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Volume 22 No. 44
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Score one for Lagardère, winner of Citigroup’s business

Lagardère Unlimited’s corporate consulting group has scored an impressive win in one of the biggest agency shootouts of the year, securing Citigroup’s global sports and entertainment business from an original list of around a dozen agencies.

Title sponsorship at the ATP Tour’s Citi Open is among Citi’s sports assets.
Sources said Lagardère emerged victorious from a trio of well-regarded finalists, including Wasserman Media Group and Engine Shop. This is certainly the biggest stateside win for Lagardère since it began to build its U.S. capabilities in August 2013 by hiring former IMG consulting chief Andy Pierce as president and CEO. In May, it acquired The Richards Group’s Haymaker sports and entertainment practice (SportsBusiness Journal, May 5-11), bringing with it clients including Bridgestone, MetroPCS, Advance Auto Parts, Pfizer, H-E-B and Wawa.

Like so many financial service brands, Citi has some impressive sports assets — without a discernible focus, but backed by a massive media budget. In the United States, its largest sports asset is the 20-year naming-rights deal at the New York Mets’ ballpark in Queens, through 2028. Citi also is a U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor through the 2016 Rio Games, title sponsor of the ATP Tour’s Citi Open, and a lead sponsor of the PGA Tour’s Presidents Cup.

> PICK A CARD: A quiet review that has every nonconflicted agency salivating sees Visa putting its sports agency assignment in play. The payment card marketer has long been one of the top sports spenders and activators, and its top-shelf sponsorship portfolio includes years as a FIFA World Cup, TOP Olympic and NFL league sponsor.

Visa, home to blue-chip sponsorships including the FIFA World Cup, is reviewing its agency situation.
For years, Visa has divided sports agency duties between GMR, Team Epic and IMG. Now, the whole thing has been put into review, with incumbents and other agencies invited to pitch. It’s unclear even to those involved whether the business will be consolidated or whether global and domestic work will be packaged — which should make it challenging for the many suitors lining up for a chance at one of the glamour accounts in sports marketing. We’re told a decision is due by year’s end.

> AIR BROOKLYN: In what’s believed to be JetBlue’s biggest sports expenditure ever, the airline has signed a five-year deal to become the 11th founding-partner of the Barclays Center. Those sponsorships typically run in the low seven figures per year. It’s the first major deal to combine marketing assets of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders, who are moving to the arena next season. As such, it makes JetBlue the first official sponsor of the “Brooklyn Islanders.”

“Our goal now with the Islanders is to sell Nets, Islanders and our arena in a consolidated fashion,” said Barclays Center and Nets CEO Brett Yormark.

The deal covers the domestic airline category and includes arena signage, TV-visible signage behind the Nets scorers table running 24 feet long by 2 feet high, a dasherboard, and a game sponsorship for hockey.

Full activation plans are to be determined but are expected to include heavy social media efforts and airline ticket giveaways in arena.

Barclays and the Nets had JetBlue as a lower-level sponsor last season.

JetBlue’s other sports sponsorships include the Boston Bruins and Red Sox, Florida Panthers, New York Jets, and naming rights at JetBlue Park, the Red Sox’s spring training home in Fort Myers, Fla.

> GLOVE GALA: Gold Sport Collectibles and American Airlines are sponsoring Rawlings’ annual Gold Glove Award Ceremony, which returns to New York City on Friday. ESPN’s 60-minute show announcing the winners will be broadcast Tuesday evening and presented live for the first time. The 550-person ceremony will feature Frank Robinson receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and fellow hall of famer Mike Schmidt being named to the Gold Glove Hall of Fame.

> COMINGS & GOINGS: In what we believe to be an unrelated development to the Citigroup win detailed above (though surely a sign of growth), Lagardère has hired Michael Brown as its senior vice president, U.S. business development and global partnerships, based in New York. Brown, a SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40 honoree in 2012, was most recently with the PGA Tour. In a related move, former Lagardère head of business development Peter Levy is shifting to head a new Lagardère Unlimited lifestyle division, which will target fashion, culinary, music and the arts. … Matt Hill, who’s had two tours of duty with the NFL, most recently as director of business development, moves to GMR Marketing’s New York City office as senior vice president, global sports and entertainment marketing. … Mary Scott moves to president, sports and experiential marketing, for the new United Entertainment Group, a joint venture between UEG, United Talent Agency, and Matter, Edelman PR’s sports arm. She was general manager of Matter.

Terry Lefton can be reached at