KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Danica Patrick is still Go Daddy's girl, though she may not be featured in the company's Super Bowl spots for the first time since 2007.
Go Daddy on Thursday announced it had signed New York agency Deutsch Inc. to produce its two 30-second Super Bowl spots, the first time the website domain provider has gone outside for the ads it has done itself since 2005.
Go Daddy also went outside for the first time in company history when it used Deutsch on an ad campaign that debuted during the Olympics.
"We got some good data concepts for the Olympics beyond what is on air now, and we wanted to expand our relationship," Barb Rechterman, chief marketing officer, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
But the hiring of Deutsch has created speculation that Go Daddy is trying to cut down on its use of Patrick, who has been featured in the Super Bowl spots since partnering with the company in 2007. Patrick's 10 Super Bowl ads are more than any other celebrity, and she's done 22 commercials for Go Daddy since 2007.
"We love Danica, our relationship is perfectly fine," Rechterman said. "Danica, for us, is a valued asset and we have her for the foreseeable future. We are very excited for her upcoming first full season in the Sprint Cup Series, and Go Daddy is looking forward to many more years together with her."
Go Daddy first signed with Patrick as an associate sponsor in IndyCar, then stepped up as a primary sponsor in 2010. The company sponsored her IndyCar effort that year as well as a partial NASCAR schedule, and this year has sponsored both the full Nationwide Series schedule and a limited Sprint Cup schedule.
Go Daddy has committed to sponsor the Cup schedule next season, when Patrick moves up to NASCAR's top level on a full-time basis.
And, Rechterman said Go Daddy is interested in discussing opportunities with Patrick for the Indianapolis 500 next season. Patrick has said she'd like to run that race if she can partner with a team that gives her a chance to win.
"Danica has had unprecedented exposure in NASCAR, through NASCAR, and she's just getting bigger," Rechterman said.
But Rechterman doesn't know if that means Patrick will kick off the year with a spot in the Super Bowl, which is Feb. 3 in New Orleans.
An online ad meter conducted by USA TODAY and Facebook after last year's Super Bowl rated the two Go Daddy spots 52nd and 55th out of 55 commercials, with the spot of Patrick looking sexy on a heavenly cloud ranking last among consumers. Although Rechterman didn't discuss last year's ads, which had a similar theme of sex appeal as most previous Go Daddy ads, the CMO did say of Deutsch "hopefully they give us something fresh."
She also said Patrick fits Go Daddy's marketing campaign.
"Our goal is to redefine sexy as basically ambitious people, driven people," she said. "That was the goal with this, and we wanted to get some new creative ideas around it. Danica fits that bill."
Patrick, in her second day of testing Thursday at Kansas Speedway, said she wants to be in the Super Bowl spots but understands it's not her decision.
"I've always enjoyed being part of Go Daddy's Super Bowl commercials and I hope that I'm involved again this year," she told AP. "Obviously with an outside agency producing the commercials for the first time, there's a chance that I won't be in the spots. I'd like to be in the commercials but if not, that's OK.
"The racing program is unaffected and Go Daddy is going to give me great support as they have for several years. We've got a multi-year commitment from Go Daddy for the future and I couldn't be happier about that. The Go Daddy sponsorship program is one of the strongest primary sponsorships to come in the Sprint Cup Series and it's great for me and great for the sport."
It's possible this is much ado about nothing, and that Go Daddy used Thursday's announcement to create interest in Patrick's potential involvement. But Rechterman insisted no decision had been made.
"At this juncture, I haven't seen any of the creative (from Deutsch) so it's kind of hard for us to say," Rechterman said. "But we are not going to not do commercials without Danica next year. Our commitment to her racing team speaks volumes to how committed we are to her."
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The digital divide is wider than ever between diners who talk, tweet and snap pictures mid-meal and those who wish they'd just shut up, shut down and be present.
Caught at the center of the discord are restaurant owners and chefs, who must walk the careful line of good customer service for both those who dine under the influence of smart phones, and those who won't. But as the devices have morphed into an unrelenting appendage for texting, photography and games, more restaurateurs are challenged to keep the peace.
Owners who once relied mostly on "no cell phones, please" signs, increasingly are experimenting with everything from penalties for using phones, discounts for not and outright bans on photography.
"There's no place to get away from the chatter," said Julie Liberty of Miami, who started the Facebook page "Ban Cell Phones From Restaurants" earlier this year. "Everything has a soundtrack, including when you go into the ladies room. That's just not right."
It's a touchy issue. Consider the crush of news coverage Eva Restaurant in Los Angeles generated when it began offering patrons a 5 percent discount if they leave their phone at the door. Online comments ranged from cheers of "YES!" to others who said their phones would have to be pried from their cold, dead hands.
The policy is working, though. Eva's Rom Toulon said about 40 percent of our customers will leave their cell phones at the door.
"After a few cocktails and glasses of wine, it can be challenging to remember that you left the phone behind," he said.
The burst of headlines for Eva came after a Burlington, Vt., deli took on cyber-folk hero status for posting a sign informing customers that $3 will be added to their bill "if you fail to get off your phone while at the counter. It's rude." Disgusted diners are doing their part too with games like "phone stack," in which everyone places their phones in a stack in the middle of the table. The first person who reaches for their phone pays the bill for all.
These are more creative approaches to the no cell-phone signs now common in restaurants ranging from highbrow to quick-eats. The landmark Boston restaurant Locke-Ober asks diners — in language appropriate for a place with a dress code — to "kindly refrain from using cellular phones." In Albany, N.Y., the Hamilton Street Cafe has a more direct, hand-drawn "No cell phones at the counter" sign with a phone with a red "X'' through it.
Owner Sue Dayton said the sign by the counter helps keep the lunch line moving.
"You get a half-hour for lunch. You walk up here and you have to stand behind someone not paying attention enough to say what kind of bread they want on their BLT because they're on their cell phone," Dayton said.
Irritation over distracted dining has broadened with the rise of photo-sharing apps like Instagram. The popular online scrapbook Pinterest is clogged with pictures of everything from pan fried noodles to poutine snapped moments before digestion. Chefs — who, as a rule, put a premium on control — don't always take kindly to their dining rooms becoming shooting galleries.
Grant Achatz, the famous Chicago-based molecular gastronomist, wrote a much-forwarded post several years ago grousing about diners who snap the meal away and even try to video his staff without asking permission. "I can't imagine how celebrities feel," he wrote. "No wonder they punch the paparazzi out when they get the chance."
Some restaurateurs go with the digital flow. Sarabeth Levine, of New York City-based Sarabeth's, said she's perfectly fine with people chatting, playing games or even taking pictures. It's free advertising, after all.
"I'm happy to have our customers," Levine said. "They come, they tweet, they Facebook, they bring their children. It's high energy to begin with. I mean, people are noisy even in the way they speak today."
Other restaurants go as far as to bar picture taking, like David Chang's Ko in Manhattan. Others take a middle ground, like the high-end Washington, D.C., restaurant Rogue 24, where hostesses politely tell guests that if they do take pictures, please do so without a distracting flash.
"I mean you can't fight it," said owner R. J. Cooper. "Why fight a losing battle?"
Actually, the battle might already be lost.
The use of hand-held devices at the table is implicitly encouraged at the growing number of restaurants that offer Wi-Fi access or accept payment via smartphone. The Manhattan restaurant Comodo even encourages guests to upload pictures of their dishes to Instagram with the hashtag (hash)comodomenu to create a user-generated "Instagram menu." Sharing trends are likely to accelerate as the generation who has no memory of a world before cell phones comes of age.
Already, about one in five U.S. adults say they share online when eating a meal with others, and more than a third of teens do the same, according to the 2012 State of Mobile Etiquette Survey for Intel Corp.
The same survey found 81 percent of U.S. adults believe mobile manners are getting worse, up 6 percentage points from last year. A Zagat survey this month found most respondents disapproving of texting, tweeting and emailing when eating out, but a majority accepted picture taking.
"I think it's about having more time under our belt with what the new normal is," said etiquette expert Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post.
While the technology is new, the rules of etiquette are old-fashioned common sense. Silence your phone in restaurants and don't answer unless there's a very good reason, like a sick kid back home. And if you do answer, excuse yourself from the table. Try to keep your phone off the table, it signals to your companions that you waiting for something better.
As for taking pictures, Post said consider the sort of place you're in — busy pub or cloistered bistro? — and who you're with.
"Ask yourself, 'Just because I want to take a photo of my food, is this the right place? Am I with the right people for this to be OK?'" Post said. "The answer can't always be yes."
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — At least four tornadoes were part of the storm system that raked northern and central Mississippi on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, injuring at least seven people, the National Weather Service said.
The biggest of the four storms was a twister that traveled 16 miles through several counties east of Jackson. With a half-mile-wide damage path, it was rated EF-3 on the Fujita scale, with peak winds estimated at 140 mph, the weather service said. That storm blew down trees as well as three electrical transmission towers.
Another tornado in Mississippi that injured three people was rated an EF-2, running seven miles with a quarter-mile-wide debris path before lifting off, the weather service said. It had top estimated winds of 125 mph.
The tornadoes accompanied a line of severe storms that swept across the Southeast overnight Wednesday and early Thursday, downing power lines and trees and damaging homes around the region.
In Mississippi, a woman was trapped temporarily in her bed when a tree came crashing through her roof. Rescuers had to cut the tree to get her out, said Scott County Emergency Management Director Alvin Seaney.
In Sharkey County, Miss., Coleman Jenkins, 20, spent Thursday morning looking for his mother's telephone and car keys around her destroyed mobile home. He said his mother broke her back and wrist and had cuts on her face, but she's expected to survive. Jenkins wasn't home at the time, but he said his two sisters, ages 5 and 10, managed to make it out of the trailer without serious injuries.
"Everything's gone," Jenkins said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Sharkey County Emergency Management Director James Ross said a total of eight mobile homes in the county were destroyed or heavily damaged. He said officials are trying to help those families find a place to stay.
At one point Wednesday night, Entergy Mississippi reported more than 11,000 customers without power. Late Thursday, more than 4,000 Entergy customers remained without power, almost all in Greenville.
Nearly 900 customers lost electricity in Arkansas, where some buildings were damaged but no injuries were reported. Storms also raked western Tennessee, toppling trees in a mobile home park north of Memphis and forcing some residents out of their homes.
In Louisiana, authorities reported trees down in at least two parishes and one home with a damaged roof when part of the front swept through that state.
Radar weather maps overnight showed a huge, arcing front that swept across Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and parts of states such as Louisiana and Alabama on its march eastward on a jagged slant.
___ Associated Press writers Jeff Amy and Holbrook Mohr contributed to this report.
NEW YORK (AP) — Nike forgave Tiger Woods after he apologized for cheating on his wife. It welcomed back Michael Vick once he served time for illegal dog-fighting. But the company dropped Lance Armstrong faster than the cyclist could do a lap around the block.
What's the difference? A marketer's prerogative.
The world's largest clothing and footwear maker has stood by athletes through a number of scandals over the years, but this week it became the first company to sever ties with Armstrong in the wake of allegations that he used illegal drugs to boost his performance during his 20-plus year racing career.
At least five other companies followed Nike's lead, highlighting the tricky relationship that evolves when marketers sign multimillion-dollar deals with celebrities and athletes to endorse their products. Everything a celebrity endorser says and does could negatively impact the company he or she represents. And when something goes wrong, companies act as the judge and jury when deciding whether to continue those deals. They consider everything from the offense itself to the fallout.
"The tighter the association and the more intimate the relationship, it can sort of be like breaking up a marriage," said Allen Adamson, managing director of branding firm Landor Associates.
Endorsement deals have been around for decades. The value of such deals are a closely held secret, but companies often shell out millions of dollars for celebrities to wear their shoes, use their equipment or appear in their commercials.
The practice is even more common in the world of sports, where companies are willing to do almost anything to have their brand associated with the high performance of a top athlete. Think: The endorsement deal between sneaker maker Adidas and soccer player David Beckham or General Mills deal to have Olympic Gold medalist Gabby Douglas appear on a box of Wheaties cereal.
Companies typically add a "morals clause" to the deals. The specific language can vary, but the clause basically allows a company to cancel the contract if a celebrity does something that reflects poorly on the brand — or the celebs themselves.
History is dotted with companies dropping celebs after public mishaps. In 1986 the American Beef Industry Council dropped actress Cybil Shepherd as its spokeswoman after she told an interviewer that she tried to avoid red meat in her diet. And in 2007 Verizon severed ties with singer Akon after he drew widespread criticism for a sexually charged dance onstage with a 14-year-old girl during a spring concert in Trinidad.
"It's really hard to know today when an issue will spin out of control or just go away," said Adamson, the branding expert. "The cost of a celebrity endorsement is huge, so pulling the plug is a really big decision."
Sometimes letting go of a celeb can cause a company more problems. For example, apparel and underwear company Hanesbrands dropped Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall from its lineup in 2011 after he made controversial remarks about the death of Osama bin Laden and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks over social media web sites. Mendenhall now is suing the company and seeking $1 million for breach of contract, claiming Hanesbrands wrongly terminated him. The case is still being heard in the U.S. District Court in North Carolina.
Perhaps no other company is better known than Nike for its history of having to decide the marketing fate of its celebrity endorsers. The company with the popular "Just Do It" slogan has been endorsing athletes for most of its 48-year history.
When Nike was founded in 1964, it first got attention by providing shoes to runners. Its first official endorsement was the late-runner Steve Prefontaine in the early 1970s. Nike's most high profile endorsement came in the 1980s when it inked a deal with former professional basketball player Michael Jordan. The deal is widely seen as one of the most successful endorsements of all time.
Nike, which is based in Beaverton, Ore., now spends millions each year on endorsements. Of the $7.4 billion it spent on advertising, promotions and endorsements in the fiscal year that ended in May, 11 percent or $800 million, was for endorsements. That included its sponsorship of activities such as college and professional sports teams.
As a result of its large investment in endorsements, Nike has had to make some tough decisions over the years. It stood by Woods after the golfer admitted to a string of infidelities and had a brief stint in a rehab treatment facility for sex addiction. Nike even made a TV commercial that alluded to his problems, with Wood's deceased father's voice saying: "Did you learn anything?"
Similarly it stuck by the Los Angeles Lakers player Bryant in 2003 after he was arrested on sexual assault charges that were later dropped. Nike, however, didn't use the basketball player in advertising again until 2005.
In the case of Vick, Nike signed the NFL quarterback to a contract during his rookie year in 2001, but ended that pact in August 2007 after he filed a plea agreement admitting his involvement in a dogfighting ring. Then the company re-signed Vick, who now plays with the Philadelphia Eagles, in July 2011. Nike said at that time that it didn't condone Vick's actions, but was supportive of the positive changes he had made to better himself off the field.
In the latest incident, Nike on Wednesday said that it would end its relationship with Armstrong, a week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report that detailed allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven consecutive times from 1999 to 2005.
The move by Nike followed Armstrong's decision earlier on Wednesday to step down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer-fighting organization he founded. Armstrong, a 41-year-old who earlier in his career had overcome life-threatening testicular cancer, retired from cycling a year ago and announced in August that he would no longer fight the doping allegations that have dogged him for years.
Other companies quickly followed Nike. The beer company Anheuser-Busch, health-club operator 24 Hour Fitness, bike manufacturer Trek Bicycle and athletic products maker Honey Stinger all dropped Armstrong. Meanwhile, Oakley, a sunglass maker, said it would withhold judgment until the International Cycling Union decides whether to challenge the USADA's findings.
Steve Rosner, partner at sports marketing firm 16W Marketing in East Rutherford, N.J., estimates that Armstrong could have lost as much as $30 million in present and future endorsement deals, goodwill ambassador relationships and corporate speaking gigs.
Nike declined to comment on its endorsement deal with Armstrong or why it ended the relationship other than to say in a statement it released on Wednesday that it made its decision based on "seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade."
Marketing experts said the likely reason Nike dropped Armstrong boils down to the fact that the cyclist's alleged actions directly related to his sport.
"Nike is about 'just doing it' and that doesn't mean drugs," said Atlanta-based marketing consultant Laura Ries. "It means hard work and ethics. And this flew in the face of it."
China patient gets life for stabbing medical staff
By GILLIAN WONG, Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — A court sentenced a teenager to life in prison Friday for killing a medical intern and stabbing three other workers at a northeastern Chinese hospital, in a case seen as a symptom of frustration over a dysfunctional health care system.
The attack by Li Mengnan was part of a recent spate of violence by patients against medical staff that has alarmed the government.
A court in the northeastern city of Harbin found Li guilty of intentional homicide and sentenced him Friday morning, his uncle, Li Chunming, told The Associated Press by phone. The court decided against a death sentence because he is not yet 18, the age of adulthood in China.
Li Mengnan, 17, randomly attacked medical staff with a fruit knife March 23 after accusing a doctor of refusing to provide treatment for a chronic spinal condition. He killed 28-year-old medical intern Wang Hao and injured three others.
Security officials detained Li in the hospital emergency room, where he was seeking treatment for injuries he suffered in the attack.
Li told state broadcaster CCTV after he was detained that he had become frustrated with the hospital.
"My grandpa and I have been travelling to the hospitals many times with a lot of money spent and efforts paid, but I felt the doctors were just deliberately making things difficult," Li said.
Li had been represented by a well-known rights lawyer, Li Fangping, who argued in his defense that Li was driven to violence by an earlier misdiagnosis that worsened his condition. Li Chunming said he was not sure if Li would appeal the sentencing, which included an order that Li's family pay 680,000 yuan ($110,000) in compensation to the victim's family.
The victim's father, Wang Dongqing, said in a phone interview that the outcome of the case was as he had hoped.
"From a legal perspective, the court's decision was fair. But in my heart, it is still unfair. My son was taken from me. Even if they had sentenced him to death it would have been unfair," Wang said.
Despite the Chinese government injecting more than $240 billion of extra funding into health care over the past three years, the doctor-patient relationship has continued to break down. Doctors are overworked and underpaid, and many push drug sales or charge extra for services to make more money. Patients are faced with high medical expenses, brief consultations and often poor quality care.
Hospitals frequently become sites for protests by family members of patients who have died while undergoing treatment, often regardless of whether malpractice occurred. Angry relatives set up mourning halls inside hospital waiting areas, burn funeral money and hang banners and wreaths, demanding that the hospitals assume responsibility for the death and provide monetary compensation.