Will P&G Be The New Sponsor Of The NFL's International Series? (How About The Super Bowl XLIV Half Time Show?)
October 2, 2009: The NFL will have a new title sponsor for its annual NFL International Series as Bridgestone has opted not to renew that part of its deal with the league. The NFL is expected to name the title sponsor for the game within the next two weeks, and new league partner Procter & Gamble may top the list.
"Bridgestone was the title sponsor [of the NFL International Series] for the past two years [but] we did not renew this year," said Phil Pacsi, vp-consumer marketing U.S. & Canada Consumer Tire Sales Division, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. Bridgestone is still an active NFL partner as the league's "official tire," and also is using its resources to sponsor high-profile events elsewhere. On Jan. 1, 2010, Bridgestone will be title sponsor of the NHL Winter Classic for the second consecutive year, which has grown in popularity and marketing impact since its inaugural game on Jan. 1, 2008. Bridgestone is also the official tire of the PGA Tour.
Other current NFL International Series partners for the Oct. 25 game between the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers include Monster.com, Canon, GMC, Pepsi, Reebok and Visa.
The NFL said that 20,000 tickets to to the 2009 NFL International Series game were sold within the first seven minutes of availability.
Although Procter & Gamble is not on that list, many of the brands included in the recent deal the company signed with the NFL are sold in the U.K., making the International Series a prime marketing venue to promote its goods to local consumers, including Febreze, Head & Shoulders, Pepto-Bismol, Old Spice, Gillette. Gillette uses in its current marketing such international stars as Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, and has in the past used British soccer icon David Beckham and European soccer star Thierry Henry.
The International Series is now approaching its third annual game at London's Wembley Stadium, and fourth game overall including the 2005 match up between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Bridgestone was title sponsor in 2007 (when the New York Giants defeated the Miami Dolphins, 13-10) and in 2008 (when the New Orleans Saints defeated the San Diego Chargers, 37-32). There was no International Series game played in 2006. The NFL is considering expanding the series to two games per season.
The NFL would not comment on the new sponsor for the 2009 NFL International Series. P&G reps at the Relay Worldwide Sports Sponsorship Symposium in New York this past week (sponsored by SportsBusinessJournal) would talk only about activation that was part of the original deal as unveiled by the company and the NFL.
The NFL has given more importance to the International Series over the past couple of years, expanding its office in the U.K. and launching a dedicated Web site. The game is virtually sold out, with 20,000 tickets bought in the first seven minutes of availability this past February, the NFL said. Wembley Stadium holds about 86,000 for NFL games.
"We have been delighted with the way fans have got behind the game, especially considering the challenging economic climate," Alistair Kirkwood, managing director for NFL UK, said in a statement. "The response is indicative of the must-see nature of our game and the place it has cemented in the UK sports calendar.
In a separate but related situation, a decision has not been announced as to whether or not Bridgestone would return as half time sponsor for the third consecutive Super Bowl after sponsoring the shows at Super Bowl XLII and Super Bow XLIII. In 2007, Bridgestone signed a three-year deal with the league to become the official tire, which technically would cover Super Bowl XLIV, to be played on Feb. 7, 2010 in Miami.
P&G's new deal with the NFL includes marketing rights for the Super Bowl, so moving in as half time sponsor would be a smooth transition. Bon Jovi is considered the current front-runner to headline the half time show.
Among the top prospects to come in as title sponsor for the NFL International Series:
• Procter & Gamble, which just signed on as an NFL marketing partner. Several of the 13 products that are part of the domestic deal are available in the U.K., including Febreze, Head & Shoulders, Pepto-Bismol, Old Spice and Gillette, which uses in its marketing such international stars as Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.
• Visa, which has under its renewed deal with the NFL created exclusive offers for Visa Signature cardholders, including VIP packages to attend the NFL International Series Game in London.
• FedEx, which could use the event to boost awareness of its services to consumers in the U.K.
• PepsiCo, which has several brands that are very familiar to U.K. consumers, including Pepsi Max, Frito-Lay and Gatorade, which has launched a campaign there with track & field superstar Usain Bolt. Pepsi Max already has its brand mark on the NFL International Series logo located at the international site at NFL.com.
• Wild Card, meaning a marketer not yet on the NFL roster could unveil its partnership with the league, to begin with title sponsorship of the NFL International Series.
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