A Pleased Mitsubishi Re-ups With Arena Football

Mitsubishi Motors of North America (MMNA) has renewed as the Official Automobile Manufacturer of the Arena Football League's 2008 regular season. The league, in its 22nd season, comprises 17 national teams that play on a 50-yard field at top indoor venues like Los Angeles' Staples Center.

The one-year agreement mirrors last year's partnership, including a variety of branding and activation elements, such as helmet decals, as well as a full slate of playoff and ArenaBowl promotional platforms. The Cypress, Calif.-based Mitsubishi will be Automobile Manufacturer of the 2008 AFL playoffs, including ArenaBowl XXII.

The agreement includes cross-promotional events at eight auto shows in such AFL markets as Tampa, Orlando, Phoenix, San Jose, Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and Dallas. Mitsubishi's exhibits at the shows will include an AFL-themed interactive display, where visitors can pose for a picture as if they were an AFL player with team-specific jerseys and paraphernalia.

Dan Kuhnert, executive vice president/sales and marketing for MMNA, says the company found the relationship to be a good fit. "An added bonus was that the relationship let our dealers 'piggyback' with AFL on game day. Many players came to dealerships, and it ended up being more of integrated marketing effort than anticipated. We are very pleased." Matt Mendez, retail marketing manager, says the effort this year will include a lot more of that kind of local-market activity--extending a pilot program the company ran last year in Los Angeles with the AFL franchise there, the Avengers. The team used two theme-wrapped Mitsubishi Outlanders for an off-season grassroots program promoting both AFL and Mitsubishi.

"They went to every UCLA and USC home game and to high school games," he says. "They added a sweepstakes component; and we got a lot of leads. It was surprising and encouraging. So we will add to that, working with regional offices and ad associations on how to activate it in local markets."

Kuhnert says that the sort of local-market extension that AFL did for Mitsubishi in L.A. makes up for the sport's tier-two status. "Granted, this is not an NFL sponsorship, but the extent that that league and team owners are willing to work at a grassroots level is a pleasant surprise."

In additionally, Mitsubishi gets reach during the March-July season on ESPN Monday night broadcasts, replacing Monday-night NFL coverage. ESPN is part-owner of the league. The bookend games--the season opener and the Arena Bowl--are broadcast on ABC, per Kuhnert. Mendez says Mitsubishi retains title sponsorship of the "Sports Center at half by Mitsubishi" half-time show, plus logo inclusion and billboard copy during broadcasts. "And we will advertise three to five commercials during games," he says.

Omnicom Group's PHD handles media duties, and BBDO handles creative. At this weekend's auto show in Detroit, the company will show--among other vehicles--new versions of its factory-modified Lancer Evo, which debuted in Los Angeles last fall, and Lancer Ralliart.

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