Three Sponsorship Stories That Caught Our Attention: Track & Field Athletes Boycott - PepsiCo Demanding More Exposure During Indian Cricket Matches - Verizon Wireless New IndyCar Series Title Sponsor

By Paul Birdwell (

Three stories in the world of sponsorship that caught our attention in recent days were of an interest to us so they might be of an interest to the readers of the RFA Blog as well:

Nike, Brooks Running Get Entangled in Track Controversy, Sara Germano, Wall Street Journal

“The sporting world got a jolt last week from the prospect that college football players might unionize. Now another surprise is afoot: U.S. track stars are considering a strike.

Top professional track and field athletes are preparing for collective action against the sport's governing body that could lead some athletes to boycott the U.S. national track and field championships in June.

Discontent has been building among athletes over how USA Track & Field runs its meets and applies rules. Anger peaked after a pair of controversial decisions at the indoor national track and field championships in February, including the disqualification of a runner at the insistence of a coach with USATF principal sponsor Nike Inc. 

A group representing elite runners, shot putters and pole-vaulters is seeking a greater role in monitoring such issues.

The athletes' demands are entangling sponsors such as Nike and Brooks Running Co., which use the affiliations to drive sales of shoes and other running gear. The $7 billion running-shoe industry is the main source of income for athletes as well as the USATF. The organization relies on sponsorships for about half its $19 million budget.” did a great write-up on the entire disqualification of a runner involving Nike sponsored coach Alberto Salazar at the recent 2014 USA Indoor Track and Field which will give some more background on what is driving a potential boycott and the organization of track and field athletes:

When A Famed Nike Coach Tried To Steal A Race, A Track Protest Was Born, Sarah Barker,

However the potential boycotting of events and unionization by track and field athletes ends no doubt there is fine line that needs to be walked by companies that are significant sponsors of coaches, athletes and even organizing entities that have a tremendous amount of power to determine the outcome of the competitive events they stage.

The second story that caught our attention is out of India with PepsiCo demanding more visibility for its branding and signage at stadiums in one of the largest cricket tournaments in the world the twenty20 tournament:

PepsiCo demands higher visibility at IPL venues, Raha Bhushan, Economic Times

“The American snacks and beverages major is seeking increased visibility in boxes in the stadium, perimeter boards, dug-outs and drinks trolleys among others, after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that the first phase of the IPL will be played in the United Arab Emirates because of the Lok Sabha elections in India. 

A PepsiCo spokesperson confirmed the same. "We are working closely with the BCCI team and will rely on them to devote more resources to actively support us to manage the complexity of activation across two countries," the spokesperson said. "We are also talking to them to increase fan engagement with the best locations for visibility and other engagement assets." 

PepsiCo will leverage the twenty20 tournament moving to the UAE, where it enjoys a dominant three-fourths share in the cola market. The Middle East is primarily a PepsiCo market with people perceiving Coca-Cola as an 'American' brand and Pepsi as 'local'.”

Did you catch the two fascinating facts in that last paragraph above?

1.  “PepsiCo will leverage the twenty20 tournament moving to the UAE, where it enjoys a dominant three-fourths share in the cola market.”


2.  “The Middle East is primarily a PepsiCo market with people perceiving Coca-Cola as an 'American' brand and Pepsi as 'local'.”

For those of us that have traveled throughout the Middle East one of the things that struck us as Americans was the very strong position that PepsiCo has with its beverage products across the Persian Gulf – Indian Ocean region and how hard it is has been for Coca-Cola to breakthrough when it is considered the “American” brand in that area of the world which is not always a moniker a company wants to have attached to its brand it seems.

The third story is yet another Good News story for the world of sponsorship with Verizon Wireless taking over the Title Sponsorship of the IndyCar Series which is a much-needed shot in the arm for IndyCar racing:

IndyCar:  Verizon title sponsorship a “game changer”, Robin Miller,

“Friday's official confirmation that Verizon is the new title sponsor for the IndyCar series can be simplified into this analogy: one of the most visible and vibrant companies in the country will try to raise the awareness of a sport that's starved for attention.

"We think it's a game changer for the IndyCar series," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company. "I can't imagine a more perfect partner than Verizon to take innovation forward and showcase technology.“ We can't wait to activate."

No terms were revealed but it's thought to be a 10-year-deal worth $10 million annually.

As reported Monday on by Marshall Pruett, Verizon's sponsorship replaces IZOD's five-year run but unlike some other past title sponsors, this seems more like a continuation of a good thing. Verizon has sponsored front-runner Will Power at Team Penske the past four years and is also backing Juan Montoya's return to IndyCar in 2014 in addition to providing the pole position award and being an official partner of the series.

"We've become increasingly selective with the organizations we partner with, we've got a good relationship with IndyCar and now it's time to step up," said Brian Angiolet, vice president of marketing for Verizon Wireless. "We are not just mobile, wireless or a phone company, we're more of a technology company and IndyCar is a perfect place to apply our technology."

Two things that jumped out at us here at the Roaring Fork Agency from the above story:

1.  The IndyCar Title Sponsorship sold for $1 Million Annually with a 10-Year Deal between IndyCar and Verizon Wireless

2.  The Verizon Wireless representative talking about how being able to leverage and promote Verizon’s technology with the IndyCar sponsorship which is what all mobile companies have now evolved into in recent years and something events seeking sponsorship should keep in mind when pitching technology companies like Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, etc..

Below is the video that IndyCar and Verizon Wireless put together on their new Title Sponsorship partnership:

Yes, fascinating stuff in all of the above three recent sponsorship news stories.

If you have any questions about event sponsorship or venue naming rights contact the Roaring Fork Agency at:

San Francisco, California – 415 730 – 4854

Seattle, Washington – 206 940 – 3934

Bend, Oregon – 541 640 – 2221

Twitter - @RoaringForkAgcy