IQ News: Yahoo Shoots To Score With Sports Marketing

Yahoo has hired a San Francisco-based sports marketing firm, MGO Marketing, to improve its chances of landing sponsorship deals with professional sports leagues.
Over the next six months, MGO will be charged with getting the popular search service better access to officials from sports leagues. Yahoo executives are particularly interested in the possibility of striking deals with Major League Soccer and the National Hockey League.
The Santa Clara, Calif.-based Yahoo, the leader among the search services, admits it’s just beginning to explore big-ticket sports marketing pacts. While the company may not be ready to shell out a multi-million dollar commitment to the leagues, the exposure generated by such deals is enticing, according to Karen Edwards, Yahoo’s vice president of brand management. “These deals provide legitimacy,” she said. “It could put us in a place people normally don’t see tech companies.”
That, in part, explains why rival Lycos recently signed a full-year sponsorship deal with NASCAR to sponsor a car driven by Matt Kennseth, a points leader in the Busch Grand National division. “I think it puts us into a different consumer goods category with the McDonald’s and Pepsi’s of the world,” said Jim Hoenscheid, director of promotions at the Waltham, Mass.-based company.
Lycos, which does not have a dedicated sports marketing agency, brokered the deal directly with a company which specializes in NASCAR sponsorships, Charlotte, N.C.-based Roush Racing.
Other than Yahoo and Lycos, a variety of Internet companies, including search service AltaVista and America Online, have opted to work with individual sports franchises. However, most of these alliances have been principally to conduct on-premise promotions over the past year.
And while these companies continue to dedicate more money to traditional media advertising to promote their brands to Web newbies, only Lycos, with its NASCAR sponsorship, has earmarked the dollars to a long-term commitment with a sports league.
Still, with leagues so concerned with expanding their audience overseas, the search services, as media companies, may have an ace up their sleeves in negotiations.
“Where we could really help a league like the NBA is overseas,” said Edwards, adding the company has not had any official discussions with that league.