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Volume 21 No. 26

Marketing and Sponsorship

ontinuing to lock up the most significant sports licensing rights in North America, Fanatics has extended its omnibus NHL rights deal to 2034, adding even broader rights to a deal that already included replica jerseys and championship apparel. If you thought Fanatics already had a stranglehold on NHL apparel rights — and we did — now it’s even more so.

Under the new deal, Fanatics gets additional broad exclusives, including worldwide e-commerce rights, excluding China. It also has rights to manufacture, market and sell all of the NHL’s top-shelf “Center Ice” collection, including name and number apparel, with the exception of authentic (on-ice) NHL jerseys. Those will continue to be marketed and sold by Adidas, which put its trademark on them starting this season. Previously, Adidas had the rights for all of the Center Ice line.

The new agreement also grants Fanatics headwear exclusivity within the sporting goods retail channel. Basically, this means Fanatics has locked up most of the shelf space for NHL-licensed gear within sports specialty retail in North America, particularly since it started manufacturing and selling Fanatics-branded replica NHL jerseys this season.

Fanatics has rights to all of the NHL’s “Center Ice” collection.
Adidas relinquishing those rights continues a trend among sports performance apparel brands, which have shifted from actually competing in the sports-licensed apparel business to leasing pro and college sports trademarks solely for camera exposure.

“The way the [licensing] industry is changing, you need speed-to-market above everything, and that is not something that the sneaker brands have,” said a marketer familiar with the longtime NHL licensing czar.

Brian Jennings, NHL executive vice president of marketing, referred email inquiries on the deal to PR. After initially promising an interview, an NHL spokeswoman subsequently said the league was “going to take a pass” on commenting.

ROGER THAT: Sources tell us that the Rogers Centre, which has been the Toronto Blue Jays’ home since 1989 when it opened as SkyDome, will put its naming rights on the market next year.

A number of factors make that intriguing to anyone tracking the naming-rights business. Primarily, there’s the record 20-year, $800 million deal cut last summer for what’s now the Air Canada Centre but will be Scotiabank Arena as of July 1. Surely, that’s the comp everyone in naming rights is looking at, but can any venue, much less a neighboring one, come close to matching that record?

As was the case with the NBA Raptors and the NHL Maple Leafs in Air Canada Centre, it’s a national play, since Blue Jays games are televised across Canada. Sources said it was uncertain if the sales effort will be performed internally or with the help of an outside agency.

Additionally intriguing sidelights: At a time when there’s more naming-rights inventory for sale across North America than ever, how much can name No. 3 fetch? Similar to the situation in Washington, D.C., with Monumental Sports, Rogers owns the Blue Jays and their home stadium, so any revenue will be incremental. RBC, which lost to Scotiabank in a bid to grab the rights to Air Canada Centre, is a likely suspect.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: Ronalee Zarate-Bayani joins the Los Angeles Rams as chief marketing officer after three years at Hershey. She’s also worked at Visa and Taco Bell. … Stephen Chriss, head of North American marketing activation and strategic partnerships, leaves Mondelez after 19 years to join Pinnacle Foods as vice president, activation, starting this month.

Terry Lefton can be reached at

The Coca-Cola colors, worn by jockey Calvin Borel, are back at Churchill Downs.
Churchill Downs Inc. signed a five-year agreement with Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated that makes Coca-Cola the official and exclusive soft drink of the Kentucky Derby.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Coca-Cola replaces Pepsi, which had a deal with the Louisville, Ky.-based company’s namesake racetrack going back to 1999. Coca-Cola’s previous relationship with Churchill Downs is thought to have gone back from 1999 at least as far as the 1940s.

The bottling company will produce special commemorative Coca-Cola bottles for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May in 2018. The Derby appeared on commemorative Coke bottles in the 1980s and ’90s.

“There are certainly going to be some flagship staples that you’ll see as part of this partnership,” said Heather Hucks, Coca-Cola Consolidated senior director of brand marketing. Coca-Cola Consolidated is the largest independent bottler of Coke in the United States.

In addition to pouring rights, Coca-Cola Consolidated is planning promotions and activations during Derby Week.

The move follows Coca-Cola Consolidated’s building a $12 million sales and distribution center in the Louisville area in 2015. The facility employs 350 people and distributes Coca-Cola products to 21 counties in the Kentucky region.

The partnership came after lengthy discussions between Hucks and Kristin Warfield, Churchill Downs Inc. vice president of partnerships.

“We had a wonderful partnership with Pepsi,” Warfield said, “It’s just sometimes change is somewhere you need to go. And we found a fantastic partner in Coca-Cola.”

The Fenway Gridiron Series features college, high school football games.
Fenway Sports Management has added Boston-based hospital operator Steward Health Care and an undisclosed pharmaceutical company to its client roster, part of an effort to grow the agency’s consulting division.

FSM, a sister company to the Boston Red Sox, for years has counseled several companies including Dunkin’ Donuts, JetBlue and Santander Bank on their sports marketing initiatives. But those relationships largely started as partnerships with the baseball team. The new deals mark an effort to build FSM’s consulting business separate from the Red Sox.

“We’re really doubling down on this side of the business,” said Mark Lev, FSM managing director. “We think there’s a real opportunity to take our learnings and apply it to brands that may not necessarily be immediately thought of at first when it comes to sports marketing. … We’re really looking to grow that segment of what we do.”

Steward in particular is in the midst of a large expansion into numerous Sun Belt states following a recent purchase of Tennessee-based Iasis Healthcare. Steward’s sports relationships include being the official health care partner of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury.

FSM’s consulting and events division is led by vice president BriAnne Newman and aided by director Kate Hogan, managers Tom Kennedy, Katie Leighton and Olivia Whitney, and coordinator Shelby Aubin.

FSM is also in the midst of a heavy autumn slate of activity at Fenway Park that includes the Fenway Gridiron Series involving three New England college football games and three Boston-area high school games, and a return this past weekend of an Irish hurling event sponsored by AIG.

Those events have meant this will be an off year for installing an ice rink at Fenway Park, as has been done in the past, including last winter’s two-week Capital One Frozen Fenway hockey and skating festival, or a ski ramp such as what was used for the Polartec Big Air At Fenway event in early 2016. But Lev said he still intends “to have Fenway be a year-round destination and not just for baseball and concerts.”