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Gold Cup Looks To Gain Mileage This Summer With Valvoline

Valvoline joins as the Gold Cup’s main sponsor as the CONCACAF looks to keep expanding soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean.

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Photo Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup is set to be the largest in the tournament’s 15 years, which executives believe signifies the growth of soccer in North America. The Gold Cup’s growth is also attracting aided by larger sponsors, like this year’s commitment from Valvoline.

This year’s tournament, which pits national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean, has expanded to 16 teams, an increase from the previous number of 12. Likewise, along with 15 venues across the U.S., Gold Cup games will be played outside the U.S., Canada and Mexico for the first time thanks to games in Costa Rica and Jamaica.

“We’re talking our game closer to the fans in the region,” said Philippe Moggio, CONCACAF general secretary. “Our mandate is to continue to develop the sport across our region, and one important priority is creating access to the sport.”

READ MORE: Lowe’s Builds On New NFL Partnership With Draft Activations

The growth in the number of teams and territory where the games are played is part of a play to also grow viewership, said Carter Ladd, senior vice president of Soccer United Marketing, which organizes the Gold Cup from venue selection to sponsorships. The 2017 Gold Cup attracted 80 million viewers in 180 countries, including 40 million viewers in the U.S.

There’s additional hope that by aligning the tournament’s timetable with the 2019 Women’s World Cup, soccer fans can enjoy high-quality soccer all day.

“It’s a wonderful celebration of all the region’s countries,” Ladd said. “We want to have a broader reach than Puerto Rico or Mexico, but the broader region as a whole.”

Soccer United Marketing launched prior to the 2002 World Cup when the tournament was in danger of not being broadcast in English in the U.S. In response, MLS club owners came together to found the separate marketing arm and purchased the broadcast rights. Since the firm’s founding, Ladd said it’s had a steady role in helping grow the commercial success of soccer in the U.S.

Now the firm wants to bolster the economics across North American soccer. This year, Ladd said Valvoline brings a unique aspect to the tournament’s partners as the oil company’s relevance stretches to all 180 nations where the tournament is broadcast. The sponsor joins a roster of partners including Nike, Sprint, Toyota, Scotiabank, Allstate, Camarena and Modelo.

Along with Valvoline’s global reach, Ladd said he’s excited about the nationwide local activation Valvoline will have in the U.S. through a partnership with O’Reilly Auto Parts. Included as part of the sponsorship will be “Valvoline High Mileage Player of the Match,” a nod to the brand’s high-mileage synthetic oil.

It’s not Valvoline’s first venture into soccer, as the brand has sponsored Manchester City in the English Premier League. Tim Ferrell, Valvoline vice president of brand equity and consumer marketing, said the company had been in talks with CONCACAF for more than three years as soccer provides an exciting sport with a worldwide audience.

“Any time you have an event that creates this much excitement is attractive to a brand,” Ferrell said. “There’s a lot of audience attention and opportunity to present our message. Also, we believe sports — soccer, in particular — have avid fans who are more likely to be DIYers.

“It’s that combo of excitement with a place where we know our audience is.”

While Soccer United Marketing helps the commercial viability of soccer, Moggio believes the Gold Cup has had a major impact on growing the game of soccer in the North American region. He points to Panama’s 2018 World Cup qualification, Jamaica making the past two Gold Cup finals, and Guyana and Bermuda qualifying for the Gold Cup this year as prime examples of how the tournament has helped grow the region’s soccer power outside of the U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica.

READ MORE: Univision Deportes Plans to Dominate US Soccer Viewership

“We find this competition, beyond crowning a regional champion, is the best way for all our countries to develop,” Moggio said. “We’re seeing more balanced competition, and the countries of Central America have really rallied behind what this competition entails and using the opportunity to get fully in-line with World Cup qualifying.”

As the competition continues to help balance the North American soccer field, and sponsorship and viewership continues to grow, Moggio fully expects the Gold Cup to dominate sports viewing every other summer.

“Given the development of the sport and the relevance that it brings the best players of region competing in a centralized competition during that month, it’s very important competition to follow for soccer fans across the globe,” he said. “We see that taking hold, with tremendous upside in attention we can garner.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. He's written two books: Grand Rapids Beer and Nevada Beer. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesport.com.

Sponsorship

Teams and Leagues Cozy Up to CBD Brands

The sports world is beginning to bring CBD companies into the fold, marking a significant milestone for the CBD industry.

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*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

As teams and leagues look for emerging partner opportunities, CBD brands are showcasing that they aren’t afraid to spend when it comes to sports partnerships. 

While not really a thought in the minds of professionals more than a year ago, CBD presents both a revenue opportunity and an interesting challenge for teams and leagues.

How did this happen?

Before the enactment of the new nationwide 2018 Farm Bill. there wasn’t much mainstream conversation around CBD. Since then, the category has exploded across both retail and sports.

When the bill passed, it legalized industrial hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high-value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.

Teams and leagues are starting to find interest…

Just this past week, the Portland Pickles became the first baseball team with a CBD partner.

Before that, the Big3 signed a deal with cbdMD that made the brand the official CBD partner of the upstart basketball league. 

And, ahead of this weekend’s Indianapolis 500, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced its partnership with DEFY – a CBD-based sports performance drink.

The only problem with this partnership is that the drivers of the car can’t drink the drink due to the fact that CBD is on IndyCar’s banned substance list

Who’s sponsoring what?

Below you will find a list of some of the CBD and cannabis-related partnerships that have been signed recently.

Las Vegas Lights / NuWu Cannabis Marketplace

Big3 / cbdMD

Portland Pickles / Lazarus Naturals

Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / DEFY

Jonathan Byrd’s Racing / Liquid Gold Processing

RC Enerson / Craft 1861

It’s not just teams and leagues…

While the bigger deals might get more attention, CBD companies have also struck deals with athletes. 

For example, Bubba Watson has a deal with cbdMD, the same brand that is sponsoring the Big3.

Before Watson, Scott McCarron signed an endorsement deal with Functional Remedies, a hemp manufacturing company.

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Are NFL Jersey Ads Next?

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May 15, 2019; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns linebacker Sione Takitaki (44) runs a drill during organized team activities at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

*This piece first appeared in the Front Office Sports Newsletter. Subscribe today and get the news before anyone else.

Jersey ads aren’t an unfamiliar sight at NFL practices. Brands like Lecom and Hyundai are visible on the practice jerseys of the Browns and Cardinals respectively.

The one place jersey ads haven’t shown up is in regular season games. 

Could that be changing anytime soon?

Speaking with SI, an NFL spokesman said, “Never say never, but there are no current plans to pursue or explore.”

With what SI estimates to be $224 million in revenue being left on the table by not having patches on the jerseys, why would the league not consider it? 

According to those inside the industry, the NFL is concerned about conflicts of interest between teams who may have patches of competitors of current partners for opposing teams.   

The NBA has found success…

The NBA launched its jersey patch program in 2017 and as of March of 2019, every team in the league found themselves with a patch on their jersey. 

According to Terry Lefton and John Lombardo of SBJ, the patch program has generated more than $150 million for the league.

Another important stat is that of the 30 team patch sponsors, 20 are doing business with NBA teams for the first time.

At this point, not having ads is more unusual…

Even MLB, considered the most traditional of sports leagues in the U.S., has experimented with sponsor patches since 2000. Of the major sports leagues in the U.S., here’s a look at which ones have ads on their game jerseys and which ones don’t. 

NBA: Yes

WNBA: Yes

MLS: Yes

NHL: No 

NFL: No

MLB: Yes (for special occasion games only – Mexico Series etc)

Internationally, teams are cashing in…

While soccer is somewhat different in that the advertising is not just a patch, but the primary part of a team’s uniform, the revenue potential can’t be argued. Here’s a look at what just five brands are paying international clubs, according to The 18.

Emirates / Real Madrid: $80 million per year 

Chevy / Man U: $68 million per year

Rakuten / Barcelona: $60 million per year

Emirates / Arsenal: $56 million per year

Yokohama / Chelsea: $51 million per year

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CohnReznick Sponsors a Dive Inside the Business of Baseball

Accounting firm CohnReznick shows the business of baseball in two video series with MLB, “Business of Baseball” and “Front Office Focus.”

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Accounting firm CohnReznick is taking an authentic approach to its MLB sponsorship. Through a video series called Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus, CohnReznick lends its name to an inside look at professional baseball. The series is produced by MLB Network, where it airs, along with, MLB.com and CohnReznick’s website.

MLB confirmed CohnReznick as a sponsor of the video series to FOS. The two parties collaborate on ideas, but MLB declined to speak on the sponsorship further.

“Our team really wanted something that was authentic, not just a way to slap our name onto something, but to own something,” says Frank Longobardi, CEO, CohnReznick. “We are able to align some of our core values with what’s being talked about in Business of Baseball and Front Office Focus. That makes us feel good, as we felt we could drive content and value with our strengths.”

READ MORE: MLB Flies Under the Radar With Sponsor Patches

While service-oriented companies have sponsored sports for decades, it’s becoming more common for non-consumer brands to find ways to cut through the clutter,” says Joe Favorito, a sports marketing and communications consultant.

“These companies are tying to something that resonates,” Favorito says. “Consumers have millions of choices. If it comes down to personal choice, they remember the company for who their spokesperson is or the story being told.”

The Business of Baseball series launched during December’s Baseball Winter Meetings, where CohnReznick was the presenting sponsor of the meetings for MLB Network. Over the course of the video sponsorship, there will be approximately six Business of Baseball videos and up to 35 Front Office Focus clips through the season.

“They’re topics, like hospitality and security, that are the same types of things we deal with our clients,” Longobardi says. “We wanted to show similarities of how Major League teams go through some of the same things our clients go through.”

Each of the videos feature commentators and baseball executives. Front Office Focus highlights discussions with executives from the league’s 30 teams about issues ranging from team strategies to club operations, while Business of Baseball looks into how franchises transform the game through analytics and management, but also how they redefine the fan experience.

A recent episode, “The Business of Food,” featured a look at how food experiences now play into a fan’s trip to a ballpark., like a sit-down interview with Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer by CohnReznick Managing Partner Cindy McLoughlin talking about how the game day experience has evolved to include a culinary aspect. The restaurant industry is evolving inside and outside the ballpark.

“When you look at stadiums and games, it’s not just about baseball anymore,” McLoughlin says. “Fans expect an overall experience. People get to stadiums to stand in line, they need to get their Shack Burger.

“That led us to Danny Meyer to really peel back why it’s a benefit to him and how those synergies line up.”

The video topics originated in a brainstorming session featuring CohnReznick’s team and  MLB. The topics center around issues with innovation and analytics to elevate customer experience and retain loyalty. From these conversations, MLB could consider matching a team with a relevant topic.

“It puts us front and center with a really good brand,” Longobardi says of the partnership. “In any business, you want to align yourself with good organizations, and this relationship does that well and connects the right type of people we’re trying to attract, the C-Suite individuals to middle market to small public companies.”

READ MORE: The MLBPA Has Embraced Athlete-Driven Marketing

The sponsorship has allowed CohnReznick to provide clients, potential clients and employees with strong relationship building opportunities at games and events.

“It really has allowed us to spend some time with key clients and be able to spend quality time with our employees and enjoy ourselves,” Longobardi says. “We can more closely align MLB brand with our clients and our staff, and that makes it a unique experience.”

By tying in with behind the scenes content, CohnReznick hopes to resonate with clients beyond just a name on the screen.

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