Wal-Mart has signed a massive deal with the Oak View Group, giving the world’s biggest retailer a major marketing presence at 21 big league arenas, stretching from Sacramento to Fort Lauderdale.
The agreement is valued in the eight figures annually, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the deal, with one putting it at $40 million over three years.
It is especially significant considering Wal-Mart has not historically been a big player in sports marketing. It also stands out for its scope, reaching 70 million people a year who pass through those NBA and NHL facilities, Oak View Group officials said.
|TD Garden is among the arenas included in the deal.
“This is the first step for Wal-Mart into this space,” said Dan Griffis, co-owner of Oak View Group and head of Narrative, OVG’s sales agency. “They liked the national platform with buildings in the top 25 [markets]. There is one contract and it provides economies of scale.”
It’s Narrative’s first national sponsorship deal after Oak View Group was formed 16 months ago, and facilities include two-team arenas Madison Square Garden, United Center, American Airlines Center, TD Garden, Wells Fargo Center and Verizon Center, all of which as part of this deal now feature Wal-Mart as their “official big box retailer.”
The deal comes as the Bentonville, Ark.-based company revamps its marketing and brand positioning. Its activation will center on “Walmart Community Playmakers,” a new program recognizing local residents who have given back through education, fighting hunger and sustainability, among other efforts.
All 21 arenas will host at least 15 events with in-game “Playmakers” presentations over the course of the hockey and basketball seasons. Some teams have already launched that activation as their regular seasons wind down in the NBA and NHL.
The participating arenas are members of the Arena Alliance, 26 buildings that pay Oak View Group an annual fee to secure events and sponsorships at their venues, among other services. Sports and entertainment entrepreneur Tim Leiweke and music executive Irving Azoff formed OVG in 2015.
“It’s the first time that we as an industry have taken advantage of aggregating all the real estate in arenas,” said Peter Luukko, executive chairman of the Florida Panthers and an investor in Oak View Group. “There are big brands that do a lot of national advertising but aren’t looking to do one-offs, even if it’s L.A., New York and Chicago. We’ve made it a national buy.”
Members of the Arena Alliance acknowledge it would have been difficult to sign Wal-Mart on their own.
“It would have been impossible,” said Bruce Popko, chief operating officer for Pegula Sports and Entertainment, parent company of the Buffalo Sabres. “For us, it’s cool because we get to play with the bigger markets and still be part of the overall activation.”
At the Sabres’ KeyBank Center, six support columns on the main concourse will be wrapped with Wal-Mart branding.
|Wal-Mart’s activation will center on its program that recognizes local residents for giving back.
Five members of the alliance — arenas in Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, San Antonio and Toronto — had conflicts with sponsors holding exclusive deals in a similar category and are not part of the Wal-Mart deal, Griffis said.
Wal-Mart officials declined to comment on the agreement.
While details are still being worked out, in most cases, Wal-Mart can use team and arena marks in its stores in the respective markets.
The centerpiece focuses on the “Playmakers,” where individuals will be honored after being selected by the teams and venues in each market through fan submissions at a custom Wal-Mart website. “Playmakers” receive tickets to the game, a Wal-Mart gift card and a plaque commemorating their contribution to the community.
The “Playmakers” presentations offer Wal-Mart digital moments of exclusivity on center-hung scoreboards, courtside signs and LED ribbon boards in the seating bowl.
The move builds off what many teams are doing to recognize local residents going above and beyond.
|The deal extends to the Reno (Nev.) Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings’ D-League team.
In Sacramento, for example, the Wal-Mart deal extends to the Reno (Nev.) Bighorns, the Kings’ D-League team. The retailer has its brand on the team jerseys, extending its activation outside of northern California, Kings President Chris Granger said.
The deal follows a shift in Wal-Mart’s marketing strategy as the retail giant continues to overhaul its stores and upgrades merchandise, in addition to improving its online and e-commerce operation.
“They’re trying to change people’s perceptions of them and it starts with a dialogue on culture,” Griffis said. “And any time they can step up the competition against Amazon, it’s in their best interests.”
Griffis approached Wal-Mart in October with a proposal and worked on the deal with Wal-Mart consultant Michael Francis, his former boss at Target Stores, and Gary Tobey, CEO of Haworth Marketing & Media, the agency Wal-Mart recently hired to pursue strategic partnerships in media and entertainment. The contract was signed in February, four months after the talks began.