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Volume 20 No. 45

Marketing and Sponsorship

A Chinese investment group has offered to pay up to $50 million annually for commercial rights to the ATP Tour’s planned World Team Cup, which would feature up to 24 national teams playing over a week, sources said. The event would more than double the top prize money on the tour, paying the equivalent of a Grand Slam, or around $20 million.

The offer from CMC Capital Partners could be a financial bonanza for the ATP, with one source saying the proposal is for as many as 20 years, which would make it worth around $1 billion in that scenario.

Gerard Pique (right) is said to be fronting a Chinese group that has offered the ATP up to $50 million annually for commercial rights to the World Team Cup. Justin Gimelstob (left) leading contact with the group.
However, not all factions within the ever-fractious ATP are on board.

Representatives for the nine largest tournaments, the Masters 1000s, have been blocking the proposal because the new event would join their group and offer the same number of ranking points, thereby diluting shared revenue and increasing strains on the players. And the Australian Open is worried because tentative plans are to schedule the World Team Cup in early January, before the first Grand Slam of the year, when the event organizes a series of tournaments. (Unlike the 1000s, though, none of the Grand Slams have a say in the ATP deliberations.)

The ATP declined to comment. CMC could not be reached for comment.

The contact with the investment group is led by ATP board member Justin Gimelstob, numerous sources said. Gimelstob declined to comment. The investment group, sources said, is being fronted by FC Barcelona star Gerard Pique, who sat courtside with Gimelstob last year at the ATP season-ending championships in London.

The interest in a national team competition comes as the long-standing, but flailing Davis Cup, owned by the International Tennis Federation, struggles to reform. And the Laver Cup, a two-day Europe-versus-the-rest-of-the-world competition, launches next month (see related story).

What is known about the World Team Cup concept is this: It would be sanctioned by the ATP Tour, with the staging and commercial rights handled by CMC, which would pay the ATP the $50 million annual fee. Players would get ranking points for competing. It would be a weeklong event in a city to be determined, held annually. And it would feature 24 national teams in an Olympic-style global competition, with the precise format yet to be determined.

Early on both the World Team Cup and Laver Cup concept have drawn buzz.

“The reasons you are seeing the Laver and World Cups is the weakness in the Davis Cup,” said Donald Dell, group president of Lagardère.

Dell, a former Davis Cup player and captain, said he has heard the investor of the World Team Cup competition will take the naming rights as well.

The ATP has yet to approve the World Team Cup, and a decision is not expected later this month at the tour’s board meeting in New York City. There, however, the tour should get a feel for whether it can muster the political will to go forward with the event, one source said.

The ATP board has three player representatives (one of whom is Gimelstob) and three tournament reps. Theoretically if they split, the tie is broken by the president, Chris Kermode.

If the tour does proceed, the World Team Cup would not launch until 2019. While tentative plans are for it to be in early January in Asia, that is not set in stone. The event could rotate cities, bid out like the Super Bowl.

CMC Capital earlier this year invested in CAA and has other sports-related investments. It owns part of the City Football Group, a holding company that oversees soccer clubs including Manchester City and NYCFC. CMC also is an investor in Formula E.

Asked how long CMC will wait until the ATP sorts out its political issues, one source said he is surprised it has waited so long because the offer has been on the table for a significant period of time.

NASCAR is playing a key role in Toyota’s marketing around its redesigned Camry.

What started in January, when Toyota President Akio Toyoda joined Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin on stage at the Detroit International Auto Show to reveal the 2018 Camry, shifts into high gear Sept. 1 as a new marketing campaign officially begins.

It was the first time Toyota debuted a passenger car with a NASCAR race car simultaneously since it came into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2007. Toyota uses the Camry in the Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series, while it uses the Tundra in the Camping World Truck Series.

Drivers Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin help introduce the 2018 Camry at the Detroit International Auto Show.
Courtesy of: TOYOTA RACING
“We thought the cadence was just perfectly aligned to really marry up NASCAR and the production launch of the Camry,” said Lisa Materazzo, Toyota’s vice president of vehicle marketing and communications.

Lou Garate, NASCAR’s vice president of partnership marketing, said it was Toyota’s idea to unveil its new street and race versions of the Camry at the same time. Garate said Toyota’s racing arm, Toyota Racing Development, had as great an impact on the design of the production vehicle as he’s seen during his decade-long run working for the sanctioning body.

“That’s really rare — those guys work in a vault usually,” Garate said of racing divisions of auto manufacturers. “They helped on the front-end aerodynamics, and that’s just unprecedented.”

Toyota has long marketed the Americanization of the brand in NASCAR. While the company is based in Japan, it manufactures models such as the Camry in the United States. Its North American headquarters is in Plano, Texas.

The new campaign, dubbed “Sensations,” will include advertising across television, digital, out-of-home, social, print, radio and in-cinema platforms, including spots during NASCAR programming. There will be eight TV spots, including some targeting specific demographics, and Materazzo hinted that NASCAR would be involved in some of the creative. Toyota already has been running on-screen graphics in recent weeks during NBC Sports’ race coverage that show a cartoon car labeled as the new Camry. Toyota will also have versions of the new Camry at the track for fans to see in person.

Between at-track, team and media marketing, Toyota is activating heavily in NASCAR. It has naming rights to one of the five “injector” entrances at Daytona International Speedway, activates at 75 percent of the sport’s race weekends, and has cross-promoted the sport with its new deals in the Olympics.

Neil Howard, vice president and group director for MKTG’s consulting and execution work for Toyota, said he has seen greater acceptance of the brand firsthand as he’s traveled the circuit over the years helping run the manufacturer’s typically 20,000-square-foot at-track activation.

“The research is one thing, but I can see it and I can hear it at the racetrack,” Howard said. “By virtue of being at track, engaging with fans and raising their experience level, we’ve been able to really raise the level of consideration and engagement with those fans where they now consider Toyota from a purchase perspective.”

MKTG is Toyota’s motorsports agency. Saatchi & Saatchi helped develop the “Sensations” campaign for the general market, while Toyota worked with three agencies to target specific demographics: Burrell Communications (African-American); Conill Advertising (Hispanic); and interTrend Communications (Asian).

Cricket Wireless and KFC are back as co-presenting sponsors of WWE’s SummerSlam, which gets underway Sunday at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

DiGiorno and 2K also return as sponsors, while esports property Rocket League is a new addition. SummerSlam, the second-largest event staged by WWE, behind WrestleMania, will stream on WWE Network.

John Brody, WWE executive vice president of global sales and head of international, said partners are attracted by the strength of WWE’s many global platforms, including WWE Network and the company’s following across social media.

“[Partners] can activate across all those different platforms,” said Brody, describing it as part of WWE’s “one-stop shopping approach.”

WWE performer Dolph Ziggler will star in a commercial for Cricket that premieres during SummerSlam and will air on national TV following the event. KFC, meanwhile, will roll out a stunt similar to the one it presented last year, as several WWE performers will appear in a part-live/part-taped stunt playing off the company’s KFC Colonel campaign.

Cricket, as part of its co-title sponsorship, will get inclusion in SummerSlam marketing materials, arena signage and inclusion during the broadcast. In addition to his commercial for the company, Ziggler will appear at a Cricket retail store in New York City in the days leading up to SummerSlam, and the appearance will be livestreamed on Facebook.

On Saturday, Cricket will host an anti-bullying summit at Barclays with 25 students from Junior Achievement of New York. Cricket also will have a WWE-themed virtual reality experience at Barclays Center for fans.

“The most beneficial aspect of the relationship is how the WWE has partnered with us to expose the brand in a different way,” said Tiffany Baehman, Cricket Wireless vice president and chief marketing officer. “When you look at the digital aspect and the social component, their reach to fans has been beneficial to introduce our brand in a new way.”

Meanwhile, in the time leading up to Sunday’s event, Rocket League will host a tournament that will see WWE performers take on one another. Rocket League will also serve as presenting sponsor of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn and will air a spot in the NXT broadcast on WWE Network.

DiGiorno will launch a new product — Crispy Pan Pizza — at SummerSlam across WWE’s social platforms. DiGiorno will sponsor a WWE Instagram story, and will feature performer AJ Styles promoting the new offering on WWE’s YouTube channel.

Meanwhile, 2K will debut “WWE2K18” on Friday in Manhattan, with several WWE performers in attendance.
So far this year, WWE has generated $403 million in revenue, a 9 percent increase from last year. It has seen a 25 percent increase in partnership revenue this year, too, Brody said.

“We’re certainly on the trajectory that we had been hoping and planning for, and this year we have seen an uptick in blue-chip partner activation and spending with WWE,” Brody said.

John Bauernfeind writes for sister publication SportsBusiness Daily.