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Inside the NFL’s Plan to Turn Its 100th Season Into a Yearlong Celebration

The NFL’s 100th season doesn’t kick off for five more months, but that hasn’t stopped the league from rolling out a yearlong marketing campaign.

Craig Ellenport

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Photo Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The National Football League sponsorship team had been talking to league partners about the upcoming 100th season celebration for nearly two years, but it wasn’t until Super Bowl LIII, when the NFL ran a two-minute commercial entitled “100-Year Game,” that sponsors realized just how important this campaign will be.

“I think they knew that it was going to be big because we’d been telling them for so long that it was going to be big,” said Monica Gimlett, the NFL’s Director of Sponsorship Strategy & Business Development. “But for them to see that we were devoting our most valuable institutional inventory of the entire year – two minutes in the Super Bowl – to this, I think it really helped them to feel, like, ‘Wow, we’re all in on this.’”

The NFL reportedly did not have to pay for the time, which was valued at more than $20 million. But the spot – which featured nearly 40 NFL legends past and present and was among the most talked-about commercials of the Super Bowl – was a smashing success in the NFL’s mission to build awareness for the “NFL 100” initiative.

READ MORE: Less is More: How Andrew Luck Handles Off-The-Field Partnerships

The 100th season doesn’t officially kick off until Sept. 5, when the Chicago Bears host the Green Bay Packers in a matchup of the only two current franchises that were around in 1920. Nevertheless, the NFL is making a yearlong celebration out of its centennial anniversary, a strategy they’re well-versed in through growing offseason moments like the combine and draft into tentpole events.

Next up: The NFL has already launched a contest that will culminate on April 25, the first night of the NFL Draft in Nashville, when one fan wins a pair of season tickets from one team for 100 years.

“The NFL was built on multi-generational fandom that bonds people together,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when the contest was announced. “Giving someone a century’s worth of NFL season tickets may be the single greatest sports prize ever offered to a fan. It represents 100 years filled with incredible memories to share with the people who matter most.”

In addition to unveiling that contest winner, the league and its partners will be making liberal use of the new “NFL 100” logo. According to Gimlett, the NFL has worked it out with sponsors to make sure they use the NFL 100 logo anywhere they would normally be using the NFL shield in their creative material.

“Whether that’s in their NFL-themed commercial spots, NFL-themed packaging, on-site activation they might be doing with us, at Kickoff or at the Super Bowl, for example,” said Gimlett. “So they’re going to be weaving the mark and helping to promote awareness in some of those ways.”

Sponsors are also planning their own campaigns to take advantage of the 100th season celebration. Gimlett said some of those will roll out beginning at the draft, though most will launch closer to the start of the regular season and culminate at Super Bowl LIV, on Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami.

Along with sponsor activation, all 32 clubs will host various events under the NFL 100 umbrella. NFL Media plans to roll out NFL 100 content on its owned and operated channels, be it NFL Network, NFL.com and social accounts.

“We have a content team based in L.A. that’s been collaborating with NFL Films on all the different media pieces and how we can help bring it to life, whether it’s through things in our studio shows, specific executions on our social handles,” said Gimlett. “Really thinking of NFL 100 as a takeover of all of those things.”

The NFL 100 campaign, of course, will be deeply integrated into all game telecasts across all platforms, so media partners will be spreading the gospel as well.

Besides “NFL 100,” the other buzzword the NFL will be asking its partners to use is “Fantennial.”

“We’ve coined the term ‘Fantennial’ to serve as the spirit of the NFL100 celebration,” said Pete Abitante, chair of the NFL100 campaign. “We’re excited to recognize fans all season long with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, all while we pay tribute to the players, coaches and teams that have helped create and continue to foster the NFL.”

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Abitante said the history of the NFL is all about people, passion and partners.

People range from players, coaches, owners and executives to fans around the country and the world,” said Abitante. “Passion is what links everyone together – the incredible moments shared whether in the stadium or watching from afar. And, of course, our partners – broadcast, sponsor, licensee – who have helped bring it all to life.”

It is those partners that will help the NFL spread its NFL 100 message.

Craig Ellenport is a veteran writer and editor based in New York. A former senior editor at NFL.com, Ellenport has written about football, baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis. He has written and edited more than a dozen sports books.

Marketing

NHL Keeps Running On Dunkin’ With New Deal

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dunkin’ has signed a multi-year extension of its deal with the NHL, continuing its position as the official coffee, donut and breakfast sandwich of the league in the U.S.

The deal, expected to be announced tonight prior to game five of the Stanley Cup Final in Boston, marks the twelfth major partner that the NHL has signed or renewed its deal with in recent months.

Dunkin’ became an NHL league-level sponsor in 2017, which was the company’s first-ever national sports league partnership. Over the course of the last two seasons, the partnership has seen Dunkin’ become one of the NHL’s most active corporate sponsors in terms of its presence at major NHL events, partnerships with local teams, marketing campaigns and other fan-facing efforts.

READ MORE: Following NBA’s Lead, NHL Taps Massive Chinese Market for Fans

NHL Group Vice President of Partnership Marketing Evin Dobson said that since becoming a sponsor, Dunkin’ has ranked at the top or in the top three of the league’s internal metrics regarding fan awareness or engagement of its partners.

Dunkin’ has been front and center this Stanley Cup Final as well, as its national advertising campaign starring Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has been heavily featured during NBC’s television coverage of the playoffs. The campaign was created by BBDO Worldwide, which was named Dunkin’s new agency of record in April 2018.

“When you have an advertising campaign that even the broadcast talent is talking about on-air, you know you’re creating great fan engagement with what you’re doing,” Dobson said.

Tom Manchester, Dunkin’ U.S. senior vice president of integrated marketing, said much of the deal with the league will be similar to how its current deal is structured – it will continue to hold exclusive rights in those U.S. categories, it will activate around the partnership at NHL league events and it will have a presence across broadcast, digital and social media channels throughout the season, which includes a multi-million dollar partnership with NBC Sports for custom in-game features during games. Dunkin’ will also activate alongside the NHL’s esports tournament, the NHL Gaming World Championship, which will hold its final in Las Vegas later this month.

However, the new deal will see Dunkin’ adding two new local team partnerships in the deal, with the Carolina Hurricanes and the Vegas Golden Knights. Dunkin’ now has 15 NHL team-level deals.

READ MORE: NHL Turns to Corner Ice Placements to Grow On-Ice Ad Revenue

Dunkin’ will also launch a new activation around the league deal ahead of next season, Manchester said, declining to comment further as those plans have only just started.

“Over these last two years, the idea that coffee and espresso is a big part of the hockey world and hockey family’s lives has only been reinforced for us,” Manchester said.

Dunkin’s NHL deal also serves as “the centerpiece” of that outreach to hockey families, Manchester said.

In addition to its league-level NHL deal in 2017, Dunkin’ has also made additional investments into hockey, signing a deal with USA Hockey in 2016 as well as the NWHL in 2015, becoming the women’s league first corporate sponsor.

While both of those deals have since lapsed, Manchester said that on the NWHL front, the company is in talks with the league about renewing it. He noted that Dunkin’ views “women’s hockey as just as important as men’s.”

However, Dunkin’ is not planning on more broadly renewing its partnership with the U.S. governing body. Manchester said that while Dunkin’ had activated heavily around the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team and players like Meghan Duggan during the 2018 Winter Olympics, it had nothing in place with USA Hockey at the moment – although he said Dunkin’ could potentially do something around the team or its players heading into the next Olympic cycle in 2022.

Both Dobson and Manchester declined to comment on the financial terms of the deal, other to say the multi-year deal’s investment level is in line with the previous deal. Fenway Sports Management, who is Dunkin’s sports marketing agency of record, negotiated the deal on behalf of the company.

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Concacaf Unveils First-Ever Women’s Soccer Plan

In August, Concacaf appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Concacaf has rolled out its first-ever strategic plan to grow and develop the game of women’s soccer.

In August, the confederation appointed its first-ever head of women’s football – former Canadian women’s national team player Karina LeBlanc.

LeBlanc, who presented the plan in Paris this week to all confederation’s 41 members that includes all of the soccer federations across North and Central America and the Caribbean, said that even with two of the top five ranked women’s soccer teams globally coming from this region in the U.S. and Canadian national teams, there is still an opportunity to do even better.

“The mission we’ve set out on is to improve the lives of women and girls throughout our region through the sport,” LeBlanc said. “We need to change perceptions, grow participation and build a sustainable foundation so that we can do just that.”

Concacaf has designed its strategy to grow the sport of women’s soccer around three main pillars – communicating the importance of women’s soccer and advocating for key issues affecting women, development of the sport and creating pathways to develop and empower players both on and off the field, and through commercial means that will build a self-sustainable growth model for the sport.

LeBlanc said Concacaf’s vision for growing the game somewhat mirrors FIFA’s, who launched its own first-ever global strategy for women’s soccer in October. FIFA is holding a two-day women’s soccer summit in Paris, featuring executives and federation officials from across the globe aiming to “make the most of this new era of women’s football,” which FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in his opening remarks at the summit on Wednesday morning.

Other goals for 2019 set by Concacaf include leveraging the hopeful success of the region’s national teams at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, creating a women’s coaching mentorship program and develop a commercial strategy around the confederation’s women’s soccer brand, which is called Concacaf W.

“We believe we can hit some of these targets very quickly, but it was important to create something like this plan so that everyone is on the same page,” LeBlanc said. “We all agree it is critical that we create growth and opportunity for women in the sport.”

LeBlanc said some of the long term goals include creating new women’s soccer competitions across the region, assisting in the creation of women’s soccer-specific digital and social channels for all the federations to help inspire fans, and encouraging the launch of more women’s clubs across the region.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

“From our standpoint, we are looking at ways to influence clubs to take a leap of faith and if they already have a men’s team, to also have a women’s team,” LeBlanc said. “Our goal is to change the mindset that women’s football is just a cause.

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MLSPA and REP Worldwide Teaming Up to Promote MLS Players

The Major League Soccer Players Association has taken back control of the MLS players’ group licensing rights from the league, signing a new agreement with REP Worldwide to serve as the exclusive partner and strategic advisor for those rights.

Ian Thomas

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Photo Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Major League Soccer Players Association has taken back control of the MLS players’ group licensing rights from the league, according to industry sources, signing a new agreement with REP Worldwide to serve as the exclusive partner and strategic advisor for those rights.

The PA had reclaimed those group licensing rights in the league’s first CBA in 2004, but had since licensed them back directly to the league. In the past, MLS has marketed the rights for both the league and the PA, with proceeds of licensing deals split on a percentage basis that varied by category. Now – the PA will take a more direct management in the marketing and administration of those rights, with REP Worldwide as its exclusive partner and advisor.

REP Worldwide – an acronym for Representing Every Player – was launched in 2017 as a first-of-its-kind group licensing representation business offering licensing and brand management services to athlete-driven sports properties. The NFLPA is the majority shareholder of the company, working in collaboration with its founding partners the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association (USWNTPA) and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA).

This new partnership will see REP Worldwide structure and manage MLSPA licensing partnerships on behalf of the MLS player pool across categories that include digital, apparel, experiential and hard goods, which typically includes things like toys and sports equipment. those MLS group licensing rights cover instances where four or more players appear on a single product or within a brand or product line. That can include the usage of their names, numbers and likenesses, but not team names or logos – rights held by the league.

READ MORE: Budweiser Signs On as Presenting Partner of Women’s International Champions Cup

The aim for the MLSPA is that this new arrangement will not only open new revenue for the MLS player pool, but also serve as a brand builder for all of the players, collectively and individually.

All of the other player associations in the major North American professional sports have control over their group licensing rights, with the NBPA being the last to do so in 2017.

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