The Topps Co. is a prime example of a business that has reinvented itself, maintaining ties to its heritage and core consumers while building a new and younger consumer base by integrating social media, digital, apps, advanced analytics and other platforms to enhance the category for today and the future. However, as Zvee Geffen, Topps brand manager for Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer and the English Premier League, explains in this Q&A, the company is constantly looking for ways to keep traditional collectors happy, develop products that appeal to the next generation of fans, provide statistics that inform but not overload and merge historically successful items such as cards and memorabilia with the world of virtual collectables.
In what has become a trend in the North Americanization of its marketing alliances, Liverpool FC — majority owned by Boston-based Fenway Sports Group — has signed a multi-year deal naming Subway as the 'official training restaurant' for the iconic soccer club, which not only is Subway's first alliance with a team in the Barclays English Premier League, but is Liverpool's third deal since September with a company based in the U.S. (Gatorade) and Canada (EA Sports), a move that supports Subway's plan to add locations in the U.K. and Liverpool's strategy to develop itself as a global brand. MORE
Under the umbrella campaign, 'Mission Apolo Built with Chocolate Milk,' eight-time Olympic speed-skating medal winner Apolo Ohno is coming out of retirement to train for and then compete in the Ironman World Championship endurance event this October in Hawaii, in which Ohno — who has run the NYC Marathon and won on Dancing with the Stars — will test himself on a 140.6 mile course that includes swimming, biking and running, all of which will be supported by a multi-media marketing push aligned with 'Got Chocolate Milk?' from MilkPep. Says Ohno of the task ahead, 'I have no idea what I'm getting myself in to.' MORE
Mondelez International, the 'official snacks of U.S. Soccer,' is rolling out what it calls 'the largest multi-brand program to date' in its history, a multi-layered 'Pass the Love' effort that will reach consumers and fans via such brands as Oreos, Chips Ahoy!, Ritz, Honey Maid, Trident and Sour Patch Kids and include 40M custom-designed packages, more then 17,000 POP displays, a soccer game mobile app and a 'Game of Your Life' promotion offering personalized soccer matches, autographed jerseys and cash prizes, all fronted by soccer stars Clint Dempsey and Alex Morgan to enhance its support of the U.S. Men's Soccer Team that will compete in the FIFA World Cup this June-July. MORE
With the NBA's 'second season' underway, the quest is on among league sponsors, media partners, players and the teams themselves to capture the eyeballs and wallets of consumers and fans, with campaigns hitting TNT, ESPN, ABC, NBA TV and elsewhere from Sprint, State Farm, Foot Locker, Gatorade, Nike, adidas and others featuring a roster that includes Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Spider-Man and Pharrell Williams. MORE
LeBron James, who earns in excess of $40 million in annual endorsements, was conspicuous by his near absence when he barely appeared in commercials during the 2013 post-season, but Kevin Durant stepped up his marketing game to appear in ads for Sprint, BBVA Compass, Gatorade and others. Durant is back on the playoff endorsement trail, first up with a new spot from Sprint in which he is asked to become a member of the loopy and fictitious Frobinsons Framily, with unexpected results. MORE
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a veteran of State Farm commercials, and 'like a good neighbor' he is now there to happily meet and greet actors Seth Rogen and Zac Efron in a humorous spot that manages to incorporate the NFL, ESPN's SportsCenter, Rogen's acting career (of which Rodgers claims to be a big fan), Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Nike, State Farm and most of all the upcoming Universal movie, Neighbors, which stars Rogen and Efron. MORE
The Miami Heat may be seeded No. 2 in the Eastern Conference in the post-season, but the two-time defending NBA champion Heat and All-Star LeBron James are No. 1 among fans in sales of team merchandise and, for James, jerseys, according to NBAStore.com, with James followed by league scoring leader and MVP to be Kevin Durant and two players who missed significant portions of the year due to injuries — Kobe Bryant and Derrick Rose — with Kobe's struggling Los Angeles Lakers finding solace in placing No. 2 in the NBA in merchandise sales. MORE
Emirates Airline, an official marketing partner of FIFA, is adding interactive depth to its recently launched 'Hero: All-Time Greats' multi-media campaign starring soccer icons Pelé and Cristiano Ronaldo via an alliance with Microsoft, which will bring the effort to a global audience through outlets including MSN, Skype, Xbox and Windows 8 with the ultimate goal of raising awareness "among a younger, tech-savvy demographic increasingly accustomed to frequent traveling — the business travelers of tomorrow.' MORE
NEWS FROM Stanley Cup Playoffs
At least that's the premise of a tongue-in-cheek marketing effort (which launched, appropriately, on April Fool's Day) in which comedian/actor Nick Kroll and two cronies swipe the Stanley Cup and hold it for ransom, with demands that include "a lock of Jaromir Jagr's hair, a VHS copy of The Mighty Ducks and a meet-and-greet with the Hanson Brothers (of Slap Shot fame)," plus, as one of the trio adds, "One million dollars," which creates a frenzy among news shows ("That's crazy! You can't steal the Stanley Cup!") but ultimately ends well for the NHL and NBC Sports Group as a SWAT team recovers the trophy and sends the three ne'er do wells off to the penalty box. MORE
NEWS FROM NBA 2013-14
With the NCAA men's hoops tournament fast approaching, CBS and Turner Sports are ramping up for the fourth year of their joint coverage, which among other things means extended on-air time for analyst-commentator Charles Barkley. In this Q&A, Sir Charles offers his opinions on March Madness, players seeking to emulate LeBron James by going directly from high school to the NBA, tensions in the studio when the CBS and Turner crews first came together, Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks, working with Shaquille O'Neal and new commercials in which he stars that will air during the basketball tournament.
Damien Lillard of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers has signed a mega-extension contract with adidas, which was unveiled to coincide with a new humorous TV spot from Foot Locker starring the second-year all-star point guard, an effort that supports adidas kicks at the national retailer as well as the upcoming NBA post-season, with Lillard lamenting the fact that some star athletes have never won a world championship and then coming face-to-face with members of that group, including Barry Sanders, LaDainian Tomlinson, Chris Webber and Karl Malone. MORE
Having recently signed a two-year, $48.5M extension to his Los Angeles Lakers contract that likely will put a bookend on what would then be a 20-year NBA career, Kobe Bryant is ramping up moves for his life after pro hoops by forming his own company, Kobe Inc., and making what was called a 'significant investment' into premium sports drink company BodyArmor, for whom he will be involved in all facets of the business, including product development, innovation, marketing and growth strategies as the brand seeks inroads against Gatorade, PowerAde and other players in the category. MORE
NEWS FROM MLB 2014
Cancer is an aggressive disease that impacts mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, relatives, friends and co-workers. The best way to beat it: Be even more aggressive in finding a cure. That is the heart of the strategy that drives STAND UP TO CANCER, which along with key partners MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL and MASTERCARD used in 2013 multi-media marketing and platforms that reached consumers and corporations to support an overarching plan of empowerment to get funds directly to doctors, scientists and hospitals to hasten research to end cancer. MORE
The 2014 season promises to be a milestone year for Major League Baseball, with a roster of returning partners being joined by the likes of Church & Dwight, Target and Viacom (MTV); a new lead agency in BBDO, NY, which has hit the season running with a campaign, "For the Love of Baseball," that includes spots starring Mike Trout, David Price and MLB ball parks; the league's 25th anniversary with broadcast mate ESPN; the Derek Jeter "Farewell Tour"; and games already played in Australia that foreshadow more international inroads to come. In this Opening Day Q&A, Tim Brosnan, evp-business for MLB, talks about league expansion into new marketing aisles, reaching a younger demographic with the help of MTV, the role that sponsors will have from opening week to the All-Star Game and then through to the playoffs and World Series and the challenges of reaching fans and consumers in a crowded playing field.
The MLB season is barely into its first month but arguments already are heating over which team has the most loyal and least loyal fan bases. Heading the list of fan favorites would be the St. Louis Cardinals, followed by the Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants, according to the just-released 2014 MLB Fan Loyalty Index from engagement and research firm Brand Keys, which through its studies also shows that the teams with the least-loyal fan bases are the New York Mets and Houston Astros. MORE
NEWS FROM 2014 FIFA World Cup
In what the beverage brand called the 'largest marketing program' in its history, Coca-Cola has launched 'The World's Cup,' a multi-layered global effort to support its status as an official FIFA partner for the upcoming World Cup, which encompasses TV, print, Internet and social media, with a story dedicated to four teams that have used soccer to help overcome challenges and follows them from their local communities to the big stage in Brazil thanks to invitations from Coke, and also features an interactive element in which people can add their photos and messages to a mosaic flag scheduled to be unfurled prior to the opening match in June. MORE
In the same week that Coca-Cola has unveiled a global campaign to support its role as an official marketing partner of FIFA and the upcoming World Cup, rival Pepsi has launched key elements of its soccer-specific umbrella effort, led by a TV spot, 'Now Is What You Make It,' which puts front and center the beverage brand's heaviest endorsers from the sport, including Lionel Messi, Clint Dempsey, Sergio Ramos, David Luiz and Robin van Persie, plus an extended interactive online version that allows visitors to unlock new scenes and elements that put them on the virtual streets of Rio de Janeiro, all played out to a cover version of David Bowie's 'Heroes' as performed by multi-Grammy winner Janelle Monae. MORE
The North American Soccer League is entering the fourth season of its second life, with the original NASL having lasted from 1968-84 and the new and rebooted NASL seeking to expand on its own turf and on its own terms. The league begins play this weekend with ten clubs (including two first-year franchises), new league-wide and local marketing and media partners and a strategy that will add three clubs next season could see as many as 18 clubs in play over the next five seasons in the U.S. and Canada. In this Q&A, second-year commissioner Bill Peterson talks about the pros and challenges facing the league, its relationship with Major League Soccer and tactics being implemented to make the NASL fan and brand friendly.
NEWS FROM BostonSportsJournalism.com
More than 30 companies have activated or soon will unveil marketing to support the iconic ballpark reaching the century mark, including JetBlue, Coca-Cola, Bank of America, Dunkin' Donuts and L.L.Bean. MORE
NEWS FROM ChicagoSportsJournalism.com
The iconic Wrigley Field will turn 100 in 2014 and the Chicago Cubs have started the party by asking people to create a logo that would be used for the entire celebration. But can that bring enough good karma to break an infamous streak in which the team has not won the World Series since 1908? MORE
MORE NEWS ...
It was not a big surprise when Floyd 'Money' Mayweather confirmed that he would stage his scheduled May 3 fight against Marcos Maidana in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he has had 11 previous fights, but what remains to be seen is whether the title-unification bout will break the box office, Showtime PPV, marketing and overall financial marks that 'Money' set in his previous fight against Canelo Alvarez, which for Mayweather has topped $100M (and still counting). MORE
The University of Connecticut defeated Kentucky on Monday night to win the NCAA men's basketball championship, but NCAA corporate partner AT&T made out like a winner, as well. The title game. which was played in AT&T Stadium and broadcast on CBS, yielded more than $6.3M in media value for the telecom company via visual and verbal mentions, and AT&T had a multitude of marketing and activations in its hometown of Dallas during Final Four weekend that brought in millions more in fan, consumer and media recognition that put them, as one analyst said, top of mind even with people who use competing brands. MORE
Basketball icon Oscar Robertson was in New York this week to help usher in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 games in Madison Square Garden, the first time 'The World's Most Famous Arena' has hosted March Madness since 1961, back in a time when Robertson had just finished his stellar college basketball career at Cincinnati — which included two trips to the Final Four and an MSG college scoring record of 56 points in one game (which still stands today) — and was beginning to make his mark in the NBA. Robertson spoke about his impact on college hoops (the Oscar Robertson Trophy annually honors the top Div. I men's player of the year), becoming the only player in the NBA to average a triple-double for an entire season, teaming with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win the 1971 league title, the effect of super-star mash-ups now in the league (led by the LeBron-Wade-Bosh union) and why players who try to move to the NBA from high school or ater one year of college will find the road extremely challenging. MORE
The Duke Blue Devils may have been eliminated from the 2014 NCAA Men's Div. I Basketball Tournament in the round of 32, but the team was named the favorite among fans for the fifth consecutive year in a new survey from The Harris Poll, followed by six teams among the Top Ten that are still part of the Big Dance (although overall No. 1 team Florida is not be be found here). However, despite the fact that the poll was conducted in the midst of March Madness, it was college football that came out on top as the favorite sport, with college hoops second and other sports lagging far behind. MORE
In 1989, first-year card and memorabilia company Upper Deck gave Ken Griffey Jr. the No. 1 spot in its inaugural MLB set, jump-starting Griffey Jr.'s stellar career and putting Upper Deck on a road that 25 years later sees the company creating product that still resonates among fans and consumers, led by platforms that include exclusive deals with Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and beginning next season with the NHL and NHLPA; such alliances as the Collegiate Licensing Co., Marvel and its roster of movies and comics as well as for the Legend card building game, Fox (including support of the upcoming 35th anniversary of Alien) and Sanrio (Hello Kitty). In this Q&A, Jason Masherah, president of Upper Deck talks about 25th anniversary marketing support, how the company has evolved to handle the ebb and flow of the category, how football and hockey have challenged baseball for card-collecting supremacy and how Upper Deck's Random Acts of Kindness program and Heroic Inspirations cards are honoring fans.