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Swagtron and Chicago Cubs Show Off Creativity With New Partnership

The “e-rideables” brand breaks into the sports industry by teaming with the historic baseball team.

Max Simpson

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Photo credit: Swagtron

In the grand scheme of today’s culture, sports are very far-reaching. Sports serve as topics of discussion in everyday life as they cross over into entertainment, political and economic sectors of culture. And yet because sports are a dominant part of our environment, businesses wanting to get involved have turned to a more niche approach in order to gain attention from both sports fans and consumers.

Specifically, when it comes to stadium experiences, whether it is providing more efficient ways of getting from one end to another or even getting to the venue itself, teams are always looking for the next niche to improve their end product. And to top it off, it must be executed in an eye-catching way that will resonate with fans. An ideal fit would be a brand that can skate, hover or even scoot past the competition.

With a first-of-its-kind partnership, electric “e-rideables” brand Swagtron has partnered with the Chicago Cubs as the team’s official electric bike, scooter, skateboard and hoverboard partner for the 2019 season. On the brand side, Swagtron products, such as the Swagger 5 Elite Folding Electric Scooter and the EB5 Folding Electric Bike, will bear the “Official Electric Rides of the Cubs” designation.

READ MORE: Texas Legends Personal Approach to Partnerships Paying Off 

On the team side, the partnership will allow the baseball club to utilize an official Swagtron electric bike and scooter charging station for fans outside Wrigley Field throughout the season. Swagtron products will also be available for purchase at official Cubs stores located adjacent to Wrigley Field as well as within the Sloan Park Team Shop at the team’s spring training facility.

For Swagtron, the breakthrough into the professional sports industry was not a premeditated effort. Rather, it originated from Cubs’ personnel naturally embracing the brand’s products.

“The partnership came about rather organically,” said Jason Wakefield, Swagtron’s chief marketing officer. “Before a Cubs game, pitcher Carl Edwards Jr. was seen riding a Swagcycle on the field in full uniform. The images quickly went viral on social media.”

Edwards Jr., who was not endorsed by Swagtron, nor an official representative of the brand, was simply loosening up before the game and enjoying riding around on his electric bike.

“Swagtron products have proven to be tremendously popular among athletes as they are practical to getting around venues. With Edwards Jr., that was just his personal ride. The fans loved it and that’s where our conversation with the Cubs really began.”

From there, the “e-rideables” brand did its homework on the fanbase and noted that the demographics, loyalty and sheer enthusiasm of Cubs’ fans aligned well with those of Swagtron customers.

“The demographics of Major League Baseball fans were very in-line with our own,” said Wakefield. “But what further enticed us strategically to Chicago was that the Cubs are one of the most loved and iconic franchises in baseball. They have such mass appeal and passionate fans that it made the entire concept easy to embrace.”

The fit for Swagtron and Chicago isn’t just limited to within the confines of Wrigley Field. Wakefield foresees massive growth within the “e-rideables” industry especially within a large city such as Chicago.

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

“Light electric vehicles, or LEVs, like electric bikes and scooters are only going to become more common especially in urban centers where last-mile solutions are practical. From an environmental standpoint, that can’t come soon enough. Swagtron aims to be at the forefront of making efficient, eco-friendly alternatives that are affordable and accessible for everyone.”

Both Swagtron and the Cubs have already collaborated on new, enriching content to help highlight the partnership. Earlier this month, Swagtron teamed up with Cubs Charities to surprise Cubs Scholar Sean Waight. Waight, who experienced transportation issues after a new internship added an additional six miles each way to his commute (as well as constant bike maintenance for his older second-hand bike), was gifted with a plethora of Swagtron rides to help make his everyday commute a bit more enjoyable.

“We gave him some early holiday gifts to make sure he can get to his internship, and soon, college,” said Wakefield. “Our short film, called “Giving is Electric,” highlights our teamwork with Cubs Charities to help make this possible. It definitely hits all the feels.”

Moving forward into next year, Swagtron will team up with the Cubs to showcase its products via team players and Clark the Cub, the team’s official mascot. The brand will collaborate on exclusive content, unique promotions and creative events that will help distinguish the brand to be unlike anything in the “e-rideables” industry.

“We’re excited to see the Cubs ride into 2019 with a little extra swag,” said Wakefield, “and to give fans in Chicago and across the country the chance to #RideLikeaPro.”

Max Simpson is a contributing writer for Front Office Sports. A graduate from Arizona State University, Max currently works for the Reno Aces & Reno 1868 FC with time spent with Sun Devil Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks. For @frntofficesport, Max highlights unique partnerships, brand marketing strategies, and content activation. He can be reached at max@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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Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

*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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Sponsorship

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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Photo Credit: Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports

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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