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The Sponsorship Game : Companies Pay Millions for the Chance to Be an Event's 'Official' Brand

January 04, 1994|BRUCE HOROVITZ

In Southern California, Coke is the official drink at virtually every major sports venue: Dodger Stadium, Anaheim Stadium, Jack Murphy Stadium, Great Western Forum, L.A. Sports Arena, the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum.

"It's smart marketing," said Robert Baskin, a Coca-Cola spokesman in Atlanta. "We want to be places where people are having fun. That way we become a part of the fun."

Delta Air Lines has also turned official sponsorships into a fine art. It has more than 100 of them, ranging from official airline of the Super Bowl to official airline of the Boston Symphony. But Delta may be best known as the official airline of Disneyland and Disney World. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck often greet passengers coming off its planes in Orlando.

"We want people to think, 'If I'm going to Disney World, I'm going to fly Delta because it's the official airline,' " said Judy Jordan, director of brand management for Delta. In its advertising, Delta has even begun to call itself "the official airline for kids."

But few marketing linkups could be less official--or more precocious--than the stunt pulled in 1990 by Toyota's ad agency for its Southern California auto dealers.

At the time, Toyota was the best-selling car in the area. So its agency decided to make it official with a campaign that dubbed Toyota "the official car of Southern California."

Being official is a matter of interpretation, acknowledged Brad Ball, president of Davis, Ball & Colombatto, the agency that created the campaign. "It certainly wasn't something that was handed to us by the governor."

Briefly . . .

The Venice and Seattle offices of Livingston & Co. have picked up the $5 million to $10 million ad account for FX, Fox Inc.'s new basic cable network. . . . Paramount Pictures Corp.'s media planning and media buying for print and outdoor ads for its feature film and home video divisions has gone to Paramount's in-house agency: Hollywood-based 5555 Communications. It was formerly handled by Los Angeles-based Ogilvy & Mather. . . . Los Angeles-based Grey Advertising is expected to hire at least five additional employees after winning the $20-million account for Carl's Jr. . . . PR Watch, a quarterly public interest newsletter on the public relations industry, is being published out of Madison, Wis. . . . The region's largest direct marketing conference, L.A. Direct, sponsored by the Direct Marketing Club of Southern California, will be held Feb. 7 and 8 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel. . . . Beyond the Wall, a magazine that showcases ads available to college students in poster form, is being published out of Milford, Conn.

Big-Spending Sponsors Hoping to grab consumer attention, corporate sponsors are linking themselves to more events than ever, from the Super Bowl to city zoos. The amount spent on "official" sponsorship is also increasing. Figures are in millions.

Category 1994* 1993 1992 1991 Sports $2,850 2,447 2,112 1,792 Pop music tours 425 361 318 364 Festivals & fairs 382 333 286 280 Social causes 340 314 254 196 Fine arts 255 245 223 168


Source: IEG Sponsorship Report

Always Coke

Coke isn't the official sponsor of everything, but it does pay millions to sponsor more than 900 events, teams and causes internationally. Here are some of the major sporting events and sports organizations of which Coke is the "official" drink.

The 1994 and 1996 Olympic Games

World Cup Soccer

National Basketball Assn.

Major League Baseball

National Football League

National Hockey League

Super Bowl

Tour de France


Davis Cup

U.S. Open

NCAA Final Four

Professional Golfers Assn.

World Cross Country Championships

World Indoor Track & Field

African Cup of Nations soccer

Asian Games

Special Olympics

Source: Coca-Cola

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