Good Moves: Rose Coming Back, Bronze Snoopy, High Tech Sponsors

Time for a little best practices roundup…three good ones from this week…

ROSE ON THE COMEBACK TRAIL: Most times an athlete’s rehab is behind a wall of secrecy and HIP-AA regulations. We seldom see the work he or she outs in as we concentrate on those who have replaced even the brightest of stars for whatever that period of time is. However that is not the case with Derrick Rose, who adidas brought back to the limelight this week by releasing the first in a series of powerful vidoes chronicling the Chicago Bulls return from his ACL tear that will end with his return to the lineup at some point this fall.

It is a smart move by adidas, who has invested heavily in the superstar and can’t afford to let him drift away for long periods of time. It is also good for the NBA to keep such a megastar in some kind of eye of the public as he makes his way back, and it probably is therapeutic for Rose as he goes through the tedium of rehab. Now these are not open-ended looks…they  are carefully crafted, well-orchestrated dramatic vignettes that only put Rose in a well approved light. If he has setbacks, they can still be factored into the story. When he eventually hits the court, adidas will be there, and it will all culminate with his eventual return to the court.

Some may say that the videos are a distraction to the process, that they are exploiting the time he outs in during a long road back. However in a time when fans clamor for access, adidas and Rose found a way to let people in, maybe be a little inspired, and help both him and his brand in sending reminders that the star may be away, but he will return.

Well done, surprising promotion.

 SNOOPY GOES GRIDIRON: Met Life has spent a huge amount of money at the stadium shared by the Jets and the Giants in New Jersey, so it should come as no surprise that brand extensions should go way beyond signage. The latest was revealed in Manhattan on Thursday, a giant bronze statue of Snoopy that will be installed outside the stadium, so fans can high five and pose around the Met Life mascot as they come in and out of the new stadium, starting this weekend when the Jets meet the Giants in their annual preseason game, which has been christened the Met Life Bowl.

While most preseason football is pretty much a snore, give Met Life a little credit for trying to liven up a game which may not mean much even to the local fans who are just hoping their teams stay healthy and engaged over the next few weeks. The third preseason game of the summer is usually when teams let their prime guys go for a longer stretch, and with this being game two, Eli, Sanchez and their teammates on both sides will probably make quick exits.

However the statue installation is a nice slightly subtle reminder to all coming in each week which brand rules the roost…or the doghouse…in the swamp. Nice little brand extension idea for one of America’s largest sports sponsors.

 NINERS GO UNCONVENTIONAL, BLAZE BRAND TRAIL: The Silicon Valley is all about tech innovation, so maybe it should come as no surprise that the San Francisco 49ers latest Founding Partner is not a beverage or a Telco brand but a data storage provider. n Violin Memory entered into a  long-term partnership as the 49ers official and exclusive data storage provider for the 68,500 seat stadium that will open for the 2014 NFL season, as well as for the remainder at Candlestick Park.

Violin’s products and expertise will provide key building blocks in the technology infrastructure of the stadium, and in turn, the company will have exclusive branding in the suite tower, a signature feature of the new stadium.  The message that a partnership like this sends to the industry is that the 49ers are committed to having the most technologically savvy stadium for an audience that will thrive on up to the second brand engagement. For Violin Memory it is a step out into the consumer marketplace, announcing to their competitors a growing engagement not just with businesses but with fans. Maybe it seems a bit unconventional, but when one looks to the stadia of the future, such as Livestrong Park in Kansas City, fang engagement with everything from hand held devices to interactive data centers in the stadium are going to be just as important as wide concourses and a wide variety of food and beverage are today. An interesting trend to follow for the arenas coming online soon.

What’s In A Stadium Name? More Than Dollars….

A few years ago the new owners of the Miami Dolphins were met with a skeptical eye when they effectively came up with a creative and short term naming rights solution for their oft-confused stadium. Land Shark Stadium, part inspired by a minority investor (Jimmy Buffett) became the temporary name of the home of the Dolphins and the Marlins. Those in the business community wondered if the short term fix for cash and publicity would become the standard and effectively devalue the naming rights deals around the country and around the world. After all, the naming rights business, like the economy, had taken a heavy hit in recent years, with corporations thinking twice and three times about spending millions to slap a name on a buildings, and owners thinking even more about the investment in branding only to have a company be sold and change its name. The always skeptical media also had their own issues, trying to figure out what to call a building once a name changes, and how far the corporate rights went into editorial.

Since the Land Shark deal, there hasn’t been a flurry of short term deals coming to the table. What we have seen is the retention of team names in lieu of short term, and then some creative naming deals that look to other assets to play with in addition to just the building names. In Kansas City the value of the newly opened and recently named Livestrong Sporting Park (profiled in SBJ this week) is not in a dollar for naming rights, it is in a community branding partnership that will make the team (Sporting Kansas City) more of a public trust than just a brand that plays in the area. That feeling of public trust, which makes the players, the logo, the coaches, a part of the community year-round was felt to be more valuable than the dollars a local company may have invested as a good buy. It is a co-investment designed to grow the Livestrong brand and the MLS franchise, while at the same time finding other like-minded paying partnerships that could capitalize on the relationship. Risky? Yes. Was there an alternative? Perhaps. Can it work? TBD.

Then there is the deal that Rutgers University cut this week to sell its football naming rights to New Jersey-based High Point Solutions
. Critics say that the deal sullies tradition and further corporatizes college sports. Proponents see it as a way for Rutgers to keep funding and growing their athletic programs without dipping into the public til, which is strapped in New Jersey for anything education related, let alone sports related. What the deal essentially does is help Rutgers, and grow a New Jersey based company’s awareness and visibility at no loss to the taxpayer. Rutgers becomes only a handful of colleges to effectively sell its naming rights at a price that the market dictated. Is Rutgers the last University to do so? No. it probably set a new standard for such deals. Those who worry about “tradition” at the birthplace of college football should be more encouraged about a new tradition that Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti, and those who helped broker the deal at Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment, created. One where a local or state-owned rising corporation can partner to find private sector dollars to fund public projects. An endowment it is not. But an opportunity to tie a technology company to an institute of higher learning is smart and creative and was not done in a vacuum. It is not selling scholarships, it is showing the value that Rutgers football has to the business community in New Jersey, in a way that makes sense for all involved.

Lastly, there is this feeling by some that the selling of such rights and packaging them as large scale partnerships will cheapen team brands or tradition. There are some team brands…Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium, Fenway Park etc…that transcend the value of corporations. Those brands are multimillion dollar investments on their own and can stand above a flood of alternative dollars. They are however, the exception and not the rule. The cash challenged environment sports works in today has created both challenges and opportunities, and the creative ways to address those concerns are showing up in many places, even in naming rights deals. Maybe in a better economy these deals would not exist. However we are challenged today to fund and grow businesses in non-traditional ways, and these are the latest examples of how to generate interest, offset cost and grow brand in a new way. It’s not easy, it may be a bit controversial, but it certainly is creative.