New York Jets | Sports Marketing & PR Roundup

As Training Camp Opens, Giants Others Start Their “Quest” At Home…

It used to be a rite of summer as the local NFL team headed off to some far-off  college for several weeks of hardnosed, secretive out of the way training camp that as conducted without distractions. Fans had to travel to find you, media was restricted, and the business of football went on its merry way.

Today, only 12 of the NFL clubs venture beyond their home boundaries, and with millions spent on practice facilities and brands partners looking for more ROI, the home-grown training camp makes more and more sense, although it is still left up to the football side to determine what is best to set the tone for the season. Still, as teams sell their naming rights and try to find more ways to engage high end season subscribers, turning to home to get things started is becoming more the norm than traditions of the past.

One such team is the New York Giants, who will mark the first full year of a new title sponsorship for their training facility later this month, and will be home hard by Route 3 in east Rutherford as opposed to following their stadium partner, the New York Jets, out of town for training camp this week.

The new naming rights partner is Quest Diagnostics, the biggest provider of diagnostic information services in the world with $7.4 billion in revenue in 2013. Quest became the partner not just of the 20-acre facility late last summer. They will  work with the team in an effort to expand its new sports diagnostic business. The goal in year one has been simple; to become the leader in developing tests related to sports. This could lead to new information on how performance is affected by variables such as diet and hydration, led not just by Quest, but with the teams’ medical and training staff, led Ronnie Barnes, the team’s senior vice president of medical services.

For Quest, a publicly traded but conservative company, the move was a bold one. They are not a commercial  brand, so now one driving down Route 3 is going to run to a store and ask to buy Quest products, In many ways the consumer only knows the company when they have to take a medical procedure, and the doctor or health worker gives them a quest kit for some kind of test, so the relationship to consumer may even be an unpleasant one at first thought. There are benefits for Quest clients for sure, like hospitality and ticketing, and the association with an elite franchise like the Giants is a plus when discussing  business with salespeople and doctors. Maybe that gets Quest some added sales and visibility in a crowded medical marketplace, but the real benefit, if done right, is not now, but in the future.

Teams are constantly looking for more ROI on their dollar investment in their players, and a living and breathing partnership with Quest in athlete care and development puts the brand at the forefront of a very hot topic.  Breakthroughs with elite athletes can also morph into the private sector in healthcare as well. There is also an education factor involved with the consumer on health and well-being,  so clinics and other programs that Quest can partner with using Giants current and former players and staff to talk health and wellness in the community also makes great sense, and can have ancillary benefits as well.

In the end, the move seems to have been gradually fruitful in year one, with the most public-facing part of the partnership just starting with this training camp where thousands will flock to watch Big Blue practice and see those big Quest logos all around the field and the training center. While that decision to support a large partner was not the only one that factors into where a team does their preseason, it certainly doesn’t hurt a fledgling partnership, and is another example of why teams are increasingly staying home to get things started, as opposed to venturing out to places like Cortland, NY and Latrobe, Pa., settings which in the past made good football and business sense, but in today’s environment are becoming less of a necessity and more of a niche in the big business of the NFL.

Cutting Through The Pharma Brand Mix…

If you are a large scale player in the healthcare field these days, it certainly is not easy trying to set yourself apart.  Trying to find a niche, delivering your message, and most importantly effectively and efficiently serving the needs of the consumer are all major challenges as the field goes through a constant ebb and flow of rules and regulations from the federal and state side, and insurance companies play a game of cat and mouse with what can and what can’t be covered.

New Jersey, being the home of big pharma and sitting between the major markets of New York and Philadelphia is especially ripe for competition, so finding ways to effectively cut through, do good, be a solid brand and serve stakeholders is even more challenging.  One of the ways a myriad of health related companies have found ways to tell their story is through sports marketing, a sometimes tricky but consistent way, if used properly to reach not just the masses but to communicate on down that your company, your services, and your brand are aligned in a proper way in the community and are delivering quality and best in class care.

Most recently we saw Quest Diagnostics start to take this route with a wide-ranging partnership with the New York Giants that goes way beyond just slapping a logo on top of the team’s training center along Route 3 in New Jersey. The Jets have a similar partnership with Atlantic Health Systems, and virtually every team in the corridor has found a link to a healthcare provider, a medical group or a series of specialists linked to a hospital or chain of healthcare providers. Some are large scale branding programs, some more subtle, but all deliver the message of quality aligned with an elite partner, a pro sports franchise.

So it is into that mix  that Barnabas Health launched their latest program extension, one which is not tied directly to a franchise but one which has long term positive repercussions for athletes on every level, and sends messages that the system understands both the big picture of the healthy athlete and how that translates down to the grassroots.

Their Matthew J. Morahan III Health Assessment Center for Athletes (MJM), expanded its program statewide to offers young athletes access to free and low cost cardiac screenings and baseline concussion testing through satellite centers at all six Barnabas Health facilities throughout New Jersey.

At the announcement Tuesday,  Barnabas Health executives were joined by Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, Chair, Senate Education Committee and MJM spokespeople David Diehl, two-time Super Bowl champion, NY Giants, and Joetta Clark Diggs, four-time Olympian and 2013 NJ Hall of Fame inductee, in announcing the expansion with a simple message… keep kids safe.

What does the program do? It provides life-saving cardiac screenings; baseline concussion testing; medical evaluation and treatment for sports injuries; and education for student athletes, parents, school districts and recreational sports administrators. Since 2010, MJM has conducted more than 7,000 cardiac and concussion screenings for young athletes.  MJM has provided these screenings, educational programing and medical expertise to communities, recreation departments and several high schools throughout the state in Essex, Monmouth and Ocean counties. In addition, Barnabas Health has a mobile unit that travels throughout the state to conduct screenings, making it easier for young athletes to receive proper care.

When preliminary testing to identify serious cardiac problems is provided to young athletes, sudden cardiac arrest and tragic deaths may be avoided. Nearly 90 percent of sudden cardiac deaths in young athletes occur during or after athletic activities, and hidden heart conditions are often the cause. Cardiac screenings include a baseline EKG and evaluating blood pressure and vitals along with a thorough review of medical history and EKG interpretation by a pediatric cardiologist, who can recommend further testing or intervention as needed.

 A concussion baseline study (ImPACT) is a non-invasive test that tracks information such as memory, reaction time, speed and concentration that can help identify potential issues for young athletes. If an athlete is believed to have suffered a head injury, this screening test may be used to evaluate the severity of the injury and determine when it is safe to return to play. Concussion screenings are offered to young athletes ages 12 to 18, and cardiac screenings are offered to young athletes ages 6 to 18.

By expanding the program and using high profile athletes as their spokespeople, Barnabas accomplishes a host of initiatives at the same time. It shows that their program has a gold standard, one that can put the young athlete care on a par with the professional. It sends the message that the system works to assist youth, many of whom may have a passion for a healthy lifestyle but could have undetected issues that could be problematic, and Barnabas will help them in correcting those issues so they continue to lead healthy lives. It also shows that the company is willing to bring the programs to the people, not have those with busy lifestyles have to come to them. It also shows that Barnabas is taking the time to re-invest in the community not just by taking ads in game programs at the Meadowlands or the Prudential Center or advertising in Yankees broadcasts; it is supporting the grassroots by working with kids and their families in the community. 

The program can have some amazing effects not just for Barnabas as a brand but for young people as well who may be at unknowing risk while they passionately pursue the sport of choice. Down the line someone will be saved, and although that story may not be able to be told directly through Barnabas, the pass-along effect of that story by a parent or by a media member can supersede millions of dollars in hard advertising. Real life examples, real life results, isn’t that what healthcare marketing should always be about?

Now this is not to say that all other programs are just about the big dollars and the big spend. Most are very effective for the brands and their partners, but this one ties together so many objectives that is certainly noteworthy, especially in the crowded New Jersey corridor. A nice job by Barnabas Health to tie an expanded and effective program together, from the grassroots to the highest level of athlete and community care.

Patching In Brand Success…

It is now in its fourth season with little push back, the patch program the NFL has implemented on regular season and training camp jerseys. Like the NBA, and the NHL, the patch program, with its limited size and scope, is designed to give added value and continue to serve as a litmus test for what will be accepted and what can be expanded for key added value for brands as the noise for more ROI and more access increases un the coming years. Full blown jersey advertising it is not yet, but it still provides an interesting look at who will buy, what will be sold and how can the real estate on players uniforms be used to best serve partners without impeding on the over commercialization of the sport.

In 2013, according to the NFL, all but six teams have some form of patch program for affiliated brands. One, the Atlanta Falcons, has split the program between preseason (Kimberly Clark-Professionals) and regular season (McDonalds), while nine teams have the patch program tied to a medical or health care provider (The New York Jets prominent Atlantic Healthcare is one of the most visible on their white or red  practice uniforms). The majority of the others are tied to larger deals that clubs have…Visa for the 49ers, Verizon for the Vikings, Gillette for the Patriots…with some unusual ones mixed in (Thomas Tull, part owner of the Steelers, had a deal cut for his Legendary Pictures brand…which explains why Heinz Field was Bain’s choice of destruction in “Dark Knight Rises” for Batman fans).

There is no ambush, no one-off’s for particular weeks yet (a practice for patches which can be done very effectively in sponsoring a tennis or golf athlete for a particular event) and nothing that is out of the ordinary in terms of activation. Most are clean and simple with a few…the Bengals, the feature team for HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this year, have a really crowded patch with logo and writing for sponsor Fifth Third bank that gets lost in the visibility game…needing a little more scrutiny for visibility. Another interesting and very visible patch is worn this year by the Denver Broncos who sport a Buick patch on the practice uni’s. Do many Broncos drive Buicks? Well not a great deal probably, but their most visible player…Peyton Manning…does and grabbing the team patch as part of a deal prevents any kind of ambush in the category for the company. Porsche can’t walk in the door and suddenly have Peyton sporting a patch away from game days.

Obviously the program is heavily regulated by the league and the teams against ambush and issues. The cost is probably too prohibitive at this point for smaller local brands to grab, and there is little room for direct call to action featuring a website or hashtag, but maybe down the line those tests can be performed to see the increased viability of patches as marketing tools. One area that screams for patch development is not with the players, but with coaches and medical staff, especially in the preseason. Many times the coaches, and the staff when they go on field to treat injury, get more photo and air time than the individual players, so expanding the patch to include those key personnel could be a big win if a deal can be cut, especially with so many healthcare providers tied into patch deals.

The six teams not yet patch involved for 2013…the Lions, Saints, Raiders, Rams, Bucs and Redskins…probably haven’t found the right brand married to price point to make a program work yet, but it is an area of strong exposure and great added value…if not one off value…for companies looking to make the non-traditional splash. It is not an easy decision…the name has to be something that the local consumer or the national market “gets” in a second, because the space is so limited, but for the right brands, patches have scored thus far and will continue to provide valuable intel going forward as leagues in the States look for more real estate to sell without further compromising the merchandise business for the long run.

NFL Stays Home For The Summer…Builds Brand

 In 2000, only five NFL teams stayed in their own practice facility for the rigors of preseason training camp, this year with the New York Giants returning to the newly-named Quest Diagnostics facility and the Philadelphia Eagles leaving Lehigh University for the Nova Care Center in South Philly, 19 of the 30 NFL clubs will stay home for the summer.  The Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens have also done the same. Given the investment teams make in building facilities, the cost associated with travel, and the ability to showcase their players and their brand in front of hometown fans who don’t need to travel hundreds, if not thousands of miles, to see their favorite players early on, the idea of staying home seems like one that is smarter and smarter for both the on and off field growth of an NFL team.

Ironically one of the teams that traditionally stayed home years ago was the Jets, who trained year round at Hofstra University on Long Island. The team was one of the first to open training camp to its fans, and in doing so helped build long-standing credibility with its core and casual fans who would turn out in droves to see their favorite players. It was only in the last 10 or 15 years or so, since the teams full migration to New Jersey, that the team went on the road for training camp, which is now held in Cortland, New York. Originally the idea made great sense, as the teams new training facility, the Atlantic Health Care Facility in Florham Park, was not yet finished. Now however, with a gleaming new facility, one of the best in professional sports, it makes sense for the Jets to join the Giants and stay home for the summer. 

Why? It makes great business sense.  Teams are all about year-round routine, and keeping players and staff together in a first class environment that the team has invested millions in helps strengthen ties to the community and to each other. Even with the best of college facilities and the ability to physically transport thousands of pounds of equipment from New Jersey to Cortland, the experience is still not 100 percent the same. The idea of “getting away” to focus on training camp in an era where social media rules, and players are not used to such isolation is quickly passing by…no one can really hide any more, and the creature comforts the teams take to make their facilities best in show make staying home more of a natural these days than ever before.

Then there’s the off-field question of ROI. Teams are doing everything possible to hold on to and cultivate brand and fan relationships in times that are still somewhat challenging for the discretionary dollar. Moving a team hundreds of miles away, which limits access and in some ways keeps the team a bit out of mind of the consumer and the team’s core brands, can slow growth and affinity with the team at a time when access is probably greater than at any other time of the year. Granted most major media will travel wherever a team trains, but keeping the team closer to home does ensure even more consistent coverage, which re-building teams like the Jets covet.  On the brand side, a company like Atlantic Health Care has spent a good amount of money associating itself with the jets brand, and to have SUNY-Cortland in the press vs. their name during the preseason is a bit of a disconnect. Other brands who would love more activation with the team and its thousands of fans who still go to training camp in upstate New York would also probably do more should the jets, like the Giants and Eagles, now stay home for camp.

Yes there is some perceived value to getting away for the three weeks. It may help grow the team brand away from its core and it certainly pouts dollars back into the small town where the teams go. However for the long run, from a business and player development standpoint, the trend of not travelling for training camp is a growing one, and one which the Jets, when their deal with SUNY-Cortland ends, is one that should be strongly considered. There is no place like home, especially with the billion dollar investment of an NFL team.

Giants “Quest” For A New Partner Works…

We all know in sports, timing is everything. So it makes great sense, especially in sports that use a clock to measure game length, that the timing category is of great value to both brands and properties, and in many cases, to athletes. Tennis and gold for example, usually have athletes with watch deals well before they have more traditional sports deals, like automotive. So in selling sport, one of the biggest assets on the check list is the time or watch category.

For the New York Giants, their watch partner has been Timex, and their partnership went to an even grander level when Timex became the initial partner of their training center. Placed on a major highway in view of Met Life Stadium, the Timex Performance Center was a bold statement for the Timex brand, with great signage both from the ground and for those millions flying into Newark Airport. It made sense, since after all; sport is all about making precision moves for big results. The brand had other pieces of the deal, including in stadium and media rights, and the partnership worked for all.

However all deals do run their course, and this week the Giants moved on to a new partner, one familiar to the consumer in some ways but not a consumer brand…for now. One that really positions the team as forward-thinking in terms of health and well-being not just for its players but for the community. And one that shows a great link between a local company whose tentacles extend out into healthcare across the nation and around the world.   

The new naming rights partner is Quest Diagnostics, the biggest provider of diagnostic information services in the world with $7.4 billion in revenue last year. Quest  is now the partner not just of the 20-acre facility. They will  also will work with the team in an effort to expand its new sports diagnostic business. The goal for the two is to become the leader in developing tests related to sports. This could lead to new information on how performance is affected by variables such as diet and hydration, led not just by Quest, but with the teams’ medical and training staff, led Ronnie Barnes, the team’s senior vice president of medical services.

For Quest, a publicly traded but conservative company, the move is a bold one. They are not a commercial  brand, so now one driving down Route 3 is going to run to a store and ask to buy Quest products, In many ways the consumer only knows the company when they have to take a medical procedure, and the doctor or health worker gives them a quest kit for some kind of test, so the relationship to consumer may even be an unpleasant one at first thought. There are benefits for Quest clients for sure, like hospitality and ticketing, and the association with an elite franchise like the Giants is a plus when discussing  business with salespeople and doctors. Maybe that gets Quest some added sales and visibility in a crowded medical marketplace, but the real benefit, if done right, is not now, but in the future.

Teams are constantly looking for more ROI on their dollar investment in their players, and a living and breathing partnership with Quest in athlete care and development puts the brand at the forefront of a very hot topic going forward. Breakthroughs with elite athletes can also morph into the private sector in healthcare as well. There is also an education factor involved with the consumer on health and well being,  so clinics and other programs that Quest can partner with using Giants current and former players and staff to talk health and wellness in the community also makes great sense, and can have ancillary benefits as well.

In the end, the move is certainly one to watch in the sports business space. More and more teams are looking for new and creative ways to grow sponsor base and take care of their athletes  by being leaders in technology as well. The Jets not too far from the Giants in New Jersey, have Atlantic Healthcare as their training facility partner in a slightly different deal, but in a similar category.

Now what about the timing category? For the Giants, it will never go away, and will probably evolve into a partnership with a more traditional jeweler or watch or timing brand. Their power of association for the consumer, as well as their ability to be creative, is among the greatest in sport. Bringing in Quest is a move that is smart for now, and progressive toward the future, a new brand in sport whose timing could be perfect in the fast-paced world of healthcare.

Wrestlemania Re-Affirms WWE Brand Power…

There was probably a time when the NFL would have shied away from seeing the WWE as anything but an encumbrance to business. After all for at least part of its history, the publicly trade company has been awash in misogyny, steroid use, violence and controversy.

But today the WWE is a thriving entertainment vehicle worldwide, hell bent on providing fun, exciting and engaging stories in every medium and to fans old and young. The pinnacle of that growth was last weekend at Met Life Stadium, when WrestleMania brought a record crowd of over 80,000 to the new home of the Jets and the Giants, the culmination of a week of tri-state and national appearances with media, charities and athletes and celebrities of all walks of life, all showcasing the value of the WWE brand and how far the company continues to go as an entertainment brand.

Why was this valuable to the NFL? Wrestlemania 29 provided the perfect test of the facility and the area for next February’s Super Bowl. Hotels were filled, traffic patterns were tested, and most importantly, the power sources for the stadium were pushed well beyond what will be used for next winter’s extravaganza, quieting any critics who were wondering if the same power outage that occurred in New Orleans could occur in next year’s home. Every test was passed, giving the NFL another box checked for when the world’s sporting eyes will be focused on Met Life.

From a branding and merchandising standpoint, WrestleMania was everywhere. Kids and adults sporting tee-shirts and hoodies were everywhere from college campuses o Times Square to the three area airports, and the WWE brought out superstars past and present to make sure that every demo could be involved. It was fun and engaging branding, and the next lifting off point for a property that is still viewed as sport because of the athleticism of its performers, but is all about family entertainment for every walk of life. No brands ran from the WWE brand, promotions from Times Square to children’s hospitals came off without protest, and the WWE leveraged the event to show how expansive their marketing pull can be.

For a sports and entertainment property, it doesn’t get much bigger than the WWE, and the brand did its cousins at the NFL a solid last weekend.

Local Appliance Chain Makes National Noise…

If you don’t live in the New York area or Pennsylvania you probably don’t know the appliance and electronics chain P.C. Richard and Sons despite the fact that the company has been in business for over 103 years and they are the largest private family-owned chain in the country. Along with national department chains and big box stores coast to coast there are many local, loyal chains that continue to adapt and grow across the country based on customer loyalty and service.  However if you have watched any Yankees home games on Turner during the playoffs, or caught a Jets game from Met Life Stadium, you probably know the P.C. Richard whistle.

The whistle is a part of their jingle…it follows the “It’s P.C. Richard…” in their commercials, but it is a 10 to 15 second very distinctive melody that you hear during NFL broadcasts every time the Jets pick up a first down, or in the MLB postseason, every time a Yankee strikes out a batter. The timing is perfect and it is very clear and distinctive from all the other ambient noise at a ballgame…it also comes through very clearly on the TV broadcast, despite what video is being shown at the time. It is a great example of distinctive audio that feeds into national exposure for a local brand without spending any national dollars. Now there is no logo, no read by announcers and no signage. You can also argue that there is little value for P.C. Richard since they are a regional brand and people outside the area may not even know what the whistle is.  However it is unique enough for people to ask or even do a little google search, and appliances do have a space in the online world, so the whistle is not lost on a curious audience who has heard the catchy little sound time and time again. Also the Yankees, it can be argued are a team with national appeal and a loyal following well outside of New York, so maybe the brand benefits from others looking to identify with a New York brand when they are back in the market or talk to a friend/relative with a need to purchase.

Their NFL play with the jets may not resonate as clearly on TV as baseball has, but it is a great call to action in the stadium for the 70,000 strong taking in games at Met Life. It is a great call to action during the game and resonates with fans humming the distinctive jingle well after the game, especially one where the jets have played well and the whistle goes on and on for a while. It is not shrill, it is not obnoxious. It is very simple and very clear and distinctive enough so that anyone who has been in the area and heard commercials will know the brand right away.

A great audio call to action by a local company that permeates nationally, despite the lack of a national buy. The power of sound cuts through the visual, a well done, very creative brand connection by the local chain.

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.

NFL Helps Extend The Olympic Audience

The NFL and the Olympic movement have had several crossover stars throughout the years…Willie Gault, Jim Thorpe, Bob Hayes among others  have excelled in both athletics and football.

Now Sanya Richards Ross and Holly Mangold have never ventured to the NFL gridiron in recent years as players, but Brand NFL helped give both some added pop as they ventured to the Olympic stage in London this weekend. Make no mistake, Richards Ross and Mangold have certainly earned their keep and deserve all the accolades they have gotten. However their relationships with two prominent NFL stars…Ross married to two time Super Bowl champion now turned Jacksonville Jaguar Aaron Ross, Mangold the sister of New York Jets Pro Bowl offensive lineman Nick Mangold…has certainly helped draw even more casual viewers to their efforts across the pond.

Ross was in the Olympic Stadium for his wife’s  competition…prompting Jags coach Mike Mullarkey to take the team and over 1,000 fans into Stadium to watch her go for gold on the big screen at Everbank Stadium and drawing support from all around. A great shared experience between athletics and the NFL.

Now the Mangold shared experience played out for several days in the New York media as coach Rex Ryan encouraged his star to skip practice and join his sister in her special quest, one which he had resisted in doing until the last minute. Mangold went and supported his sister, much to the delight of the team and the support of the media. NFL lifts even competitive weight lifting it seems.

So what does this mean exactly? Richards Ross has garnered some great brand support on her own…especially through USOC sponsor Citi...but athletics, or track, still falls into the abyss after the Olympics every four years. maybe an extra boost from her NFL crossover attracts a joint sponsorship, or extra grassroots support, to help her gain more attention for her charitable and business endeavors after London, where she became a gold medalist. For Mangold, still maturing in her weightlifting career, maybe it means extra training dollars and more media attention which could also lead to some fun brand campaigns with her brother.

End of the day, the NFL machine helped bring more attention to a pair of very deserving athletes and may help differentiate them from others during the post-Olympic scramble for brand partners. Both are unique stories with great ties to the NFL at a time when the NFL brand is coming front and center in the spotlight. A rising tide can lift not just the NFL boat, but those for track and maybe weightlifting as well.

What’s In A Name? Toyota, Mercedes Cash In This Week

For years the value of secondary media rights has been in question. Could the money be spent with traditional advertising and marketing…is it more of a vanity play…is there significant damage when a name changes to the team…does the next brand to take a title waste too much time in undoing the old name in the mind of the public…and for certain sponsor benefits, is there really great value in being on a backdrop and does it translate into sales or recognition etc etc.

However this week, two prominent auto brands will see the bump in their investment, one in a naming rights deal, the other in a sponsorship that brought a windfall of recognition at an unlikely time. The first is Mercedes, who took some heat in challenging times when it purchased the naming rights deal for the New Orleans Superdome. Many questioned the value of putting a brand on a building that was long established, especially an elite car brand in a geographic area that was more Ford and Chevy than German engineering. However as a whirlwind four months that saw the NFL, the Sugar Bowl, the BCS Championship and now the Final Four come in the building, the value of Mercedes on the famous ceiling of The Dome has probably helped justify the spend. For a world class brand, the value in the ancillary name recognition is not amongst the locals, it is amongst the nationals and international audience that will tune in for any one or all of the elite events the building has hosted, with another Super Bowl coming back at the end of the 2012 NFL season. This week, even with the pristine environment the NCAA puts together, many measurement groups see the value to Mercedes, the only consistent sponsor to penetrate that NCAA cover, to be well over $7 million. More than sponsoring local events, the Mercedes partnership worked because of the timing of such elite events into New Orleans this year and next, a value which resonates well beyond The Big Easy.

Then there is Toyota, a brand which has committed millions to sports and entertainment sponsorship, and has had a fruitful relationship with the New York Jets. One of those benefits is in the back wall signage for Jets press conferences during the season and around major events, and no event has been as major than the Tim Tebow press conference on Monday. With 300 plus media in attendance and over 50 cameras, the image of Tebow and his half hour plus presser was carried not just to sports fans, but live on news shows and on international platforms like the BBC. The result was a big and unexpected payoff in recognition for Toyota at a time of year where that signage is usually stored away in a closet awaiting April’s NFL draft picks to come in the building. It was a much added bonus to their partnership with the team, and showed the value of consistent branding and well placed, simple advertising in a partnership. Whether he succeeds or not, the value Tim Tebow brought to Toyota was pretty significant this week.

So while many will always wonder if naming rights and back wall branding have value, they can look to this week to see two auto brands driving off with successful, well thought out activations. Simple, clean effective and well justified for the spend.