Charlotte Hornets strike deal with global liquor giant

Starting on Monday, Crown Royal bags with the Hornets logo will become available.
Starting on Monday, Crown Royal bags with the Hornets logo will become available. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

The Charlotte Hornets have signed a contract with a global liquor company that will put the team’s logo and trademark on purple Crown Royal bags across North Carolina – the latest in a string of new sponsorship deals since the Hornets name returned to Charlotte last year.

The multiyear deal with London-based Diageo also marks the first partnership between Time Warner Cable Arena, where the Hornets play, and an alcoholic beverage company, Hornets executives said. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The team finalized the pact after completing negotiations that started when the NBA opened a “spirits category” for team sponsorships about five years ago, said Peter Guelli, Hornets executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer.

The deal gives Diageo’s Crown Royal whiskey and Ciroc vodka brands access to the Hornets name and logo, which will start appearing on Crown Royal bags on Monday. The bags will become available at select North Carolina liquor stores.

Diageo will have signage on the LED ribbon board that rings the arena, and signage courtside, Guelli told the Observer. Next month, Diageo will host a Hornets watch party at All American Pub in South End and activate a Hoops for Heroes “pop-a-shot” program that will give fans age 21 and older the chance to shoot baskets to raise money for U.S. military personnel.

The arena will begin offering Ciroc and Crown Royal, primarily in the club and suite areas but not at concession stands, Guelli said.

Besides Crown Royal and Ciroc, Diageo’s alcohol brands include Smirnoff vodka and Captain Morgan rum.

The agreement is the latest in a series of new sponsorship deals the Hornets have signed since the city’s NBA team rebranded itself as the Hornets last fall. In December, the Hornets renewed a relationship with beverage giant Coca-Cola just months after inking deals with McDonald’s, Mercedes-Benz and Food Lion.

Guelli said the return of the Hornets name has helped attract sponsors. “A lot of the partnerships that we’ve completed had to do with the transition” from the Bobcats to the Hornets, he said.

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