Branding the World of Sports

Archive for February, 2008

Supersonics ordeal shows the ugly side of sports

Posted by ZA on February 29, 2008

A lot of the writing here focuses on all of the dollars that go into professional sports.  Countless billions are spent each year on sports.  That money is spent because sports are entertainment, and people are passionate about sports.  Ask the next person you see today “Who’s your favorite team?”.  Majority of people will respond right away with a team they love.  And those who don’t immediately respond will usually reveal a team they like, if you prod them a bit.

Most people start playing sports when they are little kids.  We put our children in to sports because they are fun, provide exercise, can help friendships evolve and teach our kids about society.  Sports are a good, healthy outlet and many people (myself included) are involved with them for their entire life.

But there are ugly sides to sports.  Many, many ugly sides.  And one of the ugliest is playing out in Seattle where the Supersonics are on the verge of leaving the city.  The dispute in Seattle is about money for a new arena, and the situation looks bleak.  At this point it looks like a foregone conclusion that the City of Seattle will lose their beloved Supersonics after 41 years.  Quote from NBA Commissioner, David Stern, “It’s apparent…that the Sonics are heading out of Seattle….There is no miracle here.”

To get a good read on the issue, and all of the passion and anger it has evoked.  Read Bill Simmons basketball column, where he lists dozens of emails from fans of the Sonics.  Sad stuff for those folks that they’re going to lose their team.  Hopefully Bill’s crusade stirs something up and gets people talking about leaving the Supersonics in Seattle.

Posted in NBA | Leave a Comment »

The Superbowl should only be played in warm weather cities

Posted by ZA on February 28, 2008

Sorry Indianapolis, but you should not be selected as host city for the 2012 Superbowl.  If the NFL learns from its past mistakes, it will not award the Superbowl to any cities north of the Mason-Dixon line.  That is, in a location where it’s normal for the weather to still be cold in early February.  Preferably the NFL would enact a plan to only rotate the Superbowl among these cities: San Diego, Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix (Glendale), Dallas, Tampa and Houston.  And truthfully you could knock that down to an excellent four city rotation by dropping off the last three.  Who would complain about making a trip every four years to beautiful San Diego, golfing paradise Phoenix, sexy Miami or party central New Orleans.

What is the common trait that all of those cities above have?  Loads of warm weather, sunshine and an endless variety of food & entertainment options.  And isn’t that what the Superbowl is all about anyway?  Making sure the media, fans and corporate sponsors who spend a week partying in the Superbowl host city never have to reach for a scarf or mittens.

In the 40+ year history of the Superbowl, the game has been awarded to a cold weather city just a few times.  Most recently Detroit, which hosted the 2006 Superbowl, won by the Pittsburgh Steelers.  That Superbowl, which was Superbowl XL, showed the NFL selection committee why cold weather cities and the Superbowl don’t mix.  First the game was being played in Detroit.  That’s enough right there to scare away half of the big money NFL sponsors.  Not that Detroit’s a bad city, it’s just not a destination city.  Then you had the weather, it was cold the entire week with lots of snow and ice.  Again, these big money corporate sponsors don’t get excited about wearing parkas and freezing their money clips off.  Last, cold weather cities are depressing in the Winter.  I know, I’ve spent time in Chicago during the Winter.  And depressing cities do not bring out the celebrities.  And a Superbowl without celebrities isn’t a Superbowl.  It also means the hot girls in sexy outfits, a staple of most Superbowl parties, aren’t going to be showing up in droves.  Which means the guys with money don’t show up.  So let’s recount what you lose by placing the Superbowl in a cold weather city: corporate sponsors, big money crowd, celebrities and hot chicks.  You can’t have a Superbowl without those elements, which means the Superbowl should be scheduled in a cold weather city.  Sorry Pack fans, I’d love to see how beastie a Superbowl at Lambeau would look…but there’s no way it ever happens.

The other cold weather cities that were awarded Superbowls were Minneapolis in 1992 and Pontiac (Michigan) in 1982.

At the top I listed the only cities that should ever be awarded the Superbowl.  But there are a few other places in the US, that would make excellent hosts for the big game.  Below are a few other “Wildcard” Superbowl host cities:

* New York City – What happens when you combine the biggest sporting event with the greatest city in the country?  Mayhem, madness and a great time had by all.  When the new Giants/Jets stadium is finished the NFL needs to give a hard look at bringing the Superbowl to the Big Apple.  Sure the weather will be crappy and the logistics a nightmare (too spread out).  But try to imagine the party scene around Superbowl week with Manhattan as the backdrop.  Every celebrity in the Western hemisphere would show up for this party.  Heck, most of the celebs today own a home in the NYC so it would be a “home game” for them.  And try to imagine the atmosphere with all of those crazy NY Jets and NY Giants fans running around.  It wouldn’t even matter if their teams were in the game, they’d still show up in droves to steal the spotlight.  And if that isn’t enough, the NFL headquarters are located in New York City.  As well as, plenty of the corporate dollars that support the NFL.  So it would be a local showcase game for the NFL in-front of their biggest corporate sponsors.

* Los Angeles – So what if they don’t have an NFL team.  L.A. would still be a fantastic location for the Superbowl.  And the Los Angeles area has experience, having already hosted the Superbowl (or AFL/NFL Championship as it was known in earlier days) 7 times.  The Rose Bowl played host to 5 games, and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has hosted the game twice.  Like New York, L.A. is a fantastic choice because of the plethora of celebrities, corporations and sponsors that live in the surrounding area. 

* Honolulu – Not nearly as appealing as the other two “wildcard” Superbowl locations.  And Aloha Stadium is no where near that facility that would be needed to host the Superbowl in Hawaii.  But it would certainly be a great destination to host the big game.

Posted in NFL, Sports Marketing | Leave a Comment »

New sheriff in town for the Miami Dolphins

Posted by ZA on February 27, 2008

Just when it seemed like the tumultuous offseason for the Miami Dolphins had finally come to a close…another bombshell.  And this big news will certainly have the longest term affect on the storied franchise.  Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga agrees to sell a 50% stake in the team to New York real estate guru Stephen Ross.

The deal had Ross paying a half a billion dollars to obtain an equal ownership stake, with Huizenga, in the Fins.  Ross also gains an equal share in Dolphins Stadium and are around Dolphins Stadium that can be used for development.  Ross is a sports fanatic, who has made huge donations to his alma mater, Michigan University.  Ross has pledged over $100 Million to the Wolverines, and the business school at UM is named after him.  Ross also tried to buy a minority stake in the Dolphins in the early 90’s, but was defeated in his bid by current Dolphins owner Huizenga.

What will the new ownership mean to the Dolphins?  Probably not much over the next few years.  Huizenga already brought in Bill Parcells over this offseason to control all of the football operations.  Parcells will control the direction of the team over the next 2-3 (of his 4 year contract) before retiring to leave the rebuilding to someone new.  And Huizenga will be the face of the Miami football team to the NFL and other 31 owners.  But the move definitely signals a changing of the guard, and I expect Huizenga to ‘exit stage left’ in 2 years and turn over total control of the team to Ross.

Posted in Team Transactions | Leave a Comment »

Dr. Pepper sponsors Major League Gaming

Posted by ZA on February 26, 2008

Professional video game playing is a fast growing industry.  And Major League Gaming (MLG) was the first professional videogame league to be created in the United States.  MLG broadcasts competitions from its professional circuit and gaming tournaments that they sponsor around the country.  Prizes from the MLG tournaments can reach $100,000 or more.  And MLG has signed 12+ top Halo 2 players to over $1,000,000 in contracts in the last two years.

Now Sports Business Journal writer Eric Fisher is reporting that Dr. Pepper has been named the official beverage sponsor of the MLG.  Along with getting signage at all MLG events; the deal will have Dr. Pepper and MLG develop a fan lounge area at MLG tournaments.  The “Dr. Pepper Ultimate Gaming House” will be a place that fans, pro gamers and celebrities can mingle during gaming tournaments.  Terms of the deal between MLG & Dr. Pepper were not disclosed.

Link to the official site of Major League Gaming.
Link to the refreshingly clean Dr. Pepper website.

Posted in Sponsorship Deals | 1 Comment »

Live streaming of college sports online

Posted by ZA on February 26, 2008

I was on the East Coast this past weekend when my Texas Longhorns were playing Oklahoma in basketball.  The game was being televised by ABC, but they splitting it nationwide with UCLA/Oregon.  And when I checked ABC’s coverage map I discovered that we were being shown UCLA/Oregon.  I considered heading to a sports bar to catch it on satellite, but instead decided to see what other options I had to watch the game.

That’s when someone recommended I try watching on  I visited the site and was quickly able to find the game listed among their many options.  A quick download later and I was streaming the game live on my computer.  The feed was the ABC feed, so it was exactly as if I were watching at home in Austin.  And aside from some occassional “graininess” caused by an inconsistent Wifi connection in the hotel, it was a smooth experience.

So if you are away from home and want to watch your favorite team, check out  And they stream games for a variety of sports and more, including CNN, Fashion TV, Cartoon Network and the Tom Green channel.  Visit their site to see a complete listing of all that is available to watch online.

Link to official site.
Link to TV schedules for ESPN & ABC.

Posted in College Basketball, Sports Television | 1 Comment »

Les Bleus go with Le Swoosh (Nike)

Posted by ZA on February 25, 2008

Nike Soccer landed a huge fish today in signing the French National Soccer (Les Bleus) team to an exclusive deal.  The sponorship will pay the French Football Federation over $60 Million dollars per year and provide close to $4 Million dollars worth of merchandise.  The deal begins in 2011 and will run through the 2017-2018 seasons.  Les Bleus current deal with Adidas pays them approximately $15 Million dollars per year.  So the switch to Nike is going to be a very profitable one for French Football Federation.

The deal is a huge coup for Nike who will be stealing Les Bleus away from Adidas.  Adidas has sponsored the French national soccer team since 1972, and is a long-time sponsor of many top European soccer clubs.  In 2007 Nike tried to lure the German national soccer team away from Adidas, but failed when the Germans decided to accept less money from Adidas.  That deal was undone by the German Football Federation’s loyalty, since Adidas is based in Germany.

Nike’s soccer division is growing rapidly, so expect Nike to continue to be aggressive in signing top European teams.  Soccer is the most popular sport in the World; and Europe is the largest hub for the multi-billion soccer industry.  Gaining marketshare in Europe will help Nike achieve its goal to become the top player in that space.  Plus each deal Nike lands in Europe hurts other European soccer manufacturers like Adidas, Lotto & Airness.

Nike has other large soccer sponsorships with the United States soccer squad and Brazil’s national team.  The Nike deal with Brazil pays just under $20 Million per year.  A figure that will undoubtedly increase if Brazil and Nike renew their deal in a couple of years.

Link to the official site of Nike Soccer.
Link to the French Football Federation official site.

Posted in Nike, Soccer, Sponsorship Deals | Leave a Comment »

Unique FC Barcelona sponsorship aides charity

Posted by ZA on February 25, 2008

FC Barcelona is a soccer team that plays in the Spanish Premier League (La Liga).  Barca as they are commonly known is one of the most well known and succesful clubs in the World.  They were a founding member of La Liga, have won more than 40 Spanish league titles, and have more than 150K passionate members.  And in 2006-2007 FC Barcelona was the 3rd richest soccer club in the world, taking in more than $450 Million dollars.

Part of that money comes from a first-class crop of sponsors.  Barca’s sponsors include: Audi, Coca-Cola, Telefonica, and TV3.  But one common and lucrative sponsorship opportunity that FC Barcelona has not taken on is a kit (aka: uniform jersey) sponsor.  Some of the well known kit sponsors from around the World are: AIG (Manchester United), bwin (AC Milan & Real Madrid), Carlsberg (Liverpool), Emirates (Arsenal), Herbalife (LA Galaxy), Pirelli (Inter Milan), and Samsung (Chelsea).  Rather than earning millions from listing some corporation on their jersey, Barca instead placed a charitable organization on their kit.

In July 2006 FC Barcelona announced a 5 year agreement with UNICEF, which includes the placement of UNICEF’s logo on their jersey.  And the deal will raise almost $2 Million dollars per year for UNICEF’s humanitarian aid programs.

In a day when corporate sponsorships in sports account for millions of dollars, it’s refreshing to see a deal that gives back.

Posted in Soccer, Sponsorship Deals, Sports Marketing | 5 Comments »

Want to mount a camera on Tiger Woods caddy?

Posted by ZA on February 20, 2008

Do you ever feel like you’re not getting enough coverage of Tiger Woods when you watch a golf tournament? Well if you do, then you’re going to love where television is going.

DirecTV announced that they will be assigning dedicated channels to certain holes at the 2008 Masters.  Each of these channels will have their own announcers and camera crews.  So viewers will be able to watch every single group that plays those holes.  DirecTV plans to have one channel devoted to “Amen Corner”, which is holes 11, 12 & 13 at Augusta National.  And they will have another channel exclusively covering the 15th and 16th holes at the Masters Tournament.  DirecTV will also offer two other channels of Masters coverage, one with the feed from ESPN (Thursday & Friday) and one of the CBS coverage from Saturday & Sunday.

This also marks the first year that ESPN will be covering the tradition laden golf tournament.  ESPN will replace USA in covering the pre-weekend coverage.  ESPN will then turn the coverage over to longtime Masters partner CBS for the weekend coverage.  CBS has had the broadcast rights for the Masters since 1956.

The inclusion of the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” does not mean that Augusta National is going soft on their our way or the highway mentality.  They are still requiring CBS to produce the ESPN coverage from Augusta National.  That means CBS will have final creative control of the broadcast…which means that Augusta National really has final creative control.  But regardless of this arrangement ESPN should still be pumped to have a foot in the door at one of the greatest sports spectacles in the World.  ESPN has already been promoting their deal with The Masters since it was first announced in October 2007.  So ESPN should get plenty of mileage from the partnership, even if CBS is the one steering production.

But don’t expect to see any ESPN banners hanging on scoreboard like you would at most sporting events that ESPN covers.  Augusta National is kept clear of any corporate signage.  I’ve been to the Masters twice and even in the concessions stand are brand free as the beer is labeled “domestic” and “imported”.  That prestine quality is what makes visiting (or watching) The Masters such a special experience.

The Masters continues their minimal marketing policy when it comes to their television broadcast.  CBS is only allowed to show 4 minutes worth of commercials per hour of coverage.  And there are only a few approved sponsors who’s ads can be played during the telecast.  Those sponsors are: Citigroup, ExxonMobil, IBM and AT&T.  The Masters & CBS had a historic broadcast in 2003, during the Martha Burk protests, when the Masters chairman Hootie Johnson announced they would air the Masters without commercials.

This deal for DirecTV mimics some of the other unique coverage they’ve provided in the past.  During Nascar races they’ve devoted channels to particular cars, so fans could follow every move of their favorite drive.  And with the advances in technology today, I expect you’ll see more and more of these unique types of coverage in sports.  So maybe someday you will be able to watch Tiger Woods from a camera on Stevie’s shoulder.

Posted in Golf, Sports Television | 1 Comment »

Kia’s NBA sponsorship is not “fantastic”

Posted by ZA on February 20, 2008

Kia Motors America is one of the official sponsors of the NBA.  It currently has partnerships with 16 NBA teams that range from “Proud Partner” to “Official Partner” to “Official Vehicle”. 

My problem is why is Kia partnering with a professional sports league.  Their association with the NBA seems far fetched at best.  Can you picture Dwight Howard driving around town in a Kia?  What about Shaq tooling down the street in his Kia?  No, Kia is one of the last cars I can imagine an NBA player driving.  Along with the Ford Pinto and Mini Cooper.

What about NBA fans – are they driving Kia’s?  Not according to the NBA Fan Cost Index released by the Team Marketing Report.  According to their recent study of NBA prices, it now costs almost $270 for a family of four to attend 1 NBA game.  The average price per ticket in the NBA is approaching $50 per seat.  There are 41 home games for each NBA team, not counting preseason or postseason games.  That means that an NBA fan who owns 2 season tickets is shelling out upwards of $4000 a year on tickets.  That doesn’t factor in a myriad of other costs, like parking and concessions, that TMR’s Fan Cost Index does.  So using their formula across the entire season means that a family of four is spending over $12,000 per year on their NBA experience.  And any person who can afford to spend $10K plus per year on NBA tickets is not going to be pulling up to the stadium in a Kia.

Kia’s prices range from ~ $11K to $21K per vehicle.

My advice to Kia is find a more suitable target market.  Save the sponsorship dollars being spent on the NBA, and instead funnel those dollars into sports where fan demographics are more suitable for your product.  Try minor league baseball, or major league soccer, or even the WNBA.  But I don’t see the benefit for Kia to be shelling out major sponsorship dollars to partner up with the NBA.

NBA teams that Kia has partnered with:
Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics
Charlotte Bobcats
Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers
Denver Nuggets
Golden State Warriors
Indiana Pacers
Miami Heat
New York Knicks
Orlando Magic
Philadelphia 76ers
Phoenix Suns
Portland Trailblazers
San Antonio Spurs
Seattle Supersonics

Posted in NBA, Sponsorship Deals, Sports Marketing | 1 Comment »

German soccer puts loyalty above money

Posted by ZA on February 18, 2008

In a very loyal move, the German national soccer team turned down more money from Nike in order to stay with Adidas.  The offer from Nike last Summer was reported to be worth as much as $680M over 8 years.  But German officials instead choose to stay with Adidas, and a smaller deal valued at approximately $30M per year until 2018.

The deal from Nike was to replace Adidas on the kits (aka: jerseys, etc.) of the German national team, and other teams in the German soccer leagues.  And turning down Nike wasn’t a unanimous decision, as representatives of the German Bundesliga (the highest level professional soccer league) wanted to take the more lucrative deal from Nike.

If this deal would have gone through, it would have been one of the most notable sports sponsorship deals in history.  As Nike would have been stealing the main attraction, the German national soccer team, from Adidas in their home country.  It would be akin to Michael Jordan dropping the swosh, to wear the 3 stripes of Adidas.  And German officials refusal to accept the higher bid reeks of favoritism, but was essential to keep the home company from taking a giant black eye.

The bid by Nike shows their commitment to further enhancing their presence in the World’s most popular sport, soccer (aka: football).  In recent years, Nike has made strong moves into the sport including outfitting some of the top teams in the 2006 World Cup.  Eventhough Adidas is the official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup (since 1970), Nike had plenty of exposure at the ’06 Cup in Germany from team sponsorships, TV commercials and other marketing ploys.

Nike currently provides soccer uniforms for the following national teams: Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Croatia, Netherlands, South Korea, Australia and the United States.  While Adidas outfits Argentina, Spain, Japan and Germany.  Puma, Umbro, Lotto, Joma & Marathon also supply uniforms for other national soccer teams.

Posted in Soccer, Sponsorship Deals | 1 Comment »