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Why Go Bowling Turned to NASCAR to Help Grow Interest in the Sport

Boogity boogity boogity! Let’s go bowling!

Kraig Doremus

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Aric Almirola’s No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will feature Go Bowling as a primary sponsor for the race at Watkins Glen International in August. The company has been with Almirola since his days with Richard Petty Motorsports and made the move to SHR along with him. (Image via SHR)

In the world of NASCAR, partnerships between teams and outside organizations are a key component to a race team’s success. From being a source of revenue to helping with marketing, when a team creates a healthy partnership with a business, both sides reap the benefits.

Veteran Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) driver Aric Almirola has continued his partnership with Go Bowling this season, while the company has also partnered with his Stewart-Haas Racing his teammate, up-and-coming NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) competitor Cole Custer.

For Go Bowling, which operates more than 3,000 bowling centers across the United States, there is a draw of being associated with both a veteran driver and young, new talent. The company will be on Almirola’s No. 10 Ford for the Watkins Glen MENCS race and on Custer’s No. 00 machine for the NXS race at Richmond Raceway in September.

“Aric (Almirola) is a veteran in this sport and has won races at the Cup level,” said Stewart-Haas Racing VP of Sales and Marketing Mike Verlander. “He’s an elder statesman when it comes to pushing brand messages and is professional. Cole is younger and represents many different brands very well. It’s part of the reason we assembled a two-pronged program. He can speak to the future of bowling as a young guy and millennial, and we get to reach a whole different crowd through Aric.”

Go Bowling understands just how effective their partnerships in NASCAR have been.

Said John Harbuck, President of Strike Ten Entertainment, the centralized sponsorship activation arm of the entire bowling industry: “Our racing partnerships have proven to be very effective at reinforcing the bowling brand among consumers. This new endeavor with Stewart-Haas Racing and primary sponsorships of its teams during our two NASCAR race weekends at Watkins Glen and Richmond allows us to drive tremendous top-of-mind awareness for bowling by reaching a huge audience with similar demographics.”

This is not the first year that Go Bowling has been associated with Almirola. The company actually aligned with him prior to his move to Stewart-Haas before the 2018 season, but when Almirola went to SHR, Go Bowling followed.

“They’ve been a big fan of Aric’s,” said Verlander. “When Aric came to SHR, it sparked interest with them to come over and be a part of the program. Tony Stewart (team co-owner) has bowling lanes in his house. Not only can we push the message of Go Bowling, but Tony even believes in bowling so much so that he has lanes in his house to bowl in his free time.”

Verlander knows that the landscape of bowling has changed over the years, so the marketing strategy of Stewart-Haas has to cater to what people see bowling as today.

Bowling has changed from simply putting on shoes and bowling. Now, there’s food (many times it’s full-service) and arcade games often associated with bowling centers. There’s a big push to show everyone just how much you can do at a bowling center. For Stewart-Haas Racing, it’s about getting fans to the bowling center and also engaging their current partners.

Explained Verlander: “If you look at the marketing that makes NASCAR so different is that we can put different partnerships together. We work with Hunt Brothers Pizza, one of the largest quick-service pizza companies in the country. We also work with Anheuser Busch. When you think of bowling, beer and pizza go along with that. We’re making introductions there.”

Almirola’s SHR teammate, Cole Custer, will have Go Bowling on the hood of his No. 00 machine for the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Richmond in September. The NXS race at Richmond is the Go Bowling 250. (Photo via Racing News.)

For both Almirola and Custer, there is activation planned around a specific race. Almirola’s car will feature Go Bowling as the primary sponsor for the August Watkins Glen event.

August 11, the Saturday following the Go Bowling at The Glen Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, is National Bowling Day, so Almirola’s scheme will highlight that event.

Custer’s No. 00 Ford will feature Go Bowling on the hood for the Richmond race on September 21. Go Bowling will also serve as the race sponsor, as the race is the Go Bowling 250.

The Richmond race coincides with the Professional Women’s Bowling Tournament, which will be highlighted on Custer’s car.

“This partnership is so much bigger than us as a race team,” said Verlander. “It’s about the industry. The NASCAR fan is actually 18 percent more likely to bowl than the non-racing fan, and through this partnership, we’re developing NASCAR and bowling fans alike.”

As the two entities work together to engage both NASCAR and bowling fanatics, the future of the partnership certainly looks bright.

“Go Bowling wants to continue establishing equity with SHR and maintaining what they’ve done working with the No. 10 team,” stated Verlander. “Hopefully, in a few years, when people look at NASCAR, they know that Stewart-Haas and Aric Almirola were the ones who partnered with Go Bowling. It should be a conversation we’re able to have with people down the road.”

Kraig Doremus a content writer for Front Office Sports with a focus on NASCAR. He holds a B.S. in Sport Studies from Reinhardt University and is currently pursuing his M.A in Sport Education from Gardner-Webb University. He can be reached at kraig@frntofficesport.com

Sponsorship

How Wayne Rooney Added Millions of Additional Brand Value for D.C. United and MLS

Since Wayne Rooney joined D.C. United during the MLS season, the team garnered millions in new brand value, setting the team up well for the future.

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Major League Soccer’s D.C. United brought in a gold mine when the team signed English soccer legend Wayne Rooney.

According to the company GumGum Sports, the first four months of Rooney in the team’s uniform generated $4.5 million in social media value for jersey sponsor Leidos. That sum was a massive increase over the $130,000 value from the time prior to his signing.

D.C. United is one of GumGum’s clients. GumGum Sports uses computer vision to help rights holders, sponsors, and agencies measure the media value of their sponsorships across TV, streaming and social media. The company is also helping transform an industry previously relying on text and traditional broadcasts to value sponsorship, said Jeff Katz, VP of strategy and strategic partnerships at GumGum.

“They were missing social media, an emerging channel in how sports — even highlights — are shared across thousands of accounts,” Katz said. “There’s massive amounts of value coming in not just from accounts owned by teams or leagues, but out in the wild of social media.”

Rooney was a vital component in D.C. United’s season on the field. In the 14 games prior to his arrival, the team won two games and amassed 11 points. In the 17 games following his stateside arrival, D.C. United won 10 games and garnered 33 points with a +13 goal differential.

READ MORE: NLL Points to MLS as Benchmark for What League Could Become

Those games had some major moments for Rooney, generating much of the added value for the organization.

“Wayne Rooney’s not just a name. His play was huge,” Katz said. “The fact that he performed so well is a big deal as well, from a media value perspective. Because of his fame and social media presence, when he does something exciting, it raises D.C. United’s profile, influence and benefit.”

The June 28 signing announcement generated 3.7 million social engagements, driving a $1.7 million media value for D.C. United partners.

In August, the viral moment of Rooney making a game-saving tackle and then taking the ball the length of the field to score the 96th-minute game-winner resulted in $1.6 million in media value and 11.4 million engagements.

In a September game against Atlanta United, Rooney tied up the game on a penalty kick and then assisted on Luciano Acosta’s two goals later in the 3-1 win. The game drove $1.3 million in media value and 2.4 million engagements.

Increasingly, athletes providing major success on the field are also contributing mightily to the organization’s value. The increase in the brand’s brand value could certainly come in handy when it’s time to sign new deals, like its jersey deal.

Leidos signed the current three-year deal in 2016. With this new information, Katz said D.C. United is well positioned to demonstrate the increased value of its kit sponsorship moving forward. The Athletic reported in October the team was negotiating with Amazon, Qatar Airways, United Airlines and others for the deal in what could be one of the league’s most lucrative. The story reported the current deal is in the realm of $3 million. The next could be worth north of $5 million.

“These valuations help reframe how they see their assets,” he said. “With all the earned media value, the asset is even more so tremendously valuable.”

One worry of having a team relying so heavily on one player for driving media value is the drastic drop if they leave. Katz said the hope, at least for D.C. United, would be Rooney staying long enough to raise the league, team and teammate values enough to insulate it from Rooney’s eventual departure.

“There are a lot of things they can do now to leverage this increased exposure, and continue to drive value,” Katz said. “D.C. United highlight clips getting shared across social media helps the entire organization attract all sorts of attention. By the time in the long distant future when he leaves, they’ve already diversified where the value comes from.”

READ MORE: Superstars Help Showcase Importance of Social Media Value for Teams

It isn’t just D.C. United gaining value from Rooney’s presence, Katz said. The entire Major League Soccer brand does as well, as Rooney’s play makes its viral way across the internet. He also believes the league has received similar brand-value boosts when other international stars arrived — like David Beckham.

“MLS has a real opportunity to capitalize on acquisitions of top talent, drawing more attention and increasing their ability to generate and foster talent internally,” he said. “It’s more attention to build and develop their own stars’ social footprints and value.”

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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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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.”

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