SBD/Issue 81/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

BCS Title Game Pits Oregon, Nike Against Auburn, Under Armour

Under Armour Has Sponsored
Auburn Athletics Since '05

Under Armour and Auburn Univ. Friday formally announced an extension of their exclusive partnership through the '15-16 school year. The deal, which grows upon an initial agreement signed in '05, gives Under Armour the continued right to provide uniforms, apparel and footwear to each of the school's 21 varsity sports, including football and men's and women's basketball. The agreement also includes an annual Under Armour product allowance, a rights fee, marketing entitlements and event tickets (Auburn). Financial terms of the extension are not available. Under Armour's initial five-year contract with Auburn signed in '05 was worth $10.6M (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/7). Auburn tonight will play Oregon in the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game, and Under Armour Senior VP/Sports Marketing Matt Mirchin said, "I don't know who's more excited about Auburn playing in this game -- the coaches, players and alumni of Auburn, or Under Armour. Just the exposure we get in the BCS Championhip Game -- not just for uniforms, but for the footwear as well -- shows how far our brand has come in 15 years" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 1/9). Under Armour Chair & CEO Kevin Plank added, "Under Armour is just getting started. ... This is one of these seminal moments that we're going to enjoy" ("The Call," CNBC, 1/10).

BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: In Portland, Allan Brettman wrote the Auburn-Oregon matchup has "created an off-the-field showdown" between Under Armour and Nike. The game at Univ. of Phoenix Stadium seems to be a "bigger marketing opportunity for Under Armour," which will "display its logo on a national stage, rather than seeking out strategically targeted, incremental events for which the company is known." The Baltimore-based brand "appears to have declared the Westgate City Center near the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale to be its turf" ahead of tonight's game. The center features billboards with the Under Armour logo and slogan, "Protect This House -- I Will," alongside the Auburn slogan, "War Eagle!" An Under Armour-logoed tractor trailer parked at the site beginning Friday, and its interior was "crafted to look like a slice of the Auburn Tigers locker room." Similarly, Nike "appears to have staked out Scottsdale," and last week was a sponsor of the Bud Light Fiesta. Nike was slated to host a "Duck-themed webcast" yesterday morning, emceed by CBS analyst and former Oregon QB Dan Fouts, as well as an "official school rally in Scottsdale" later in the day (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/8).

Phil Knight, An Oregon Alum, Has Spent
More Than $300M On School's Athletics

KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR: ESPN.com's Pat Forde wrote Nike is "vital to understanding how the Ducks went from football pushover to powerhouse." The benefits of Nike Chair Phil Knight "bestowing most-favored program status on his alma mater are impossible to understate." When asked about the importance of Knight's influence, former Oregon football coach and AD and current ESPN analyst Mike Bellotti said, "How important is the sun to life on Earth? We wouldn't be here without him." Knight reportedly has spent "more than $300 million on Oregon athletics." In roughly 15 years, the university's athletics have "gone from having almost nothing to having an excess of everything." Oregon athletes "enjoy facilities that compare favorably to any in America," in addition to "every imaginable creature comfort, technological advance and fashion indulgence." Oregon AD Rob Mullens said, "Very forward-thinking. It is kind of a hip brand." Forde wrote the "interesting thing" about Oregon's brand is that it is "radically different from the other great brands in college football." Oregon and Nike have built a "brand on constant change," making their "uniform combinations a newsworthy item every football game." Forde: "It's a smart strategy. If the object is to appeal to teenagers who are so comfortable with the staggering pace of change in today's society, then what better way than putting an emphasis on here-and-now trendiness?" (ESPN.com, 1/9). Oregon Exec Senior Associate AD for Development Jim Bartko said of Knight, "I don't think we'd be here today without him" (DENVER POST, 1/9).

THE QUACK ATTACK: In N.Y., Ken Belson noted Aflac posted a "tongue-in-cheek question" on the Aflac duck's Facebook page on Dec. 28, asking fans which team the mascot should cheer for in tonight's game. The duck "presumably should side with Oregon," but Aflac’s HQs in Columbus, Ga., are "about 30 minutes from Auburn." Since the posting, there has been a 3,000% increase in traffic on the Facebook page "compared with the reaction to a typical post." Aflac is not a sponsor of tonight's title game, but the "response led the company to try unsuccessfully to buy television advertising during the game." Belson noted Aflac "does not plan to do any guerilla marketing in Glendale" (NYTIMES.com, 1/9).

THE JOKE'S ON YOU: The N.Y. TIMES' Belson noted after TCU defeated Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, 20 "electronic billboards appeared in and around Columbus on Friday with a message directed at Ohio State." The billboards read, "Congratulations to TCU for their BCS Rose Bowl Victory -- Little Sisters of the Poor." The signs were a "rejoinder to comments made" in November by OSU President Gordon Gee, who said non-BCS schools like TCU improve their records by playing opponents like the "Little Sisters of the Poor" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/8).

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