SBD/March 22, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

NFLPA Defends Licensing Rights In Wake Of Comments From League

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The NFLPA’s marketing and licensing arm yesterday issued a strongly worded statement saying that it does have the right to use group player licensing rights in deals with NFL and non-NFL sponsors and disputing public comments made by an NFL exec questioning whether the association’s subsidiary has those rights. “Once NFL Owners decided to lock the players out, they also locked out their fans and are now locking out sponsors,” said NFL Players President Keith Gordon in a statement. Gordon said, “Statements made by the NFL regarding the NFLPA's licensing and marketing business, particularly those of its senior business counsel Gary Gertzog, are factually incorrect.” Gertzog had questioned NFL Players' rights to sign group player licensing deals now that the NFLPA has decertified as a union and is operating as a trade association. But Gordon explained yesterday, “To clarify, our rights emanate from a stand-alone contract, called a Group Licensing Assignment (‘GLA’).  Each year, the NFLPA and NFL Players Inc. (the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA) enters these contracts with current and future NFL players. The GLA contract is not premised on the existence of any Collective Bargaining Agreement (‘CBA’) or the NFLPA remaining a labor union. These rights are exclusive and can only be obtained through NFL Players Inc.” Gordon said in the statement that NFL sponsors are currently in an “unfortunate” position, but that it is a situation that was created by the league, not NFL Players Inc. “Perhaps more disappointing is the lack of transparency to their own sponsors who, while still paying for player rights in their sponsorships, will no longer receive them,” Gordon said. “Sponsors should be asking themselves why they would pay the NFL for something they cannot contractually deliver” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

SACKED FOR A LOSS? In N.Y., Garett Sloane reports EA Sports "could suffer a $165 million hit if the NFL lockout leads to a canceled season." EA is "going full speed ahead with 'Madden NFL 12' production, yesterday calling for fans to vote on which currently locked-out player to put on the cover." But Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter said that "if players and team owners don't strike a deal, Madden sales could drop by as much" as 50%. Pachter said, "I would guess that half the people who play Madden play because they genuinely like the game and half buy it because it's a gift, and it's the gifts that are at risk if the season is cancelled and football is not foremost" in peoples' minds (N.Y. POST, 3/22). CNET.com's Don Reisinger noted "Madden NFL 12" is "scheduled to launch this August," and the labor dispute "won't stop it." EA Sports Senior PR Manager Rob Semsey yesterday said, "Fans of Madden NFL will not have their season interrupted, regardless of when the labor issues are resolved. We plan to release Madden NFL 12 in August as always" (CNET.com, 3/21).
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