My wife asked why I am writing a newsletter while ostensibly on my third day of vacation. Do you think the reason is:
- I’m a news junkie and just can’t get off the juice.
- I had plenty of good stuff remaining in my notebook after four days running around the MLB All-Star Game in L.A.
Maybe it’s a bit of each.
“There are two kinds of people: Those who do the work and those who take the credit.” — Indira Gandhi
Genesco Sports has quietly prevailed in one of the most contested sports agency reviews of the year, as the company will now service Lowe’s pricey NFL league sponsorship. Originally signed in 2019, the sponsorship has been serviced by Endeavor’s 160over90.
Many of the non-conflicted agency heavyweights were in on this “beauty contest,” and while every pre-COVID memory is a bit hazy, I recall Genesco finishing just behind the winner in the original RFP to ideate and activate for the NFL’s “official home improvement retail sponsor.”
Sources tell me that Genesco is servicing its new client with a combination of new and existing employees at its Charlotte office, which won’t be far from Lowe’s HQ in Mooresville, N.C.
It’s a pivotal year for Lowe’s NFL marketing platform, since that original rights deal is set to expire after the upcoming season. Lowe’s joins a Genesco roster packed with NFL league and team sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Campbell’s Soup, Cigna, Little Caesars, Frito-Lay (PepsiCo) and Sleep Number. That deep roster could provide fertile ground for potential cross-promotions.
As is often the case, there’s been marketing personnel turnover at the client since the original agency selection. Lowe’s CMO Jocelyn Wong departed and former Taco Bell Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg came aboard as exec VP and chief brand and marketing officer.
The MLBPA hosted more than 2,000 potential and current business associates over the All-Star Week at its “Players House” across from L.A. Live, where MLB Players Inc. Managing Director Evan Kaplan noted that despite COVID, his organization is having a third consecutive record year.
Kaplan attributes the success to continued growth in the trading card, video game and — more recently — NFT categories. “Those are really strong, while the apparel market is still struggling somewhat with production and supply chain.”
It’s the usual suspects in terms of player sales — Aaron Judge, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. But the precise order of that trio varies slightly based on the calendar and product category.
Sponsors activating on-site at the MLBPA ongoing hospitality venue included Fanatics, Sorare, Sony, Hyperice and Topps. “We all see some storm clouds ahead with inflation and maybe recession,” Kaplan said, “but business is good.”
There was a time I described New Balance as the Volvo of athletic shoes, back when it bragged about being “endorsed by no one.” But now, the brand has hundreds of MLB players under contract, along with team deals with the Red Sox and Mets.
Thus, it is taking the next logical step with an MLB license that will allow it to show its endorsers in uniform. Brand ambassadors already include Mets SS Francisco Lindor and Astros 2B Jose Altuve. The brand earlier this month rolled out a complete line called The Lindor Collection.
“They have a tremendous amount of players under contract (around 20% of MLB) and they want to get closer to the game and tell their story,” said MLB CRO Noah Garden, adding that he expects New Balance to start utilizing its new rights at or just before the postseason.
My colleague David Broughton cites iSpot.tv data as showing that $2.51 million of the $11.1 million that New Balance spent across all TV advertising over the last year was dedicated to national MLB programming (compared to 45% for the NBA). The brand spent just $44,000 during baseball telecasts in the 12 months before that (July 2020-July 2021).
Approaching the end of her first year as MLB CMO, Karin Timpone has been reconfiguring the league’s marketing team inside and outside of its NYC HQ. Her aim? Better communication with each other, and with fans.
”We’ve built a better infrastructure to connect all the dots,” she said. Agency and internal work on segmentation, brand architecture and positioning is also underway.
Still in the “skunkworks” phase is an MLB frequency/loyalty program, which won’t be enacted until next season at the earliest. “It won’t be old school,” promised Timpone, who once headed Marriott’s frequency/loyalty program.
“We’re looking at behaviors and incentives aimed at the next generation of fans. … We are looking at examples from other industries. Maybe there’s an app that incents you to hit every All-Star event and gives you bonus content to enjoy it more fully. We’re less interested in points in a bank than we are in moving casual fans further down the funnel .. which could mean some interesting integration for sponsors.”
- Several senior baseball sources at the All-Star Game said that MLB is close to finalizing a CBD sponsorship. “Weeks away,” said one senior marketer. The leading question is whether a CBD brand will be on the helmet ads MLB is hoping to sell for the 2022 postseason.
- The Red Sox and MassMutual have agreed on terms of a 10-year pact for around $17 million a year, with performance kickers for the team that could boost it to as much as $20 million. Subsequently, the team ended its deal with insurance brand John Hancock after around 30 years together.
- Fidelis Care extended its deal with NYCFC as the MLS club’s official health insurance sponsor.