By the Staff of NYSportsJournalism.com
December 4, 2012: The year 2012 in review includes numerous highlights in the world of sports: the New York Giants winning Super Bowl XLVI; the Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games in London; LeBron James with the Miami Heat winning his first championship ring, which culminated an exciting NBA season that could have been derailed by a lockout; Miguel Cabrera achieving MLB's first Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967 and then helping to lead the Detroit Tigers into the World Series, where the San Francisco Giants won their second World Series in three seasons; and Serena Williams' thrilling wins at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and winning two gold medals (singles and doubles).
In marketing, Olympic athletes and young NFL quarterbacks such as Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III had a good year, but Lance Armstrong saw all of his endorsements peddle away after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's report detailed his use of PEDs during his Tour de France title run.
Although the economy was still a challenge, 2012 turned out to be one in which the most creative, inventive and financially resourceful of companies were able to show positive traction by catching the attention of consumers.
NYSportsJournalism.com revisited all of the top sports business and marketing moves from 2012 and culled a list of ten companies, leagues, organizations and, in the case of Peyton Manning, a man who worked hard, played hard and set the standard for creativity, resilience and growth.
Visitors can now vote to decide which among them stands out as the Sports Marketer of the Year. Voting is open through December 2012. The final results will be unveiled in early January 2013.
VOTING BALLOT ON HOME PAGE
In Alphabetical Order:
Brooklyn (Nets) Sports & Entertainment, Century 21, Emirates Airline, Major League Soccer, Mission Athletecare, NBC Sports Group, Peyton Manning, Procter & Gamble, Under Armour, U.S. Olympic Committee.
BROOKLYN SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT: From Jersey Boys To Brooklyn Kings
The sales and marketing division of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center played a major role as real estate developer and venue majority owner Bruce Ratner made good on his decade-long promise to bring pro sports back to Brooklyn, NY. Eight sold-out concerts starring Nets minority investor Jay-Z heralded the opening in September of Barclays Center. By that time, under a staff lead by CEO Brett Yormark, the venue had raised the number of founding partners to 11 and had signed bevy of other key marketing and sponsorship deals.
A marketing campaign, "Hello, Brooklyn" featured the Nets' new Core Four (Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez) and reestablished the team's profile throughout the tri-state area. Early in the 2012-13 NBA season, the Nets are walking the walk and talking the talk with one of the best records in the league.
Using the influence of both majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z, Brooklyn Sports has endeavored to build a domestic and international fan and marketing base. This past October, a deal unveiled with the New York Islanders will see the NHL franchise relocate from Long Island to Brooklyn beginning with the 2015-16. Numerous other deals will see Barclays Center populated by such sports events as college basketball, tennis, boxing and — "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . The Rolling Stones, The Rolling Stones" — on Dec. 8.
CENTURY 21: The Real (Estate) Deal Of The Year
Real estate firm Century 21 hit the ground running in 2012, entering Super Bowl territory for the first time in its 40-year history and making an impact with a commercial that starred Donald Trump, Apolo Ohno and Deion Sanders. Traffic to its Web site traffic grew 40% year-to-year (versus category Web site growth of 4%), leads climbed 20% and the spot garnered 1.3 billion media impressions, according to CMO Bev Thorne.
Century 21 also signed a marketing alliance with the men's and women's U.S. National Soccer Teams that will expand through the 2014 Men's FIFA World Cup and the 2015 Women's FIFA World Cup; and had media buys during the Summer Olympics, horse racing's Triple Crown and other sports events.
The company plans to keep the momentum going with a media buy before and during Super Bowl XLVII and enhanced presence at what Thorne calls "iconic media events" in 2013.
EMIRATES AIRLINE: On A Wing And A Player
The Turkey-based carrier in 2012 signed a seven-year deal with the U.S. Tennis Assn. to become title sponsor of the U.S. Open Series and replaced United Airlines as the official air carrier of the USTA, which includes the U.S. Open. Emirates this year expanded its footprint by a third to major market U.S. destinations, supporting the growth via a strategy laden with sports business and sports-related activations.
The airline has also built on its international sports presence, including extending its jersey-sponsorship and stadium naming rights deal with Arsenal FC of the English Premier League; as well as a significant presence in rugby, cricket, golf, sailing and horse racing.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER: Kickin' The Balls
MLS, founded in 1993, had in 2012 its largest roster of clubs (19, with a 20th coming in 2013); its highest average attendance (nearing 18,000); greater TV exposure via deals with ESPN, NBC Sports, Galavision and TSN (Canada); growth via social media destinations including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter; and a rise in the number of marketing partners and the activation they used to support the alliance.
MLS games on ESPN/ESPN2 finished the season with an average of 311,000 viewers, up 6.5% from last year. NBC Sports Network, which aired 40 MLS regular-season games during its first year as an MLS TV partner, averaged 125,000 viewers, up 79% from Fox Soccer’s MLS coverage in 2011.
On July 25, MLS and league partner adidas joined in an effort to get the league and fans technologically smart at the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game. The match, which pitted MLS stars against Chelsea of the English Premier League, was labeled the first "smart" game in pro sports history. Players from both teams — including David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Chris Wondolowski and Dwayne De Rosario — used adidas' miCoach Elite, a data-tracking system that provides coaches, trainers and players with such real-time performance metrics as heart rate, speed, acceleration, distance, field position and power.
Beginning with the 2013 season, the adidas miCoach Elite System will be used by all 19 clubs, in effect making MLS the first "smart" league.
MISSION ATHLETECARE: Getting A Grip On Marketing
The company, founded in 2009, overcame potential setbacks due to the NBA lockout at the start of the 2011-12 season to make major inroads in its rookie season alliance with the league. As the official athletecare of the NBA, the company introduced Court Grip (applied to the bottoms of shoes to reduce slipping on the court) and Power Grip (used on the hands to reduce sweat and improve grip). In addition, the company unveiled EnduraCool, a proprietary towel that provides instant and long-lasting cooling relief after being dipped in water.
Mission Athletecare also showed other companies how to get the max out of a limited marketing budget. Power Grip and Court Grip publicity and media stories were driven by the power of such endorser/equity partners as Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony and Brandon Jennings. And Mission Athletecare used its endorser/equity partner relationships with Serena Williams, Georges St-Pierre and Sergio Garcia to get its EnduraCool towel on national talk shows and in national lifestyle magazines.
The company, under the leadership of president/founder Josh Shaw, is planning new products and company-wide growth for 2013.
NBC SPORTS GROUP: Tuned In, Turned On
Programming for the broadcast media group in 2012 included Super Bowl XLVI, which attracted a record average viewership of more than 111 million; the Summer Olympics in London; the NHL outdoor Bridgestone Winter Classic, which on Jan. 2 officially launched the rebranding of the NBC Sports Network; and NFL Sunday Night Football, which consistently has been at the top of the ratings.
In 2012, NBC Sports Group, a division of Comcast-NBC/Universal, signed new deals with Formula One and the English Premier League for exclusive U.S. broadcast rights (both beginning in 2013). Sports programming highlights in 2012 also included horse racing's Triple Crown, the Breeder's Cup, the Tour de France, MLS, Notre Dame's No. 1-ranked football team and the U.S. Figure Skating Championship.
Via a $4.4 billion deal signed with the International Olympic Committee in 2011 will see both the Summer and Winter Olympics broadcast in the U.S. exclusively on NBC family of networks through 2020, with marketing for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi having already begun.
PEYTON MANNING: Comeback Kid
Although he missed a year of football due to multiple neck surgeries and was traded from the Indianapolis Colts to the Denver Broncos, Manning maintained his high-profile marketing presence. He is still No. 1 among NFL players in annual endorsement income (about $15 million) via deals with such companies as Papa John's, GMC's Buick, DirecTV and Kraft Foods (Oreos). His move to Denver was a catalyst for ticket sales and marketing deals for the Broncos, and his No. 18 Denver jersey has been either No. 1 or No. 2 all season in national sales among all NFL players.
Manning came in at No. 1 on Bing.com's Most Searched Sports Stars of 2012. He currently tops all players in voting for the 2013 Pro Bowl. And he is driving the Broncos to the playoffs while being prominently mentioned in MVP talks.
PROCTER & GAMBLE: Moms, Olympics And Polamalu
The global company extended its high-profile and creative alliances with the NFL and the U.S. Olympic Committee and International Olympic Committee to drive domestic and international sales of its products. The NFL deal, which began in 2009, had major expansion via Tide, which became the first P&G brand (and only second brand overall behind Gatorade) to sign individual deals with all 32 NFL teams; and Duracell, which joined the roster of official NFL products.
The NFL alliance also saw creative developments on the social media front. Activation of an online Head & Shoulders campaign saw lead spokesman Troy Polamalu work as a telemarketer; and a "Deep Like Me" effort had "President Polamalu" heading up the School of Deeper Learning, where visitors could learn about music, art, shampooing and telepathy.
P&G, which became a global partner of the USOC and IOC in 2010 (since extended through 2020), unleashed activation for its first Summer Games. The "Proud Sponsor of Moms" theme that was anchored by a "Thank You, Mom" campaign, initially used at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, introduced multi-layers of marketing for London. P&G and its brands were aligned with some 150 athletes worldwide, including in the U.S. Natalie Coughlin (Pantene), Allyson Felix (Oral Care), Tyson Gay (Gillette), Shawn Johnson (Bounty), Ryan Lochte (Gillette), Diana Lopez (Duracell) and Kerri Walsh (Pampers).
An umbrella TV commercial, "Best Job" (which garnered ad agency Wieden + Kennedy an Emmy) honored everything that all moms do to help their children succeed. A destination at Facebook allowed visitors to send a message to their own moms.
The company also gave each mom of the nearly 800 U.S. Olympians and Paralympians who comprised Team USA a $1,000 Visa reward card to help offset travel costs or for use while at the Games. In London, the P&G will oversaw the P&G Family Home, described as a "private and secure home away from home where moms of Olympians can spend time with their athletes in a relaxed, family-friendly environment."
UNDER ARMOUR: Protecting Its House
Led by such endorsers as Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Arian Foster, Julio Jones, Jason Pierre-Paul, Bryce Harper and Michael Phelps, Under Armour has posted ten straight quarters of 20%-plus revenue growth and said it is on track to reach $2 billion in sales for the first time in company history.
In 2012, the Baltimore-based company expanded its NFL activation. At the NFL Scouting Combine, which UA has sponsored since 2009, the company for the first time created a specific NFL Scouting Combine brand logo and added a retail component to its sponsorship, working with the NFL to sell items via both its own and the league's Web sites, as well as at Under Armour's retail shops.
Under Armour put Brady, Lindsey Vonn and Kemba Walker front and center to help launch Spine running shoes, with a marketing campaign that CEO and founder Kevin Plank called the biggest in company history. In addition, the company built on its alliances in college football, which includes Maryland, Northwestern, Texas Tech, South Florida, South Carolina, Utah, Temple, USC, Loyola and Hawaii.
Under Armour signed one of its biggest team sponsorship deals, a five-year alliance with Tottenham Hotspur FC of the EPL, valued by industry analysts to be in excess of $77 million. Under Armour also built on its alliances in such areas as the Under Armour All-America High School Football Game and the Wounded Warrior Project.
U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Achievements Of Olympic Proportion
The U.S. Olympic Committee helped to stage two of the world's biggest sports parties of the year: the Summer Games and the Paralympic Games in London, both of which came off with resounding success.
The USOC also had a successful year in marketing, signing new or extension deals with companies including Anheuser-Busch, GE, 24 Hour Fitness, Chobani, Oakley and Liberty Mutual. Looking toward the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and beyond, top tier USOC partners include 24 Hour Fitness, Allstate, Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser), AT&T, BMW, BP, Chobani, Citi, The Hartford, Hilton, Kellogg's, Nike, TD Ameritrade and United Airlines.
The USOC said that in 2012 it generated more than $115 million in retail sales related to the London Games, which exceeded its goal of $100 million and set a USOC record for an international Olympics.
The U.S. Paralympics team finished fourth in with 98 total medals at the Games — 31 gold, 29 silver, 38 bronze medals — behind China, Great Britain and Russia, and the USOC called the Games "a fabulous success." Team USA was led by 20-year-old swimmer Jessica Long, who, competing in her third Paralympic Games, won eight medals, including five golds, and now has 17 Paralympic medals in her career.
The USOC and IOC this year resolved a serious situation by unveiling a revenue-sharing agreement that will, beginning in 2020, "govern the financial relationship between the two parties for two decades." The deal lifted a major hurdle in the USOC making any official bids for upcoming Olympic Games, and the U.S. will now likely put strong consideration into bidding on the 2024 Summer Games and/or 2026 Winter Games.