Mitsubishi Unit Eyes Touchdown With Expanded AFL Sponsorship

Mitsubishi Motors North America (MMNA) will begin a raft of branding activities around the 20-year-old, 12-team Arena Football League (AFL), a brand of professional football played indoor on a 50-yard field.

The effort includes on-and off-field branding of playoffs and ArenaBowl promotional platforms starting this week as the 2007 AFL playoffs get under way.

The Cypress, Calif., U.S. sales arm of the Japanese automaker has a sponsorship deal with the Chicago-based league that includes Mitsubishi-branded helmet and uniform logos and on-field signage. The new deal expands that with ad commitment on game broadcasts on ESPN and ABC for the 2007 playoff stretch.

Mitsubishi Motors will be the halftime sponsor of upcoming AFL playoff games on ESPN as well as ArenaBowl XXI on ESPN on ABC. Mitsubishi Motors also will sponsor a weekly webisode on's AFL page.

For the ArenaBowl XXI Championship Weekend starting July 26 in New Orleans, Mitsubishi will run a Mitsubishi Motors Arena Bowl Extravaganza on July 28, a free public concert near Bourbon Street.



ArenaBowl's Most Valuable Player gets a Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder. The ArenaBowl airs live on ABC on July 29. Mitsubishi worked with its media buying agency, PHD, to develop the sponsorship as part of its annual sports marketing plan.

"We see the alliance with the AFL as good fit for our demographic and psychographic," says Matt Mendez, manager of retail marketing for MMNA. "Both the AFL and Mitsubishi are a bit of a 'challenger brand.' There are a number of synergies." He adds that the AFL is also an appealing property because the league's viewership numbers have increased steadily. "Their fans are enthusiastic and loyal, and we think there are some nice advantages and opportunities to work with them."

Mitsubishi stands to gain exposure from a deal the league inked this year with Disney-owned ESPN in May, in which ESPN became a minority owner of AFL and official broadcast partner. ESPN's stake was part of a five-year deal that includes rights to televise 26 games per season and media rights benefiting some 15 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, HD and ESPN2 HD; ESPN Deportes; ESPN on ABC, and ESPN's broadband service ESPN360as well as radio, magazines, and syndication rights to air Arena Football League games through ESPN International.

Mitsubishi will advertise during broadcasts, per Mendez, though not with AFL-specific ads -- "Rather, we will advertise our regular Lancer, Outlander and Eclipse ads. During the games we have interactive banners, signage, halftime announcements and a number of other sponsorship activities."

MMNA will be advertising on other sports properties this year. "We felt the AFL was great for the summer season and beyond."

Separately, Daniel P. Kuhnert has been promoted to EVP/sales and marketing at MMNA. Kuhnert rejoined MMNA in April 2005 as SVP/sales after more than a decade as a dealer principal of two Mitsubishi dealerships in San Diego County.

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