Gillette amps up sponsorships

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Gillette Co. is hiring a manager to develop and head a "global center for excellence" in sponsorship marketing, an acknowledgment that the marketer's stepped-up activity in the area is here to stay.

The position is in line with a movement that's been a high priority for Gillette Chairman-CEO Jim Kilts as the company beefs up marketing spending from 6% of sales in 2000 to 8.9% in 2003 and 10.6% last quarter. Sports and entertainment are becoming a growing part of the mix as the marketer finds ways to make sponsorships more accountable.

"We've rejuvenated our sports-marketing activities, and this position speaks to the fact that we're much more active in the area of sponsorship," said Eric Kraus, VP-communications at Gillette. "We feel there's a need for more resources there."

nascar links

In the past year, Gillette has expanded its sports-marketing portfolio extensively, launching the $20 million Gillette Young Guns integrated campaign with six Nascar drivers and a separate Duracell link with Nascar and Nextel Cup driver Kevin Harvick. Gillette, a major sponsor of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, also inked a $50 million global deal for Gillette with soccer star David Beckham that included a recent Times Square ad.

In 2001, the marketer acquired naming rights for the New England Patriots football stadium in Foxboro, Mass., in time to take advantage of two Super Bowl victories in three years and a growing national following for the team, according to David Carter, principal of the Sports Business Group, a Redondo Beach, Calif.-based sports marketing consulting firm.

Mr. Kilts, moreover, has been personally involved in the Gillette's sports sponsorships, going so far as to write a letter to National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in February strongly objecting to Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during the halftime show of this year's Super Bowl.

Entertainment tie-ins to date have been less extensive but on the rise. Gillette used rapper Xzibit in ads for Right Guard Xtreme Cool Spray deodorant this summer and, for its razor line, featured Venus Divine-inspired dresses for stars, including Jenny McCarthy and Kimberly Stewart, who appeared with her dad, Rod, during Los Angeles Fashion Week in April.

Gillette's yet-to-be-hired sponsorship manager will be in charge of managing existing tie-ins, such as Young Guns, as well as developing more single- and multi-brand sponsorship programs, including advertising and broader promotion integration.

Gillette has been a major sports sponsor from the earliest days, Mr. Carter said. But its increased involvement now, amid a drive by Gillette to fine-tune measurement of marketing return on investment, attests to strides made by sports properties in delivering measurable results to clients, he said.

more demanding

"Several years ago, before Sept. 11, there weren't a lot of mechanisms in place to demonstrate return on investment," Mr. Carter said. But he said that when marketers resumed advertising after the tragedy, they were more demanding for measurable results. Sponsorship "properties had to do a better job," he said.

Some, particularly Nascar, can be among the hardest-to-measure programs for the kinds of marketing mix models increasingly popular at Gillette and other package-goods marketers. The impact of any single event tends to be small and geographically diffused, thus harder to measure, said Gregg Ambach, VP-marketing analytics at the research firm ImmediateFX, Monroe, Conn.

Gillette has attempted to overcome that by building in online response and offline sampling and couponing programs, such as a current online advertising and promotion campaign that lets entrants choose between a chance to meet the Young Guns before a Nascar race or attend a concert anywhere in the world.

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