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Volume 20 No. 42

Marketing and Sponsorship

There’s little that NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn’t done in the business side of sports, but one thing lacking was outside representation. As his retirement from full-time driving beckons, though, that’s about to change.

After an extensive review, Earnhardt has signed a deal with WME, which his current management team hopes will help him capitalize on his brand in ways they can’t.

The deal, which will see WME assist Earnhardt in his various off-track business ventures, will be announced this week but already started quietly in the last few weeks.

“We’ve been looking at what life looks like after racing, and Dale has sort of been getting straight in his head with that, too. We’ve done his representation in house for so many years — and Dale and I had that conversation about, ‘What would outside representation look like?’” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owner, vice president and general manager of JR Motorsports, the NASCAR Xfinity Series team she co-owns alongside Earnhardt and auto titan Rick Hendrick. “Through the interview process, [Earnhardt’s team learned that]there’s a lot more out there that my group doesn’t touch. The main thing to me is just the contacts and the Rolodex that they bring.”

This is Earnhardt’s final year in NASCAR’s top series.
Earnhardt’s internal team — which also includes Mike Davis, managing director of brand and digital media, and Tony Mayhoff, director of brand marketing and partnerships — will continue to manage Earnhardt’s many businesses. But WME will consult on how to increase existing revenue streams and help the 42-year-old build new ones.

Earnhardt’s team decided about a year ago to look into outside representation and requested proposals from agencies that would help them do a full review of his brand for the first time. But after speaking with three finalists and landing on WME, Earnhardt’s team decided to expand upon the brand review and make the partnership more comprehensive.

The structure of the relationship is based off of commission, and the financial split from new deals will be figured out on a case-by-case basis, Earnhardt’s team said.

WME declined to comment.

Earnhardt announced late last month that he will retire from full-time racing in NASCAR’s top series after this year, although he plans to occasionally race on other levels. But Earnhardt Miller, a 2015 SportsBusiness Journal Game Changer recipient and sister of the driver, said the timing of that announcement and this one are coincidental. Earnhardt last week announced he and his wife, Amy, will be part of a special four-part home-improvement series on the DIY Network next year, but that deal was set up prior to the WME relationship. With the twilight of his career starting to come into focus in recent years, Earnhardt’s team was going to sign an agency this year to prepare for his post-racing days no matter how much longer he competed, she added.

Nonetheless, Earnhardt’s team said the timing is fortuitous from the standpoint that WME is deeply connected in areas Earnhardt may want to pursue, including broadcasting.

His current business interests include JR Motorsports; the Whiskey River nightclub chain; Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet dealerships; the Dirty Mo Media network; Hammerhead Entertainment video production company; and the Dale Jr. Foundation charitable arm.

Delaware North has partnered with CAA Sports to help expand its business and make greater inroads into the esports space.

The three-year agreement, signed earlier this year, covers all aspects of Delaware North operations in sports and entertainment, travel, parks and resorts, and gaming and airports, said Todd Merry, Delaware North’s chief marketing officer.

CAA Sports will work with Delaware North on sponsorship sales and media rights for a variety of properties, including the valuation of assets tied to Splyce, the esports franchise Delaware North invested in this past February.
On its own, CAA Sports has relationships in the esports community and CAA Ventures, part of its parent company, has a financial stake in multiple esports brands and technology. The agency’s investment bank, Evolution Media Capital, filled an adviser’s role for BAMTech’s $300 million streaming rights deal with Riot Games, a West Coast game maker, for the rights to distribute “League of Legends” content through mobile applications.

In addition, Delaware North is interested in compiling data representing the commercial value of all impressions across its entire roster of business, including sports and entertainment.

“We do a half-billion transactions every year,” Merry said.

For Buffalo-based Delaware North, it’s the first time in the firm’s 102-year history that it has hired an outside agency to help grow revenue, according to Rick Abramson, Delaware North’s chief operating officer.

“We’ve always been kind of the brand behind the brand [in concessions] and this will help us get more exposure,” he said. “They have relationships across the globe.”

Abramson will manage the relationship on behalf of Delaware North, teaming with Paul Danforth, part of CAA Sports’ global sponsorship sales group in New York.

Delaware North Chairman Jeremy Jacobs came up with the idea to join forces with CAA after conversations with his close friend, Chris Koch, president and CEO of New Era Cap Co., another Buffalo firm. In 2016, New Era signed a deal with CAA to assist in a number of marketing efforts.

As part of their due diligence, Delaware North officials, including Abramson, Merry and Amy Latimer, president of TD Garden in Boston, visited CAA’s offices in New York, London and Los Angeles. They met with Danforth and Howie Nuchow, co-head of CAA Sports, among others.

Their research included discussions with CAA clients, including celebrity chefs that are part of CAA Premium Experience, the firm’s hospitality group that sells premium ticket packages for the Super Bowl and other major events.

“This industry is changing all the time and you just can’t sit still anymore,” Merry said.

When Source Communications President Larry Rothstein called 16W Marketing partner Steve Rosner in mid-January and asked him to recommend someone from his talent stable to carry the ball for Investors Bank, Rosner had an alternative idea. Call it the BOGO of athlete endorsements. Instead of getting one former NFL quarterback with national broadcasting credentials, the bank signed a pair represented by 16W: Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason.

Each was on a short list of candidates Rosner originally had in mind. Everyone became convinced that two would be better than one.

16W Marketing represents Phil Simms and Boomer Esiason.
Starting this week, the quarterback pair, who combined for 446 touchdown passes over a total of 28 seasons in the NFL, will appear in TV, print, out-of-home, social and point-of-sale ads for the bank, which has around 150 branches in the New York market.

Investors Bank has made a big enough radio buy on Esiason’s daily morning radio show on New York’s all-sports WFAN that it title sponsored the studio from which the program originates, in what’s described as a multiyear relationship. Additionally, the bank is establishing ties to the charities of Simms and Esiason.

Rosner has repped the pair for more than a combined 40 years.

A pair of 30-second TV spots will debut this month. There’s also more than a dozen content videos, hosted by Bonnie Bernstein, which will be distributed across social media channels.

The Esiason/Simms deal follows a Prudential Center/New Jersey Devils sponsorship that the bank signed late last year.

“That Pru Center deal lifted the bank’s exposure and credibility in a market where obviously there is a lot of media noise generally and enormous competition within financial services,” Rothstein said. “So the next step was to create something with a broad media platform to let the business community and consumers know who they were on both sides of the [Hudson] River.”

> STILL GAINING MOMENTUM: IPG’s agency sources tell us that Momentum Worldwide, which triumphed in last year’s biggest review by winning the SAP account, has emerged victorious in what will be one of this year’s largest, taking the Chevron account. After a review that stretched more than seven months, Momentum is now Chevron’s sponsorship and experiential agency of record.

The gas retailer’s portfolio includes sponsorships proximate to Chevron’s Northern California headquarters and its production facilities in Texas, including the Pac-12 Conference, San Francisco 49ers Foundation, Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants. Other big-name sponsorships for Chevron include the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, Southern Cal and the Super Bowl LI Host Committee. Chevron also has title-sponsored the Houston Marathon since 2006.

Cleaning up and making sense out of that collection will be a big part of the assignment.

During the review, agencies were told to find ways to derive additional marketing value from those sponsorships, outside of tickets and hospitality. Chevron also was seeking enhanced measurement capabilities and associated sponsorship analytics. Competing agencies in the pitch included AdSport, which has worked with San Ramon, Calif.-based Chevron for more than a decade; WME-IMG, which also has done prior sponsorship work for Chevron; along with a handful of the country’s leading sports marketing shops: LeadDog Marketing/Chime, Momentum and Octagon.

Additionally, Momentum has won the experiential AOR business of Chobani yogurt without a review. A 6-year-old U.S. Olympic Committee rights deal is easily Chobani’s largest rights asset. GMR had the business, which Momentum took sans review, sources said.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

Veteran marketer Ashlee Huffman has been promoted to general manager of CSM’s motorsports practice in North America.

Huffman went to work in racing in 2004, when she joined motorsports agency Just Marketing International. JMI was subsequently acquired by CSM.

In the last three years, London-based CSM has grown from very little presence in the U.S. to nearly 400 employees through a series of acquisitions. A large part of Huffman’s job, in addition to growing the motorsports business, will be continuing the integration process “so we can help clients discover the value across CSM,” she said.

During her time in racing, Huffman has worked on some of the agency’s most high-profile business, including Crown Royal’s entry in NASCAR when the sanctioning body lifted its ban on spirits in the mid-2000s. Since then, she has worked in all aspects of the agency, most recently overseeing business affairs.

Huffman will be CSM’s first general manager for motorsports in the U.S., and she will report to David Webb, CEO of CSM’s brands division. Chris Long, managing director in Europe and Asia, also works on motorsports.

“Ashlee has been instrumental in our motorsports practice for over 12 years,” said Jeff Shifrin, CSM’s co-CEO.
Huffman will remain in Indianapolis.

“We will be working across all of the different sanctioning bodies in motorsports, and we’ll be especially focused on the North American consumer,” Huffman said.

While NASCAR and other properties are being challenged with audience erosion, Huffman looks forward to telling a different story.

“There’s a lot of misconceptions out there about motorsports, so we have to do some mythbusting,” she said. “While audiences are down, motorsports still has the most people attending live events.”