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Volume 21 No. 39
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Lyft picks up CAA Consulting to shape marketing strategy


n a year with few sports agency reviews, large or small, CAA Consulting has emerged victorious in a relatively quiet “beauty contest” to win a project assignment for the sponsorship business of the rideshare brand Lyft. While the review was not for an agency-of-record assignment, the gloss of a developing category attracted some of the top sports marketing agencies, including IMG and Octagon, sources said.

Several agencies involved in the review said that while the assignment was not huge in financial terms, being involved in a developing technology sector was seen as a bonus. There’s also some thought that since industry pioneer Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned amid high-profile allegations of sexism and sexual harassment within its offices, there’s “real opportunity to close the [market share] gap between the two brands, which will require some increase in marketing spend,” said a source from an agency that did not win the review.

Like the credit card category, rideshare is a conduit to numerous other businesses — note Fanatics’ seemingly unending delivery of hot-market championship licensed merchandise via Uber — so there’s likely an opportunity for company cross-promotions with more traditional sports sponsors.

The TopSpin table tennis tournament in New York City raised $420,000 for educational nonprofits.
According to SportsBusiness Journal’s RGLive, Lyft has sponsorships with a handful of teams, including the Atlanta Braves and Hawks, the L.A. Clippers and Phoenix Suns. A deal with Players Inc. was completed in April.

Uber and Lyft have actively sponsored music festivals around the country. Lyft also has athlete deals with Kris Bryant, Rob Gronkowski, David Ortiz, Danica Patrick and Richard Sherman. What it doesn’t have, as yet, is a comprehensive strategy backing those deals, which is what the assignment is about, we are told. Also key, we’re told, is raising consideration metrics, driver recruitment and eliminating “pain points” surrounding the use of rideshare services at and around live events.

CAA consulting head Greg Luckman confirmed the assignment but had no further comment.

The move continues an escalation on the marketing front within the rideshare category. Several competing agencies noted Uber’s hiring earlier this year of Bozoma Saint John as Uber’s first chief brand officer. Saint John previously worked as a marketer for Apple and PepsiCo. Sources said Lyft had also recently been in contact with other properties about expanding its sponsorship portfolio.

> SPEED TO MARKET: With the 2018 Winter Olympics approaching, endorsement deals are being iced. Three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski, a short-track speedskater, has deals with Nike, United Airlines, Toyota, Liberty Mutual and Core Power, a protein drink brand owned by Coca-Cola. The arrangements vary from corporate appearances to TV and point-of-sale ads, said Rubicon Talent’s Brandon Swibel.

> SPIN CYCLE: The annual TopSpin table tennis tournament in New York City, a favorite among sports and entertainment marketers, recently raised $420,000 benefiting educational nonprofits. More than 1,000 people attended. The event has raised a total of $3.4 million since its inception in 2009.

This year’s beneficiaries are:

A Better Chance, which recruits academically talented students of color from disadvantaged school districts and places them in an outstanding public school in Fayetteville-Manlius.

Horizons at Brooklyn Friends School, an academic enrichment program designed to serve K-8 grade children from low-income families living in downtown Brooklyn.

Oliver Scholars, which prepares high-achieving African-American and Latino students from underserved New York City communities for success at top independent schools and prestigious colleges.

Harlem Academy, a private school serving gifted children in grades 1-8 from underserved communities.

TopSpin Hoops Academy, a five-day overnight basketball camp for 50-plus boys focusing on conflict resolution and community service.

Harlem Lacrosse, a weeklong, overnight summer camp.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: U.S. Naval Academy alum Tony Wells joins USAA as senior vice president, research, analysis and member intelligence. The former Visa marketer most recently had been chief marketing officer at Schneider Electric and ADT. … Calling it “the convergence of sports marketing and new venture development,” former NBA marketer Rob DiGisi has re-established his Iron Horse Marketing sports and entertainment marketing consultancy in Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Terry Lefton can be reached at