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PlayStation Renewal Brings Stability to Fiesta Bowl

After a stretch in which the Fiesta Bowl saw four different title sponsors in four games, PlayStation’s multi-year commitment brings stability to one of the premier bowl games of the season.

Adam White

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PlayStation - Video games - Esports

First, it was Tostitos, then it was Vizio, then it was Battlefrog, and then it was PlayStation.

From 2014 to 2016, the Fiesta Bowl had four different title sponsors for four different games after having Tostitos as the title sponsor of the game from 1996-2014.

During that same time period, the only other New Year’s Six bowls to have their title sponsors changed were the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl, with neither of them seeing the introduction of more than one new presenting partner.

Now, thanks to a new multi-year deal between ESPN and PlayStation, the brand will return after being the title sponsor for both the 2016 and 2017 editions of the game.

Although the Fiesta Bowl — the organization that puts on the game — isn’t the one negotiating the deal, having a partner like PlayStation back for at least the next few years is crucial according to Mike Nealy, the executive director of the Fiesta Bowl.

“We used to have a long-term relationship with a good brand and we were thrilled to have PlayStation. I think there was a sample time there for a couple of years, but the renewal signals that PlayStation is happy and we are happy. What they like to do as far as our local activation and being involved with the community makes this a big win for us and a big win for the community.”

READ MORE: Traditional Professional Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

No stranger to video games and esports, the Fiesta Bowl hosted the Overwatch Collegiate National Championship at the beginning of this year. While there might not be an esports component as part of the partnership this year, Nealy wasn’t one to shy away about the future prospects of some sort of tie-in there.

“We aren’t going to do it this year, but it is definitely in the thought process going forward.”

Although there might not be a formalized esports program, PlayStation will be active when it comes to activations, especially around ones that focus on community outreach.

“Throughout the week, they will be in lockstep with us when it comes to activations in the community. The charitable side of our organization is very important to us, so to have a partner that values that is what makes this partnership fit even more.”

Like other bowl games, since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, the dynamic around New Year’s Six games have changed.

Because of that, Nealy points to an emphasis on getting smarter at what the Fiesta Bowl is doing when it comes to marketing and selling tickets for the game because the game “no longer sells itself.”

Impacted by other macro conditions as well, getting smarter for the Bowl revolves around leveraging more data and insights to make sure that they are able to connect to the consumer base in a way that is relevant to them.

“The pressures are there. Changes at the bowl level certainly have been impacted by the Playoff, but we are fortunate to be one of the pinnacle games. The demand is not the same as it was and so we have to work a little bit harder and a little bit smarter.”

Regardless of whose name is on the bowl or the factors impacting demand, you can always count on the Fiesta Bowl to be a good time.

“We like to have fun and PlayStation is a fun product, we’re a fiesta after all.”

Adam is the Founder and CEO of Front Office Sports. A University of Miami Alum, Adam has worked for opendorse, the Fiesta Bowl, and the University of Miami Athletic Department. He can be reached at adam@frntofficesport.com.

Sponsorship

Texas Legends Personal Approach to Partnerships Paying Off

The Legends have found that simple things like networking events are an easy way to add value to its partners and keep them retained.

Adam White

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Texas Legends - Texas - G League

Photo via @TexasLegends

The name of the team may not jump off the page, but the Texas Legends’ partnership strategy sure will catch your attention.

The team, based in Frisco, is the G League affiliate of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. Playing in one of the most crowded metropolitan sports markets in the country, the Legends know that while their broad reach might not be as large as the Cowboys and the Mavericks or the Stars and Rangers, their local reach is exceedingly impactful.

And for the last few years, they have been leaning into that.

Britney Wynn, VP of media relations for the team, credits the G League and the flexibility provided to its member teams.

“The biggest difference on the partnership side between the NBA and the G League is the flexibility we have when it comes to being more creative. We don’t really have set partnerships or levels because everything we do is as custom as possible for the partner we are working with.”

This type of flexibility has led to the team having a different jersey for every home game and even one of their partners building a practice court for them.

“I can honestly tell you that this works better than anything else we do. These networking events get you clients. If you to host a networking event, they will come.” – Britney Wynn on what she tells other G League teams when it comes to successful partner strategies.

One of her favorite activations this year is the evolution of the team’s partnership with Legacy Plumbing. The local Frisco plumbing company was looking to change it up after four years of running a similar promotion. With the goal of the new activation having more of an impact on the community, Wynn and Legacy came up with what they called the “Mission of the Month.”

READ MORE: Why Delta Private Jets Signed With MSG as a Suites Partner

“Mission of the Month” is an extension of Legacy’s own internal program, except in this situation, the Legends have used their platform to expand the collection of items that will go to different charities to the three networking events they have every month for their premium clients.

Not only have the aforementioned networking events become an opportunity for partners like Legacy to activate, but they have also become a fundamental part of what the Legends can offer that is different from other teams in the area and an example of the culture that owner Donnie Nelson has built around the team.

“Donnie brought the team to Frisco to honor the true legends in the community (hence the name). Whether it was on the philanthropic side or on the business development side, he wanted to use the team solely for giving back purposes.”

Instead of just being a place where partners can activate, Wynn and the team at the Legends have turned the team into a conduit not only for positive social change, but positive business change — all at a price that is the most reasonable in the area and in an experience that is family friendly.

“The whole mindset behind the game is to make it somewhere where people can come and do business in a way you can’t find anywhere else. A lot of our smaller partnerships come in because we’re affordable and we’re family friendly. They will bring their kids and their clients will bring their kids; because of the kid zones on either end of the court, they will be able to talk business while the kids are playing.”

This mindset has spilled over to the networking events, such as a three-times-a-month program the Legends have set up for premium clients that will see them host a breakfast and a lunch at the arena and a happy hour at a partner’s restaurant or location.

They have even built out an executive event series that brings together high ranking executives from their partners in unique ways once a quarter. Their last event was held at a partner’s Mercedes-Benz dealership and was aptly called “Cigars and Cars.”

As for retention rate because of the approach, Wynn said: “I don’t know the exact percentage, but it is pretty high.”

While these initiatives may be hard work for the Legends staff, the events are cost-effective additions to packages that end up being a win-win for everyone involved.

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Sponsorship

Minor League Baseball Showcasing Deeper Partnership Connections With Hot Dogs

A focus on aligning values with strategic partners has led to a unique collaboration between Minor League Baseball and Applegate Farms.

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Few things go together like baseball and hot dogs, and a focus on aligning values with strategic partners has led to a long-term partnership between Minor League Baseball and Applegate Farms.

The league announced today that the meat company would serve as the “Official Natural and Organic Meat of MiLB.” Along with prominent signage in many of MiLB’s 160 stadiums, Applegate Farms will also have official partnerships with 25 Minor League Baseball teams with “activations running very deep,” said David Wright, chief marketing and commercial officer at Minor League Baseball.

The focus on finding the right strategic partnerships led to the alignment with Applegate Farms as the league continues to think about growth and its approach to the marketplace.

“What an unbelievable brand,” Wright said. “Their passion for their the product really resonates with next-gen consumers and how we think about fans. Once we had the opportunity to connect with their leadership, the direct alignment was really powerful.”

Applegate Farms’ products include “The Cleaner Wiener”, a 100 percent grass-fed beef hot dog. All the company’s products — including bacon, sausages, deli meats, cheese, and frozen products — are made with no chemical nitrates, phosphates, preservatives, artificial ingredients, antibiotics or hormones. As more consumers are becoming more conscious of what goes in their bodies, Wright said the idea of a more natural hot dog will appeal to more fans. Applegate Farms is a standalone subsidiary of Hormel Foods.

READ MORE: Why Scoring a Career in Minor League Baseball Is Anything but Minor

The partnership includes an extensive integrated media plan, with Applegate Farms receiving dominant positioning throughout the MiLB network. Applegate Farms’ messaging will also be found in ballparks across the country through ISM Connect and the ISM Fan Engagement Network.

“Partnering with Minor League Baseball was a no-brainer for Applegate,” said Nicole Glenn, VP of marketing at Applegate Farms. “Not only do both brands have similar values, but you can’t argue with the iconic pairing of hot dogs and baseball. We are very excited for the opportunity to serve our products across the country.”

The league already has a deep portfolio of partners, but Applegate Farms is just the beginning of a slew of potential announcements looking toward 2019, said Wright.

Among other food brands partnered with MiLB are BUSH’S Beans and Uncle Ray’s Potato Chips. Both brands are authentically integrated into ballparks and have offered great relationships for Minor League Baseball.

The increase in partners comes as more brands are recognizing the potential of MiLB as a major national marketing platform. The league welcomed nearly 41 million people through its turnstiles last year, second only to Major League Baseball in North American professional sport leagues.

READ MORE: Minor League Baseball’s Merchandise Enjoys Major League Sales

With 81 percent of the U.S. population living within an MiLB market, the local impact is significant. Put all of this together, MiLB is quickly becoming a national marketing platform competing with other major sport properties. 

“Each of the 160 teams does an incredible job locally and the relevance in their markets is off the charts,” said Wright. “We’re making great strides in positioning ourselves as a national marketing platform. While the 160 clubs have become industry leaders in local markets, the ability to go to market under one voice has proven to complementary and very powerful. And what’s most exciting, I think we’re just getting started.”

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Esports

Traditional Professional Athletes Could Soon See More Opportunities With Gaming Companies

Los Angeles Lakers guard and avid gamer Josh Hart teamed up with gaming audio company Turtle Beach in new endorsement and consultant role.

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With more traditional professional athletes playing video games, opportunities are ample for companies to capitalize on the trend.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart recently revealed a new partnership with gaming headset and audio accessory brand Turtle Beach.

As Hart’s official audio partner, Turtle Beach will outfit him with the brand’s latest gear, with Hart endorsing the brand and consulting on future products. Hart, an avid gamer when not on the court, worked with his management company, Roc Nation Sports, to reach out to Turtle Beach about the idea of working together.

“We strive to align ourselves with partners who share our passion for gaming, and we’re impressed with everything Josh represents both as a pro athlete and as a gamer,” Turtle Beach CEO Juergen Stark said.

To kick off the partnership, Turtle Beach renovated a room in Hart’s home, creating his own personal gaming paradise complete with multiple gaming systems and a variety of high-end gear, plus an assortment of the latest Turtle Beach equipment, and signed jerseys of some of Hart’s favorite professional athletes.

Set up for Josh’s love of gaming, Turtle Beach also made sure Hart can use the room for reviewing his own game footage, watching TV and movies, and listening to music.

In the past, most of Turtle Beach’s partnerships were licensing deals with companies such as Activision, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. However, the past few years the company’s partnerships strategy has shifted to focus on top pro esports teams and players, such as OpTic Gaming, Astralis, Splyce and the Houston Outlaws.

READ MORE: The Boom of Implementing Esports Classes in College Has Begun

The shift also includes content creators and influencers, including DrDisRespect, Siefe and Ali-A.

Working with Hart, a budding NBA star, is a newer endeavor for Turtle Beach, and additional athlete partnerships could be in store in the future — so long as it’s a great fit for both sides.

“When you look at partnerships like this, obviously the most important part is that Josh is actually a core gamer and will use our gear accordingly, and not just for gaming but for audio in general,” said MacLean Marshall, Turtle Beach’s senior director of brand and communications. “However, beyond just using Turtle Beach headsets, we’ll look to Josh for his input as we develop future products, and will work with him to create more content that celebrates our mutual passion for gaming and the benefit of having great audio.”

Marshall mentions Hart specifically as an ambassador of gaming to the NBA, for obvious reasons, but knows there are plenty of others with the potential to provide a new entry point to fans into the world of gaming. Likewise, it provides a bridge from gaming fans to the NBA.

“When I started in the industry years ago, traditional pro athletes weren’t really gaming,” Marshall said. “Maybe there were a few here or there, but traditional athletes were mostly just traditional athletes because gaming was more niche and not as mainstream as it is today.

“We’re now at the point where there’s a variety of younger pro athletes who grew up playing games, who still play games in their spare time, and it’s great to see it as another equally exciting passion for them, and to see the crossover between our respective audiences and fans.”

READ MORE: VY Esports Capitalizes on Trend of Traditional Sports Entering New Space

Hart joined the Turtle Beach team at a busy time of the year, with the company amidst launching its new lineup of gaming headsets while gearing up for the holiday season.  

That, along with all the usual intricacies of managing and maintaining a great partnership, Marshall isn’t sure if and when Turtle Beach might add another professional athlete partner, but it certainly isn’t out of the question.

“We’ve been cognizant — not just with Josh Hart, but all our partnerships in general — to make sure they’re focused on the right thing,” Marshall said. “For example, this partnership isn’t about us, or even about Josh as an NBA star. Rather, it’s about Josh Hart the avid gamer.

“So, sure, we could go after more [pro athletes], but there’s quite a bit of effort and energy that goes into partnerships like this, and it’s more important to us to deliver on our part with Josh, as opposed to bringing on others and potentially overstretching our bandwidth. This is about quality, not quantity, and we’re excited to do more with Josh in the future.”

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