SBD/Issue 98/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

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  • The A-Rod Story: Steroid Allegations Could Hurt Current Deals

    Rodriguez (l) Currently Trails Only
    Jeter In Endorsements Among MLBers
    Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez, in the wake of a Sports Illustrated report that he tested positive for steroids in '03, "has offered the perfect opening to his corporate partners to cut ties and save money," and there is a "good chance those deals will either be terminated by frustrated firms or will not [be] renewed when they expire," according to David Sweet of NBCSPORTS.com. Rodriguez has deals with several companies including Nike and Rawlings, and he earns an estimated $6M in endorsements annually. He is "among the top 25 athletes in U.S. sports in endorsements and trails only" Yankees SS Derek Jeter among MLBers. Rodriguez hired the William Morris Agency last summer "to work on his image, partly in hopes of landing more endorsements." But while he is "in the prime of his career and plays in the top media market for one of the best-known teams in the world, Rodriguez is in trouble: His opportunities for new deals are just about dead." A steroid accusation "is the kiss of death to companies wanting to put a ballplayer in its ads" (NBCSPORTS.com, 2/8). THE DAILY Editor-at-Large Terry Lefton said of the allegations against Rodriguez, "Clearly it won't enhance his marketing value." Lefton: "Other than the occasional memorabilia deal or paid appearance, he just hasn't been interested (in endorsements). He just hasn't been much of a marketing icon. He won't be one in the future, either." In N.Y., Mark Feinsand reports Rodriguez in '07 had "major endorsement deals with Nike and Pepsi, although the soft-drink company opted not to renew that deal when it expired." He also recently starred in an ad for Activision's "Guitar Hero World Tour" videogame along with Lakers G Kobe Bryant, skateboarder Tony Hawk and Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps. But Rodriguez "hasn't come close to [Jeter's] status as a pitchman." Lefton: "Bottom line, if you want to pay top dollar for a Yankee to plug your product, the shortstop is the obvious choice. That was true before and will be after these latest developments" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9).

    NOT THAT BIG A HIT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes "immediate, tangible implications" for Rodriguez, who has a 10-year, $275M contract with the Yankees, "appear unlikely." The alleged positive test "is too old to warrant a suspension, and he earns little from corporate endorsements." Entertainment marketing consultant Ryan Schinman: "This hurts him more long term if he doesn't make the Hall of Fame, but in the short term he wasn't a guy a lot of marketers were going for" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/9).

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  • The A-Rod Story: How He Responds Is Key To His Public Perception

    Many Feel A-Rod Should Hold News
    Conference To Discuss Steroid Issue
    Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez should hold a news conference and "tell the truth, the whole truth, about [his] use of steroids" after a Sports Illustrated report claimed that he tested positive for them in ’03, according to Phil Rogers of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Yankees P Andy Pettitte "issued an open apology after his name came up in the Mitchell report, and a lot of people have given him a break and let him get on with his career." Conversely, both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are "getting dragged deeper and deeper into the criminal court system" after attempting to fight similar claims. If Rodriguez opts for a similar route as Bonds and Clemens, he "will be viewed as a Rafael Palmeiro-style joke, in addition to a cheat." Rogers: "Come clean for your own good and to lessen the fishbowl hell that will be the last nine years of your 10-year deal with the New York Yankees" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8). In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes, "It will be fascinating to see what strategy A-Rod embraces: silence, denial, attack or a Pettitte-like confessional" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8).

    HONESTY IS SUCH A LONELY WORD: ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote one route for Rodriguez to take is to be "Honest and Open." Rodriguez "could talk about everything: what he did, when he did it, why he did, his regrets, his concerns, side effects, the benefits, the costs." Olney: "This would be something very rarely seen in the steroid era -- a time filled with thousands of mistakes by users, by union leaders, by the baseball commissioner and by baseball owners. And yet it's a time of embarrassingly few specific, sincere admissions. Doing so would be the right thing" (ESPN.com, 2/8). In DC, Thomas Boswell: "Confession may or may not be good for the soul. But it is definitely good career strategy" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/9). A Yankees official said, "If he did it, he's got to flat-out admit it, like [A's 1B Jason] Giambi. Just come out and say, 'I did it. I'm sorry. I lied.'" The official added Rodriguez' legacy is now "gone." The official: "He'll just play it out. Now he's a worker. Do your job, collect your paycheck and when you're finished playing, go away. That's what it is." Several other front-office officials declined to comment (N.Y. TIMES, 2/8).

    Writer Feels Fans Will Forgive
    A-Rod If He Tells Truth
    LET IT ALL OUT: In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes Rodriguez "must become the first player to really explain the steroid era." Sherman: "We are not talking about naming names of others. We are talking about honestly talking about the culture in baseball at the time. ... He must show why using was such a bad decision for someone as talented as him. He should do that by saying that he will let [WADA] select the best testing lab in the world and oversee a program for which he will pay but have no control" (N.Y. POST, 2/9). In Newark, Steve Politi: "For once, Rodriguez can think about somebody but himself and do the right thing for baseball. Start with an admission. Finish with an apology. And, in between, come clean on all the details. Fans will forgive a cheater eventually. It's the liars they hate the most" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/8). In N.Y., Kevin Kernan wrote Rodriguez "should stand up before everyone and admit the truth," and if the truth is that he failed the test, he "must apologize." Rodriguez "can't stonewall or ignore the accusation." But "those close to Rodriguez expect him to fight back" (N.Y. POST, 2/8). MLB.com's Fred Claire, in an open letter to Rodriguez, wrote, "This is a time for you, Alex, to step forward and take full control. It is your career. It is your life. Simply stated, you need to step forward and tell everything you recall about your involvement, or lack of involvement, with steroids" (MLB.com, 2/8). But FOXSPORTS.com's Ken Rosenthal writes Rodriguez "would risk legal exposure if he admitted" to using steroids, leaving himself "vulnerable to investigation from federal prosecutors." If Rodriguez "comes clean," he "not only would put himself at risk, but also compromise the other 103 players who tested positive" in '03. But "for all anyone knows, he might even fight back" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/9).

    REPUTATION IN TATTERS: In London, Tom Dart writes the image of "another clean-cut American sporting icon has been badly damaged," and the news is "another deep wound to the reputation of a sport that is paying the price for years of inaction and leniency" (LONDON TIMES, 2/9). ESPN.com's Olney wrote under the header, "A-Rod Now Tarnished Forever" (ESPN.com, 2/8). ESPN.com's Howard Bryant wrote under the header, "Steroid Past Brings Down Future King" (ESPN.com, 2/7). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: "Image is everything to Alex Rodriguez, and now that image is shattered” ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 2/8). FOXSPORTS.com's Mark Kriegel writes, "No one really cares if football players do steroids. They tend to die young, anyway. ... But baseball is different. Baseball is a game of numbers. ... When you mess with those numbers, you mess with The Game. And that's exactly what Rodriguez has done" (FOXSPORTS.com, 2/9).

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  • Subway Stands By Phelps, But May Suspend Planned Ad Efforts

    Though Disappointed In Behavior,
    Subway Maintains Phelps' Sponsorship
    Subway has decided to maintain its sponsorship of U.S. Gold Medal-winning swimmer Michael Phelps after the public release of a photo of him smoking from a bong, but the QSR is "likely to backburner its first TV campaign" starring Phelps, according to Emily Bryson York of AD AGE. Subway in a statement said, "Like most Americans, and like Michael Phelps himself, we were disappointed in his behavior. Also like most Americans, we accept his apology. Moving forward, he remains in our plans." Execs indicated that the campaign, "originally slated for early 2009, will be delayed." However, a Subway spokesperson said, "Our statement says nothing about creative and to our knowledge (SubwayFreshBuzz) has not changed." Bryson York noted that Subway on Friday removed Phelps from its SubwayFreshBuzz Web site, and now just lists Saints RB Reggie Bush, Phillies 1B Ryan Howard and Rams DE Chris Long as "Fresh Celebrities" (ADAGE.com, 2/6).

    MIX UP IN REPORTS: ESPN's "SportsCenter" led off its 6:00pm ET Friday episode by citing a BuzzNewsroom.com report that Subway "is preparing to drop Phelps and his sponsorship deal." ESPN's Brian Kenny reported Subway "said it is not commenting or releasing a statement regarding Phelps, but the web report says executives want to be rid of the embarrassment.” Approximately 75 minutes into the broadcast, Kenny updated the Subway report, saying, "Subway has not dropped Michael Phelps and his endorsement deal, as a Web site reported earlier” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 2/6).

    DON'T BE LIKE MIKE: USA Swimming Exec Dir Chuck Wielgus said that the NGB did not believe Phelps' three-month suspension "set a precedent for other athletes who could, in theory, be suspended without testing positive for drugs." Wielgus: "We viewed this as an extraordinary circumstance, and we do not see this as a precedent for other swimming athletes who might exhibit bad judgment. ... We simply felt that it was important to send a message that we thought to be in the best interest of Michael, USA Swimming, the Olympic Movement and the sport" (Baltimore SUN, 2/7). But ESPN.com's J.A. Adande said, "It’s really more symbolic than anything because this thing did create a media firestorm, (and) USA Swimming feels like they have to react somehow" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/6). ESPN's Pat Forde said USA Swimming "felt like they had to do something to register their disapproval" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/6). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “It’s totally symbolic and I think it’s the right way to go because of the way he’d been Godded up” ("PTI," ESPN, 2/6). CNBC’s Darren Rovell called the suspension "crazy" and said, "Do you think anyone in the NFL or (MLB), with the unions, would be able to get suspended for behavior based on a photo? That’s crazy, that sets a horrible precedent” (ESPN.com, 2/9).

    Phelps' Participation In The '12 London
    Games Has Millions At Stake For NBC
    2012: A PHELPS ODYSSEY? In Baltimore, Kevin Van Valkenburg wrote Phelps' decision on whether to participate in the '12 London Games will have "millions of dollars at stake." U.S. Olympic TV rights holder NBC "would be nervous if it thought Phelps might choose to hang up his goggles and retire." Phelps has "turned into such a cash cow" for NBC parent company GE that the net acquired the broadcast rights to the FINA World Championships in Rome in July, "making it the first time that swimming event will be televised." Van Valkenburg wrote while the "mantra of the Olympics is that the uniqueness of the event transcends the individual," it is possible the Olympics have "never had a star quite as big as Phelps." Broadcaster Jim Lampley said, "Michael was one of the most guaranteed important stories heading into Beijing. If he's out, it removes a huge, central, compelling story. Would something replace it? I don't know" (Baltimore SUN, 2/8).

    SETTING THE BAR TOO HIGH: In Baltimore, Peter Schmuck wrote if you are "going to create an image that a celebrity is going to have to inhabit for the rest of his career and maybe the rest of his life, you've got to be sure that the celebrity in question is both willing and capable of pulling that off." Phelps "obviously is neither, though that doesn't make him a bad fellow," but rather "badly mismanaged." Phelps is the "rare athlete able to elicit this level of shock and disenchantment from one photograph of him doing what countless college students in countless frat houses do every weekend night all over America." Phelps was "presented to the public and corporate America as a squeaky-clean paragon of virtue who would never, ever do such a tawdry thing as act like an actual 23-year-old." Schmuck wrote if Phelps' representation at Octagon "had it to do over again, I'm pretty sure it would still have sold Phelps to Speedo and Omega, but not to a company that makes sugary cereal for kids" (Baltimore SUN, 2/7). In Chicago, Rick Morrissey wrote one can "understand why Phelps might crave some modicum of normalcy." Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs professor emeritus Jay Coakley: "I would say there was a desperate desire on his part to get out of this tunnel in which he has been living" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8).

    Phelps' Maintained Support From
    Sponsors Surprises Some
    TARNISHED IMAGE: The GLOBE & MAIL's Tabatha Southey wrote the fact that Phelps' sponsors "signed these contracts before the recession and they are mostly standing by them amazes me" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/7). In Salt Lake City, Lya Wodraska wrote, "We'll have to see just how much Phelps loses on his now-well publicized drag, but suffice it to say, his image as a golden boy is tarnished again" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 2/8). In Chicago, Bob Verdi wrote even if Phelps were to "jump into the pool tomorrow with NBC's logo in the corner of your TV, he would be tarnished forever because ... he is not perfect" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/8). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote Phelps had "every right to make as many commercials as he wanted to," but he "knew what the unwritten contract with the rest of us was, and he what the unspoken law was." There is "no need to shed tears for him." Phelps "knew that in 2009, you had better make sure whatever you do, do it in private, away from cell phones and hidden microphones and anything else" (N.Y. POST, 2/8).

    HE'S NOT PERFECT, SO WHAT? In Houston, Richard Justice wrote, "I don't understand why we have to make these people objects, how we have to forget that, at the end of the day, he's still like the rest of us in most ways." Who did the sponsors "think they were signing in the first place?" Did they "understand he's young, that he's not perfect, that he's as flawed as the rest of us?" (CHRON.com, 2/6). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs wrote, "We're all screw-ups in some way. I'd hire Phelps any day of the week before I hired the opportunistic scumbag who used a camera phone to snap his picture and then sold it to a British tabloid" (HARTFORD COURANT, 2/8). In Oakland, Monte Poole wrote part of Phelps' "appeal, we reasoned, stemmed from him being a regular kid, an everyman who happens to swim like a shark" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 2/8).

    Andy Samberg Appears As Spitz On "SNL"
    LATE NIGHT LAUGHS: CBS’ Kelly Cobiella: “Since his record eight Gold Medal wins last summer, Phelps has been awash in endorsements and adoration. But this week, America’s sports hero became a late-night punchline” (“Evening News,” CBS, 2/6). NBC's "SNL" devoted two segments of its "Weekend Update" to Phelps. In one, cast member Andy Samberg appeared as Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Spitz to comment on the situation. When cast member Seth Meyers addressed Samberg as “Mr. Spitz,” he replied, “Please Seth, Mr. Spitz is my father’s name. Call me seven-time Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Spitz." Samberg suggested the IOC take two Gold Medals away to punish Phelps so Spitz could retain his record of seven golds in one Olympics. Samberg: “Well, I deserve it! You know it was much harder in my day. Our idea of an energy drink was a Tab and vodka. I used to swim on a full stomach of Hostess Snowballs and fondue.” Later, Meyers aired his regular skit called “Really!?! With Seth.” The segment featured Meyers talking about Kellogg dropping Phelps as an endorser. Meyers: “Really Kellogg? Marijuana’s not consistent with your image because I thought it was totally consistent. You know, every one of your mascots is a wild-eyed cartoon character with uncontrollable munchies" ("SNL," NBC, 2/7). NBC’s Jay Leno said, “More bad news for Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps: He has been dropped by Kellogg's over this marijuana incident. See, this is like bad business, Kellogg's dropping him. Isn't this the same company that makes Pop-Tarts and chocolate chip cookies? Isn't there some kind of cross-promotion?" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 2/6). ABC's Jimmy Kimmel: "I understand why they did it, but Kellogg’s may want to be more careful. The Stoners of America eat a lot of Fruit Loops. Fortunately for Michael, with the loss of Kellogg’s came a new endorsement deal with Visine" ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC, 2/6).

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  • NASCAR Sponsors Sprint, Home Depot, BofA Standing Behind Deals

    NASCAR Sponsors Hope Their
    Investments Generate More Business
    NASCAR sponsors that remain in the sport despite “bad financial news are banking on their NASCAR investment to generate more business,” according to a front-page piece by George & Poole of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Despite last month announcing that it will lay off 8,000 employees, Sprint PR Manager Kimberly Meesters said that the company’s level of involvement in NASCAR "won’t change ... and Sprint actually plans to spend slightly more" on the sport this year. Sprint, the title sponsor of NASCAR’s top series, sponsors all 22 tracks that host Cup races and has a 10,000-square-foot marketing display at each race.  Meesters: “Advertising is not optional. When you’re in difficult economic times, it’s more important than ever.” Meesters added in ’08, Sprint’s first year as title sponsor of the Cup series, the company’s “measurements were all up.” Meesters: “That’s what we look at. Does it drive our business?” Meanwhile, The Home Depot, which also announced it is cutting 7,000 jobs, last year renewed its sponsorship of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Sprint Cup entry driven by Joey Logano, and a Home Depot spokesperson said that the company “has no plans to renegotiate the multiyear deal.” Also, Bank of America (BofA) Senior VP/National Media Relations Joe Goode said that the bank’s title sponsorship of the October 17 Sprint Cup race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and its status as official bank of NASCAR “will remain.” However, Goode said that the bank “plans to spend less on hospitality events at races.” Goode noted that BofA’s sales of NASCAR banking products doubled from ’07 to '08. BofA also “formed a motorsports advisory group a few years ago to focus on NASCAR lending opportunities.” Goode: “We don’t want to stop things that help us grow our business” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/7).

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  • AirTran's Miller Park Deal Part Of Increased Ad Efforts In City

    Landing Zone Receives Large
    Amount Of TV Exposure
    AirTran's expected boost in flights in Milwaukee will be "accompanied by more advertising and marketing," according to Tom Daykin of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. In addition to the airline's naming-rights deal for Miller Park's Landing Zone, AirTran VP/Marketing & Sales Tad Hutcheson said that the airline "will likely reach endorsement deals with one or two individual Brewers similar to the airline's billboards and radio spots featuring" Packers WR Donald Driver. Brewers Exec VP/Business Operations Rick Schlesinger said Miller Park's Landing Zone in right field is "great for television because of visibility." Schlesinger said the area is "always sold out well in advance." Meanwhile, Midwest Airlines VP/Corporate Communications Michael Brophy said that the airline, which is offering fewer flights in Milwaukee, subsequently has "reduced its marketing budget," though the company "still runs ads, including exclusive airline ad rights to Brewers radio and TV broadcasts." Brophy said that Midwest still has a "sponsorship agreement with the Brewers as its official airline," but Midwest has "never sought exclusive airline marketing rights at Miller Park because such an arrangement would be too expensive" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/8).

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  • Marketplace Roundup

    VANOC Inks Videogame
    Deal With Sega
    In Vancouver, Damian Inwood reported Sega has signed a licensing deal with Int'l Sports Multimedia, the exclusive licensee of the IOC, to make a videogame tying Mario and Sonic to the 2010 Vancouver Games. Sega also will produce a "simulation game with more realistic portrayals of athletes and venues," and VANOC Dir of Licensing & Merchandising Dennis Kim said that VANOC will "share royalties from both video games with IOC." Kim said BOCOG "had a very successful game using Mario and Sonic at the Beijing Games." Kim: "That's what's being discussed and planned for Vancouver" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 2/8).

    SHOE-IN: In Oklahoma City, Tatyana Johnson reported Nike Saturday released its first shoe for Thunder F Kevin Durant, the KD1, for a group of children at a Nike Skills Clinic in Oklahoma City. The shoes will retail for $88, and Durant said, "I wanted everyone to be able to get a pair of my shoes because when I was growing up, there were all types of shoes that my parents couldn't afford to buy." The shoe features a "stamp on the tongue" to honor Durant's mother, a former postal worker, while the word "Graffiti" on the left side of the shoe "represents meaningful places in his life" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 2/8). Meanwhile, adidas recently released a new TV spot called "Man Child," launching its "Inside PHX with [Magic C] Dwight Howard" all-access promotion (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 2/7).

    SUBSTITUTION: Mexican newspaper the Record has teamed with Blockbuster for its voodoo-doll promotion ahead of Wednesday's Mexico-U.S. men's World Cup qualifying match, replacing RadioShack, who dropped out of the promotion last month "after learning details of the campaign." Customers can trade in coupons at any Blockbuster store in Mexico City in exchange for the voodoo-doll likenesses of U.S. soccer players (AP, 2/6).

    ROUNDUP: Vitaminwater yesterday launched its new promotional campaign, "Revive to Survive," in which it challenges fans to "re-create" famous moments from the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Fans can upload videos at ncaa.com/revive, and the winning entrant will receive a VIP trip to the Final Four in Detroit (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/7)....Stop & Shop grocery stores once again are selling Flutie Flakes cereal in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism (BOSTON HERALD, 2/8)....Italian Serie A club AC Milan said that MF David Beckham's No. 32 jersey is "selling at a rate similar to those" of AC Milan MF Ronaldinho (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/5).

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