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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

Last December, executives with the Chicago-based consultancy Wunderman sat down to write a promotional plan for client AARP should its driver, Jeff Gordon, qualify for NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.

In years past, the Chase plan would remain on a shelf until late July or August when the Chase drivers would be determined. But this year, Wunderman pulled the plan out in May after Gordon won a race, which automatically qualified him for NASCAR’s new, 16-driver Chase. The win gave AARP a two-month head start in planning food drives and other promotional activities during the Chase, which begins Sept. 14.

“We were able to start thinking about [the AARP Drive to End Hunger Platform] with more confidence than ever before,” said Dan Richlen, Wunderman’s senior vice president of group accounts. “It’s been a big help.”

AARP’s ability to make its promotional plans earlier than in years past was one of the things NASCAR hoped would happen when it overhauled its Chase format before the 2014 season and created a system in which drivers who win “regular-season” races qualify for the “postseason.” By giving marketers more lead time to develop promotions, it hoped there would be more marketing around the Chase and the additional marketing would increase awareness of it.

So far, the results are mixed.

With less than a month to go before the Chase, 12 drivers had won races and locked a spot in the postseason. Four of those drivers’ primary sponsors said the change had helped promotional plans (Shell-Pennzoil, AARP, Miller Lite and FedEx), four said it hadn’t affected planning (Budweiser, Lowe’s, M&M’s, National Guard) and three sponsors are new to the Chase (Haas Automation, Smithfield and JTG Daugherty Racing’s Clorox, Kingsford, Scott and others).

Representatives with Roush Fenway Racing, which works with Fastenal, didn’t return calls for comment.

Miller Lite, which sponsors the No. 2 car driven by Brad Keselowski, adjusted its marketing plan for this season after he won a race in April. The brand planned to roll out a series of videos this summer that featured Keselowski answering fan questions as “Bartender Brad,” a seasoned barkeep with feedback on everything from his favorite celebrity couple to how long to shake shaving cream before using it. But after Keselowski qualified for the Chase, it postponed the release and plans to launch the series during the week of the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway.

“With this new format, we know there will be additional engagement from avid and casual fans,” said Adam Dettman, MillerCoors director of sports and entertainment marketing. “Knowing the attention will be there in a major market like Chicago and knowing the league [NASCAR] will be there with its resources, it’s a great platform to launch our content and amplify awareness of it.”

Shell-Pennzoil, which sponsors the No. 22 driven by Joey Logano, began planning its Chase promotions six weeks earlier than it has in previous years. The company plans to have digital advertising and online marketing that highlight Logano’s presence in the Chase.

Shell will do about the same amount of promotions as it’s done in years past because the budget will be the same, said Heidi Massey-Bong, Shell’s director of NASCAR. She hopes the company will be able to do more promotions next year during the Chase now that NASCAR has shifted to a format where race winners qualify.

“I would hope we would activate stronger,” Massey-Bong said. “From a retail perspective next year, we will be promoting motorsports, stronger, bigger and better.”

While those companies have seen benefits from being able to make plans earlier, a host of marketers said the new format hasn’t changed their plans and shouldn’t change how companies approach the Chase.

Team Epic Principal Dave Grant said that he advises all of the firm’s clients to make annual marketing plans that are “performance proof” and not determined by results on the track. The agency then works with clients such as FedEx, the sponsor of the No. 11 car driven by Denny Hamlin, to develop supplemental plans that can be used if there is success on the track.

“The change — win and you’re in — doesn’t impact us,” Grant said. “Does it help partners know a little earlier they’re in the Chase? Sure, but we don’t think preparing plans dependent on success is a smart move for anyone.”

Competitor Group, owner of the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, has signed a deal with Mazda, making the auto manufacturer an official partner for all North American races.

The deal is valued in the mid-to-high six-figure range and runs through this year’s final 12 North American events. It includes all 24 North American Rock ’n’ Roll events in 2015.

The deal represents a step forward for Competitor Group, which had been without a serieswide auto sponsor since 2011, when Dodge chose not renew. Competitor Group brought Mazda into the Rock ’n’ Roll events in 2013 for a four-race trial sponsorship, and the carmaker recently expanded to a full series sponsorship this summer.

“It is a big commitment from a big company,” said David Abeles, CEO of Competitor Group. “I think it further validates the visibility and access of our races.”

Mazda will activate at all 24 North American Rock ’n’ Roll events, and the auto company will receive advertising space across Competitor Group’s various digital and print media assets, which include Competitor Magazine and

Mazda’s activation includes the creation of a team of amateur athletes who will participate in the races, as well as a partnership with running personality Dorothy Beal. Beal operates the popular “Mile Posts” running blog.

Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Mazda, said the partnership allows Mazda to meet customers within their “passion points.”

The deal comes amid a strategy shift for the Rock ’n’ Roll series, which traditionally has included single-day marathon and half-marathon races. The series is expanding each race into a multiday running festival that includes shorter 5K and 10K races, as well as concerts and a running expo.

Abeles said the introduction of shorter races and other events is part of the company’s goal to expand beyond hard-core runners.

“We want to provide an experience for friends and family of our [marathon] runners,” Abeles said. “Our events are for everyone now.”

The series will debut its new festival format at the Nov. 16 Rock ’n’ Roll marathon in Las Vegas. The SLS Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is the presenting sponsor of the 5K race there. Six other Rock ’n’ Roll races will boast the festival format in 2014, with the entire 24-race North American series switching to the format in 2015.

Bill Pedigo, chief revenue officer for Competitor Group, said the expansion is not changing the company’s core sponsorship strategy. While the expanded events will create new assets, he said the company’s priority is still to sell serieswide sponsorships to mainstream brands.

“We’re not seeing these [shorter events] as new inventory to sell, but opportunities to engage partners in a deeper way,” Pedigo said. “We want fewer partners who are really invested in the series.”

But Pedigo said the company would sell one-off sponsorships at the events, depending on the level of interest within the marketplace.

“There will be some markets that are unique,” he said.

Fred Dreier is a writer in Colorado.

“Madden NFL 15,” the flagship annual football video game for EA Sports set for release Tuesday, will have a digitally focused marketing plan for the first time, centering on a 3 1/2-minute video starring actors Kevin Hart and Dave Franco.

The football gaming franchise, now in its 26th year, is undergoing major changes as EA Sports parent Electronic Arts transitions from much less of a packaged goods company to one focused on year-round digital entertainment services. As a result, digital will have a dominant share of the launch marketing budget for “Madden,” traditionally one of the industry’s top-selling sports gaming titles with about 5 million units in annual sales. It’s all part of EA Sports’ effort to seek out digitally native consumers on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and mobile.

The video with Hart and Franco, titled “Madden Season,” also features several NFL players, including “Madden NFL 15” cover athlete and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. The video focuses on the theme of vengefulness and how “Madden” turns longtime friends into rivals. The long-form version was cut into several shorter versions to be used on social channels, EA Sports’ website and ESPN platforms.

“Shifting to digital like we are allows us to reach our consumers in a much more engaged state,” said Anthony Stevenson, EA Sports vice president of global marketing and brand. “Digital, specifically this video, is really the heartbeat of our campaign this year. It also allows us to be much more targeted in who we’re reaching, how we’re reaching them, and when, over the course of the entire year.”

To that end, the “Madden” release this week will not carry the same upfront marketing blitz as in past years, and activation will be spaced out more during the next year. Among the specific changes is the discontinuation of the “Madden NFL Pigskin Pro-Am,” a flag football event featuring retired stars and Hollywood celebrities that was televised nationally and was used as a prominent marketing vehicle to herald the release of “Madden.”

“Nobody loved the Pro-Am more than me, but when we’re thinking about marketing budget for ‘Madden,’ it used to be that 75, 80 percent of that was
A 3 1/2-minute video starring Kevin Hart and Dave Franco as friends turned Madden foes will be split into shorter versions for social media channels, EA Sports’ website and ESPN platforms.
spent at launch, and things like the Pro-Am were part of that,” Stevenson said. “We’re really a live services business now, and that requires live service marketing and tools that allow us to attract a new audience, a younger audience.”

EA Sports executives declined to detail the marketing budget for “Madden.” Traditionally, the company’s spend has hovered in the low eight figures annually. Stevenson said this year’s figure is similar, but with the transition to digital and the heavy use of corporate partners such as ESPN and Microsoft for co-promotional activities “we’re much more efficient than we have been,” he said.

Sherman earlier this year prevailed in a “Madden” cover vote campaign that started later than usual to align with the league’s new offseason schedule. Continuing the youth-driven theme for “Madden,” none of the 16 players who were candidates for the cover were older than 27.

“Madden NFL 15” will be released on the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

Yonex has agreed to re-sign Stanislas Wawrinka to a deal that is the most lucrative contract in the Japanese company’s history.

Wawrinka will earn nearly $20 million.
The agreement, which covers sneakers, apparel and racket, stretches through 2018 and will pay Wawrinka nearly $20 million, a well-placed tennis source said. And while the value of a tennis deal typically depends on the player’s performance, at least in part, the source said the money in this deal is guaranteed.

Wawrinka has played with and worn Yonex the last four years. During that time, the Swiss player has emerged from his countryman Roger Federer’s shadow, overtaking him at one point in the worldwide rankings and winning the Australian Open this year for his first Grand Slam title.

Yonex is one of the few companies to offer both rackets and apparel to pros.
Wawrinka’s agency, StarWing Sports, declined to comment. Taka Hamaura, Yonex’s representative for European players, wrote in an email, “We cannot comment now, but we will confirm soon.”

The deal was awaiting signatures last week.

Talking about sports sponsorship makes Dick Yuengling uncomfortable.

The owner of the privately held beer company shoved his hands in the pockets of his loose-fitting blue jeans and looked at the floor as he tried to explain why his company is sponsoring Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 Nationwide Series car driven by Ty Dillon this season.

“Meeting the [Childress] family and how genuine they are and how much they’re behind the brand and the exposure they give you — we decided, ‘We’re going to give this thing a try and see how it works out,’” he said.

Happy family (from left): Nationwide driver Ty Dillon, D.G. Yuengling & Son owner Dick Yuengling and team owner Richard Childress at Yuengling’s headquarters.

The one-year, seven-figure deal is the largest single marketing expense in the company’s history — and its first sports sponsorship. The regional brewer, which is distributed in 18 states, historically left the high-cost world of sports sponsorship to big beer brands like Budweiser and Coors, but as Yuengling looked to raise the profile of its new Yuengling Light brand, it turned to RCR for help.

Ty’s brother Austin Dillon and Childress celebrate Yuengling’s first NASCAR victory, at a truck race Aug. 2.

It’s a deal that didn’t come easy to Dick Yuengling. The pennywise billionaire drove a 2002 Ford Taurus until the transmission went out, and he used tight operations — not marketing — to transform the company from a small operation making 130,000 barrels of beer a year across eight states into a regional distributor selling nearly 3 million barrels across 18 states.

The Yuengling Light brand has been the primary sponsor for only three races this season, but Dick Yuengling is pleased with the results so far. Wholesalers in Daytona Beach, Fla., saw a 13 percent increase during Speedweeks in February, and those in Bristol, Tenn., which hosted a race in March, saw a 12 percent uptick in sales.

The company still has five races to sponsor, but it already is completing a deal to be a primary sponsor next year of Dillon for eight Nationwide Series races and a Sprint Cup race at Pocono Raceway, which is 50 miles from Yuengling’s headquarters in Pottsville, Pa.

“The feedback we get from consumers is all positive,” Dick Yuengling said. “They like racing. They’re enthusiastic about it. They’re proud to see they’re drinking a beer on the side of a car. These people [RCR] are quality people and that doesn’t hurt, either.”

That’s part of what convinced the marketing team at Yuengling & Son to consider RCR’s sponsorship proposal. Over the years, the company had rejected sponsorship pitches from MLS, the Philadelphia Eagles and several NASCAR teams. But the pitch from RCR came as the company was wrestling with how to increase awareness of Yuengling Light.

Former Yuengling marketing executive Lou Romano received an unsolicited email in the spring of 2013 from RCR sales executive Joanne Stewart. He was a fan of Dale Earnhardt, who drove for RCR, and had been reading about how the team was losing longtime beer sponsor Budweiser. Romano saw an opportunity there but told Stewart not to be optimistic.

The likelihood a deal would happen was low. There was no precedent at Yuengling for sports sponsorship, and Romano had to find money in the marketing budget to fund it and make sure RCR was the right fit.

It was the last piece that was the easiest to determine, and it played a major role in persuading Dick Yuengling to sign on to sponsor the team.

Both Dick Yuengling and Richard Childress are blue-collar, American success stories. Yuengling bought Yuengling & Son from his father in 1985 and built it into a billion-dollar company. Childress started a race team with $20 in the 1960s and turned it into a $150 million operation.

Their respective business success helped push the deal through.

“The more we learned about RCR, the more we felt they were right,” said Wendy Yuengling Baker, who oversees operations at the company. “They say there’s a lot of parallels between their Richard and our Richard.”

Those parallels were on display earlier this month when Childress and Dillon visited Pottsville to sign autographs at a street fair outside Yuengling & Son’s original brewery.

The brewery was founded in the 1820s by Dick Yuengling’s great-great-grandfather, a German immigrant who set up in Pottsville because of its coal mining industry. The company still operates out of the same brick building it built in 1831. The building backs into a hill on the edge of town, and a line of nearly 400 people formed to collect autographs from Childress and Dillon. It was more than double the number of people who showed up in years past when Yuengling brought in former Philadelphia Phillies players.

Afterward, Dick Yuengling and his daughters, Wendy and Jennifer, took Childress and Dillon upstairs to the brewmaster’s office for beers. They poured a pitcher of Yuengling from the nearby sampling room and toasted Dillon’s first Nationwide Series victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month and Yuengling’s first NASCAR victory, which came earlier this month in a truck race at Pocono, where Ty’s brother, Austin, won in an RCR entry.

Wendy asked Dillon when he started racing.

“‘Pop Pop,’” he said of Childress, “told us that whenever we wanted to start racing to just tell him. I was 13 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and I saw a bunch of kids younger than me racing go-karts. I called him after that.”

“Did you go away to school or just focus on racing?” Jennifer asked.

“I finished high school and then started High Point University,” he said. “I want to go back one day and finish for sure.”

“Me, too,” Dick Yuengling said.

Childress blushed and looked at the floor.

“I hate to say it, but I didn’t finish high school,” Childress said. “I’m not proud of it, but it’s something I had to do back when I was a kid. My dad died when I was 5.”

Dick Yuengling and Richard Childress nodded at each other and finished their beers. Then the self-taught and self-made men shook hands before Childress and Dillon turned to leave.

“Thank you for all you do for us,” Childress said.

“We want to thank you, too,” Dick Yuengling said. “You’re a wonderful family.”