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pat-11.jpgExtra, extra! Sports pin and coin programs hot with newspapers

By Terry Lefton, Staff Writer

Published September 20, 2004

We’re always looking for the next bobblehead to hit the market, and it appears the flavor of the month in sports promotional tchotchke are the pins and coins being used by newspapers as circulation builders.

The programs are structured so that consumers exchange a coupon from a newspaper and between $2 and $4 for a pin or coin at a retailer that also sells the newspaper. The tie-in would drive daily traffic to chain drug stores, convenience stores, grocers and other paper vendors, as fans look to obtain every pin or coin.

While the continuity programs have been bouncing around Canada for several years, and debuted in the

The New York Post offered Yankees medallions as a circulation booster earlier this year.

U.S. with a program the Salt Lake Tribune did around the 2002 Winter Olympics, programs with the New York Post and New York Yankees and The Boston Globe and Boston Red Sox earlier this year attracted considerable attention. Accordingly, there are a plethora of programs now in the market: the New England Patriots and The Boston Globe, the Chicago Bears and Chicago Sun-Times, the Houston Texans and Houston Chronicle and the St. Louis Cardinals with the hometown Post-Dispatch. A program debuting this week in New York has the New York Post offering Jets and Giants stickers.

While the programs aren’t cheap (one source said a major market program costs in the low seven figures, including production costs, licensing fees and advertising), they have proved to be one of the most effective circulation boosters for papers since color Sunday comics.

“Based on results from New York and Boston, I’m anticipating a circulation increase of at least 10 percent,” said John Maher, vice president and director of marketing for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Post-Dispatch has more than 575 retail locations distributing the 26 pins it will feature daily over a one-month period.

Not only are the programs traffic builders for the retailers involved, they give the newspaper a compelling way to pitch new accounts. They also provide a new revenue stream for the papers, leagues, clubs and players associations involved. Continuity programs employing collectibles aren’t new, but both the quantities of premiums involved and the circulation boosts are turning heads. The newspaper programs have the advantage of being able to offer immense advertising clout, even outside of the sports section. For example, the Post-Dispatch is touting its pin program on the front page above the nameplate.

The biggest vendors are Activa in Houston and National Direct of Brampton, Ontario. “It’s a bit of a hotcake right now, but I think what people have to keep in mind is that the overall marketing program is just as important than the premium,” said Activa President Ruth Laurent. As for retail extensions, “we’ve done them and they’ve worked,” said National Group President Gail Worthington-Eyre, “but the value a newspaper can put behind this kind of promotion is important.”

Look for possible extensions into entertainment (Gail said she’s close to a Disney license) before quick-service restaurants and an oil brand sign on. For newspapers, it’s all gravy. “Retailers are calling to say, ‘We gotta have more papers,’” Maher said. “That’s something that I haven’t heard much before.”

 TALENT ACQUISITION: Agency sources report that the Omnicom Diversified Agency Services (DAS) division is close to a minority investment in Platinum Rye Entertainment, which is headed by Ryan Schinman. Platinum Rye is one of the largest buyers of celebrity talent and music licenses in the country and has long-established ties with Omnicom agency BBDO, New York. Where it fits in a DAS structure that already includes The Marketing Arm’s Talent Link is unclear, but an Omnicom affiliation would likely offer Platinum Rye opportunities for additional offshore business.

 ADIDAS WANTS NEW SHOES: Adidas has signed Jeremy Shockey to a three-year endorsement deal, which seems a little odd since Adidas’ lack of an NFL league deal means the New York Giants tight end can’t wear Adidas-branded shoes on the field. Jordan Bazant’s Goal Marketing, New York, represents Shockey for marketing.

Also signing as an Adidas endorser is Tampa Bay Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton.

 HERE & THERE: Former IRL sponsorship chief Bob Reif to Endeavor’s New York offices as president of the Hollywood talent agency’s Properties Group. Endeavor’s Mark Dowley said Reif will add some sports clients to what is largely a stable of entertainment properties, “but the largest emphasis here remains entertainment.” … Pepsi marketer Sean Tresvant leaves the beverage company for Sports Illustrated, where he’ll be executive director of brand marketing under SI CMO Jeff Price.… More than one NFL sponsor wondered why NFL marketing chief Phil Guarascio chose a vacation in Ireland over making his presence known at the NFL Kickoff schmooze in New England earlier this month. To be fair, neither Commissioner Paul Tagliabue nor COO Roger Goodell made the trip, either.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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