the U.S. in the World Cup with their families,” said Lin Zhao, Glad brand marketer. “This approach, supporting the U.S. team during its biggest moment and emphasizing the strength of our bags, works extremely well for us.”

Castrol: Tom Cavalli, a 39-year-old soccer fan from Willowick, Ohio, won a contest to become the Castrol Correspondent for the two weeks of group-stage play. Cavalli, who won by submitting a video professing his love for the game that was chosen in a Facebook vote as the best, attended the U.S. team’s first three matches and wrote blog entries and posted videos on the squad for Castrol’s Facebook page.

Century 21: During the first week of the World Cup, the world’s largest real estate sales organization renewed its deal with U.S. Soccer through February 2016. Century 21 is airing ads with the narrative “Based on a True Feeling,” depicting what it’s like to work with one of the company’s agents, during ESPN’s coverage of the tournament.

“It’s a perfect integration for us,” said Bev Thorne, chief marketing officer for Century 21. “The thing with home-buying and selling is that engaging in conversation is key. This World Cup has given us a lot to talk about. It started with [coach] Jurgen Klinsmann not selecting Landon Donovan, which had a lot of people talking. Then the games were fantastic and made headlines all over the country. Everyone has been watching the U.S. in the World Cup, so that has been very good for Century 21.”