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Volume 22 No. 27
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Paragon’s vision for Bulls patch sponsor wins out

Call it a search for better vision. Paragon Marketing won an agency shootout to handle activation behind Zenni Optical’s Chicago Bulls uniform patch sponsorship, easily the online optician’s largest marketing expenditure. Zenni, also the Bulls’ official eyewear, completed the five-year deal in time for the 2018-19 NBA season and handled activation in-house, including endorsements from Bulls players Ryan Arcidiacono, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach LaVine and Robin Lopez.

With help from giveaways and high-value couponing, awareness among season-ticket holders grew from 9% at the beginning of last season to 41% by the NBA playoffs, according to Sean Pate, Zenni’s brand communications officer, who added that Paragon’s assignments are to “manage, measure and optimize” the Bulls sponsorship. 

Still, the brand is looking to grow awareness outside of the Bulls’ home arena and beyond the Midwest. With only around 10% of domestic eyeglass customers purchasing online, there’s still considerable opportunity.

“We’ll focus on taking the Bulls partnership outside of the arena in a way that gives fans experiences and opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have without Zenni,” said Tony Schiller, Paragon EVP/partner.

Other Paragon business wins within the last few months include assignments with Chipotle, Kraft Heinz and Virginia Mason health care. 

Zach LaVine is one of many Chicago players to serve as an endorser of Zenni, the team’s official eyewear.
Photo: getty images

NAME GAME: Jeff Knapple, who authored more than 20 of the largest sports naming-rights deals over the past 30 years, is joining Elevate Sports Ventures as chief partnership officer, a position in which he’ll help the nascent sports and entertainment consultancy grow its title sponsorship business along with its third-party property sales efforts. Knapple, who was president of Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment and later president of team and venue services from February 2012 until last October, will report to Elevate CEO/co-managing partner Al Guido, who’s also president of the San Francisco 49ers.

“We’re growing Elevate’s capabilities and offerings, and I’m excited to be joining a company that I consider disruptive,” Knapple said. Elevate is owned by the 49ers, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, Oak View Group and Ticketmaster/Live Nation.

COMINGS & GOINGS: Former New York Giants EVP/Chief Marketing Officer Mike Stevens has joined the board of directors at Impressio, a Denver company developing “ultra-dissipative materials for protective equipment.” Translation: A possible answer to football head trauma by eventually licensing their patented “liquid-crystal elastomers” to helmet manufacturers. … SME Branding founder Ed O’Hara is extending his tenure with the firm, which was acquired by Learfield in 2016. O’Hara is now chairman and will focus on new business and content development. … Walt Whitman has moved over from Young & Rubicam’s W2O Group to become SME’s chief creative officer. … Matt Anderson has been hired as chief revenue officer for SME and its sister digital agency Mogo Interactive.

Terry Lefton can be reached at