12/07/20: USAA breaks down its approach to this year’s Army/Navy game

 

Medias First Morning Read
Monday December 7, 2020

As we approach that college football staple in the annual Army/Navy game, one brand in particular that has the rivalry matchup circled on its calendar is USAA which uses the game as a key storytelling and activation week. In almost any year, “America’s Game” has had a window in the national spotlight unto itself, as most university schedules have been completed week. This year however, the Pandemic has seen many of the Big Five conferences shift to later dates, creating a unique window of competition while the game itself has gone to West Point. Cynopsis asked Eric Engquist, VP of Enterprise Brand Management and a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, to break down the USAA pivot for the game this year and beyond.

Engquist on how USAA’s overall sports marketing has changed during the pandemic: We have created safe and unique ways military fans of the NFL can interact with players, coaches and teams. We took our Salute to Service Lounge virtual and expanded it, with appearances throughout this season by players Ryan Tannehill, Larry Fitzgerald, and Zach Ertz and two additional appearances scheduled (Gardner Minshew on 12/8; Clyde Edwards-Helaire on 12/15). We also recently concluded a sweepstakes for an ultimate fan cave and the opportunity to play video games with players like Von Miller and George Kittle. Earlier this year at the NFL Draft, we worked with Coach Ron Rivera to offer fans an inside look at his draft experience, and Derrick Brown, to show fans how he prepared for the NFL Draft while growing up in a military household. Working with the San Diego Padres, we created a special military section allowing active duty military and veterans to submit a photo and have a cutout in the section for each home game. We have also created and leveraged content with other partners like the San Antonio Spurs, Academies and Spartan Honor Series to drive reach and engagement among fans and military audiences.

On how Army/Navy as a tentpole event cuts through the clutter this week: To help fans connect and engage with the game, USAA has introduced the “Army-Navy House” sweepstakes to help fans celebrate the traditions and rivalry that go hand-in-hand with America’s Game. One grand prize winner will be chosen for Army and one for Navy. Those winners will receive airfare, hotel and game tickets to attend next year’s Army-Navy Game. Additionally, 1,000 randomly selected fans who upload a photo for either Academy will receive a limited-edition souvenir ticket. We know many fans are sad they can’t keep their attendance streak at the game going. This souvenir ticket is a way to help keep the streak alive and it could be the last opportunity to get a physical souvenir ticket if future tickets go entirely digital. To support this effort, USAA is taking its Super Bowl-like Radio Row, virtual. We are working with many of the stations who’ve attended Army-Navy Radio Row in past years, along with some new ones. And, we’re working with many guests that we can offer media that have a connection to America’s Game, or the military at large including NFL legend Roger Staubach, NBA legend David Robinson, former Navy Midshipmen Joe Cardona and ESPN personality Sage Steele.

On being in New York two years in a row: While we can all collectively hope that fans can attend as they have in past years, we know that the game will be special, as it will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. Provided that it is safe to do so (COVID-19), we do hope to host sports radio stations and other media outlets at our Army – Navy Game radio row experience. Similarly, Army-Navy House will continue to have value as an on-site experiential activation moving forward – again, when it is safe to do so.

PROGRAMMING

The first half of the 2020-21 NBA regular season has its lineup of broadcast homes for TNT, ESPN, ABC, NBA TV and ESPN Radio and spanning Dec. 22-March 4. Adding on to the announcement last week for the first three days of the season, the schedule incorporates steps to reduce travel, including the use of a “series” model. In some instances where a team is scheduled to play twice in one market, those games have been scheduled to be played consecutively. Each team will play an average of four “series” in the First Half – two at home and two on the road. As part of a continuous effort to present national television games to the largest possible audience, the NBA “worked closely with its teams and domestic broadcast partners to schedule earlier start times for doubleheaders.” During the First Half of the season, each doubleheader across TNT and ESPN will tip off at 7p/9:30p or 7:30p/10p.

In addition to opening the season, TNT will televise seven Tuesday doubleheaders and nine Thursday doubleheaders during the first half with a 66-game schedule overall during the 2020-21 NBA regular season, including a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tripleheader, weekly NBA on TNT Thursdays and regular NBA on TNT Tuesday Night coverage starting in February. NBA on TNT’s marquee Martin Luther King, Jr. Day tripleheader on Monday, Jan. 18, will feature Warriors/Lakers at 10p, as well as Suns/Grizzlies at 5p and Bucks/Nets at 7:30p.

Around the dial, ESPN will televise nine Wednesday doubleheaders and eight Friday doubleheaders during the first half, while the sixth season of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC will premiere on Jan. 30, when the Celtics host the Lakers at 8:30p. ABC Sunday Showcase will also make its season debut on Feb. 21. Together ESPN and ABC will combine to carry 49 games over during the period, including three appearances each from the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Brooklyn Nets, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics;

NBA TV, meanwhile, offers 107 live games for the full season, and will tip off its regular season coverage with a tripleheader on Dec. 26, starting with the Memphis Grizzlies hosting the Atlanta Hawks.

The NHL is reportedly targeting a mid-January start date with a 52- or 56-game schedule at best, according to ESPN. According to the report, the league’s initial target of Jan. 1 became unfeasible because of necessary time for training camp and quarantine protocols in some markets.

Telemundo Deportes is reporting 1.4 million viewers for this week’s Liga MX semifinal between Chivas, C.D. Guadalajara, and Club Leon on Dec. 2, immediately following a delivery of nearly 1.5 million viewers for the previous match, Chivas-America on Nov. 25. This week’s Chivas-Leon match garnered 771,000 viewers among Adults 18-49, the network’s highest delivery among the A18-49 age group to date, and an increase of 2% over last week, outperforming Club Leon’s previous match against Puebla on Univision by 10% in the same age group.

Concacaf released an updated schedule for qualifiers ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which follows Friday’s FIFA Council ruling that North and Central American teams will now be able to play three games in one match window instead of two. With the shift, the final, eight-team round of Concacaf qualifiers will begin in September 2021, first following four First Round match dates in March 2021 and June 2021.

Promiseland, a new docu-series following Memphis Grizzlies’ rookie, Ja Morant, is set to launch next year. The six-part series, created and directed by Dexton Deboree, founder of Falkon chronicles Morant’s ascension from an unknown high school prospect and overnight small college standout to the top tier of the NBA. The series is a joint project from the production teams of DLP Media Group, Deboree’s Falkon Entertainment, RTG Features, and Interscope Films, and is currently in post-production.

Longtime Cubs play-by-play voice Len Kasper is heading to the cross-town White Sox where he will become the next White Sox radio play-by-play announcer.A multiyear contract to join Darrin Jackson in the White Sox radio booth was officially announced on Friday. Kasper and Jackson will be working on ESPN 1000, the White Sox new flagship station, with Jackson entering his 22nd season as a White Sox broadcaster and his 13th as radio analyst.

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SPONSORSHIP & PROMOTION

Major League Soccer and Kellogg’s inked a multi-year partnership extension that designates Cheez-It and Pringles as the league’s official snacks, while Eggo becomes the official waffle. As part of the expanded partnership, Kellogg’s will also continue to be an official partner of eMLS – MLS’ competitive EA SPORTS FIFA league. “Major League Soccer’s partnership with Kellogg’s has allowed us to engage our fans and players with unique activations while allowing them to sample this iconic brand,” said Jen Cramer, MLS Senior Vice President of Partnership Marketing in Friday’s announcement. “We are excited about our partnership extension and look forward to collaborating with Kellogg’s for many years to come.”

Coca-Cola’s partnership with Special Olympics International is now slated
to run through 2023, extending a run that first saw the beverage brand serve as a founding partner and global sponsor of Special Olympics since the organization’s creation in 1968.

USA Triathlon extended the org’s partnership with HotelPlanner through 2023, with the brand serving as the organization’s Official Booking Partner. “While COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the way we travel and impacted multisport events nationwide, HotelPlanner will continue to be USA Triathlon’s preferred resource for athletes who do choose to travel responsibly next season and beyond,” said Victoria Brumfield, USA Triathlon Chief of Staff.

On the merch front, Under Armour’s newly formed Curry Brand debuted its first signature shoe, titled the Curry Flow 8. The initial Curry Flow 8 colorway will be made available globally via currybrand.com, at UA Brand Houses and at select retail partners for $160 on Dec. 11.

Meanwhile, New Balance and Kawhi Leonard released the latest KAWHI signature shoe: KAWHI Christmas while will be sold exclusively at New Balance and the Foot Locker family of brands. “In working with Kawhi, we wanted to ensure that his final signature shoe for 2020 was unique to his personality and further showcased the ice in his veins and what drives him,” said Jonathan Grondin, New Balance’s Design Director for Basketball “Like the mythical Snow Wasset, Kawhi is relentless on the court and it was imperative that the shoe’s design emulated his work ethic and how he comes alive in the winter during the NBA season.”

DIGITAL, DATA & TECH

Chip Ganassi Racing gassed up a new partnership with mobile games platform Skillz and developer Gamie Studios to create a new competitive mobile game, Chip Ganassi Racing Blitz. “Partnering with Skillz is an amazing opportunity to engage our fans with immersive digital experiences and share our passion for racing with a new generation of audiences both on and off the track,” said John Olguin, Senior Vice President of CGR.

Famer, the sports coaching and mentorship mobile platform, is expanding its partnership with the NBPA with the launch of NBPA Training Ground One. Through the NBPA’s Training Ground channel on Famer, youth athletes will now have the opportunity to participate in one-on-one personal training sessions and receive feedback from some of the best basketball coaches and trainers in the world. “At Famer our mission is to empower coaches to positively impact the lives of aspiring young athletes and to democratize personal sports training” said Famer CEO Rich Abend. “This partnership brings pro level training to the masses, and gives NBPA grassroots coaches and trainers the tools they need to work directly with kids anywhere in the world.”

ESPORTS

Epic Games is extending its virtual run on esports events through 2021 due to the pandemic. Among the in-person events that will not take place once again next year will be the Fortnite World Cup, although online competitions will continue throughout the next year. The company noted that the “intent is to eventually hold global in-person tournaments again.” The Fortnite Championship Series will continue throughout 2021, with the Chapter 2 – Season 5 FNCS is currently on the docket for February 4.

Talon is partnering with ESPAT to serve as its digital media licensing provider with Talon contributing pictures and video onto ESPAT’s licensing platform to “build a comprehensive content library that will have global exposure.” “As we continue to see the demand for esports content grow exponentially we are excited to be partnering with ESPAT to serve our fans and the community,” said Sean Zhang CEO of Talon Esports. “ESPAT is providing digital media rights holders a passive revenue stream, with real-time global accessibility for the editorial and commercial user. Content derived from the lens of a team is unmatched, from behind the scenes at the facility to the adrenaline from a live event, we look forward to supporting the South East Asia region and being the distribution platform for Talon Esports..”

Evil Geniuses is bringing on former Red Bull Executive, Michael Fudzinski, as the org’s new Chief Revenue Officer. Fudzinski most recently oversaw global partnerships initiatives as VP at the Drone Racing League.

Zytara announced that Andy Brown and Moritz Baier-Lentz have joined the company’s board of advisors. This follows the news released earlier this week around the company’s plans to launch the esports banking platform in early 2021. Brown is the CEO of Sand Hill East, while Baier-Lentz is a Partner of BITKRAFT Ventures, the globally leading early and mid-stage investment platform for gaming, esports, and interactive media.

Supercell opened the doors to its 2021 plans for the Brawl Stars Championship with an expansion that will now see eight open regional seasons next year while the number of regions is buffed to seven. Overall, 16 teams will go to the 2021 World Finals. The first season will open in February with the first broadcast in March.

INDUSTRY & ROSTER MOVES

Major League Baseball and all 30 of its teams are reportedly suing their insurance providers, claiming billions of dollars in losses during the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the AP, the suit was filed in October in California Superior Court and says providers AIG, Factory Mutual, and Interstate Fire and Casualty Company have refused to pay claims made by MLB despite the league’s “all-risk” policy purchases.

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