Nissan Ties Up College Football Sponsorship Deals

Nissan will pitch its Titan pickup truck and forthcoming Rogue crossover to college-football aficionados in truck country. And it will be official sponsor of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), which is--fortuitously--celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

The Nashville-based U.S. sales arm of Nissan has inked a deal with Sports Illustrated to get its vehicles and branding in SI special issues and at multimedia events highlighting the greatest gridiron moments in SEC history.

Nissan will also be exclusive auto sponsor of the presentation events around the Heisman Trophy.

Specifics include Nissan's exclusive sponsorship of a special Sports Illustrated collector's edition celebrating SEC football. The SEC commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated will be a custom publication that will be distributed at stadiums, displayed at Nissan regional dealerships and promoted at pre-game and tailgating experiences. Nissan will also tout the brand and Titan on SI.com, where fans can vote for their all-time SEC team, find their favorite SEC Sports Illustrated covers, view legendary photos, and register to win a trip to the 2008 SEC Championship game.

Nissan will also have branded presence on theheismanvote.com, another virtual voting booth for fans.

Finally, Nissan gets both title sponsorship and vehicles in the SI SEC Tour Driven by Nissan, a six-market road show visiting game venues with memorabilia, multimedia and interactive content about the SEC, Nissan Titan and the new Rogue, among other things. That tour is via Atlanta-based Creative Presence Partners, Inc.

Steve Kerho, director, Media & Interactive Marketing for Nissan, says the company tied its college-football presence to the SEC because of the geographic footprint (especially where Titan is concerned), the demographic and the elbow room.

"There's a high level of engagement and passion among SEC fans, and an exclusive automotive presence allows us to create an 'ownable' segment in college football, which is getting harder and harder to do," he says. "This allows us to do cross-promotional extensions that enhance consumer experience, and it generates a variety of brand extensions with key properties and builds a platform to increase overall brand opinion and awareness."

Says Jim Helberg, executive client communications director with Nissan's media-buying agency, Omnicom's New York-based OMD: "The SEC was selected because it represents the most rich tradition and rich history, and we haven't covered it. I think the exclusivity is a large appeal. The region is very strong for Nissan. But we had a void in terms of the conference geography."

He says the overarching platform is college football, from which the SI deal and the Heisman Trophy sponsorship springs. "What we are doing this year is taking that larger platform, and putting that into multiple channels. The Heisman is the culmination of the college football season prior to championship series." Nissan in-book components in SI will include gatefold ads bracketing editorial in the SI College Football issue.

Kerho says the media strategy around the launch of the Rogue crossover this fall will include NFL, and a major sponsorship and product placement arrangement with the NBC program "Heroes," of which Nissan became a sponsor last year to tout its Versa compact car. "There's a significant broadcast and advertising and online element."