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DC-based law firm Dechert LLP earlier this month sent a letter to IMG College, The Collegiate Licensing Co. and 27 Football Bowl Subdivision schools “demanding that they stop what the law firm alleges is a ‘concerted effort’ to limit the number of manufacturers allowed to make collegiate apparel items sold in a wide range of retail stores,” according to Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY. In the five-page cease-and-desist letter, attorney Steven Bradbury said he represents "various stakeholders who share a common interest in preserving competition and choice in the supply of licensed collegiate merchandise." Berkowitz reports Bradbury's clients likely are "a group of manufacturers and/or retailers.” IMG College VP/Strategic Communications Andrew Giangola in a statement said the allegations in the letter were "outrageous and unfounded." Berkowitz notes CLC, the licensing division of IMG College, “has nearly 200 clients who account for about three-fourths of the $4.3 billion retail market for collegiate licensed merchandise.” IMG is the “multimedia rights holder for more than 70 schools.” At issue is “whether the schools are violating antitrust laws by heavily narrowing the number of companies they license through CLC to produce certain items sold in certain types of stores.” Bradbury said the letter's purpose was to get IMG College, CLC and the schools to "back off this effort without litigation.” However, that “seems unlikely” (USA TODAY, 6/16).
Mercedes-Benz plans to announce Sunday that it has signed French Open champion Li Na to a three-year endorsement contract. The deal is the first major one for the Chinese star since she earlier this month became the first person from her country to win a Grand Slam tournament. The deal is scheduled to be announced at the headquarters of her agent, IMG, in Wimbledon village outside of London. Wimbledon begins next week. For more on this story, read the June 20 issue of SportsBusiness Journal (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). CNBC's Darren Rovell reports the deal is worth $1.5M annually, though it is "not known how much of that money she will give to the Chinese Tennis Federation." The talks to sign a car deal "were heated thanks to the size of China's population and the growing sales in the country." Li will wear a "patch on [her] right sleeve as part of the deal" (CNBC.com, 6/16).
RBC has struck a five-year deal with the PGA Tour to be the title sponsor of The Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C. The tournament was played without a title sponsor this year after Verizon chose not to renew its entitlement. An announcement on RBC's new deal is expected this afternoon. RBC and the Tour have been in talks since the event was held in April, but could not come to terms until this week. Industry sources say negotiations took a turn for the better when Boeing agreed to come on board as a secondary sponsor for the event. It is uncertain whether the Tour plans to announce Boeing's presence today, but the aircraft maker has agreed to a prominent role (hospitality, pro-am spots) that some industry sources have compared to a presenting sponsor, although Boeing will not have its name on the tournament. PGA Tour entitlements typically go for $6-8M a year. Boeing and the PGA Tour already have a relationship through Boeing's entitlement of a Champions Tour event in Snoqualmie, Wash. RBC also title sponsors the PGA Tour's Canadian Open in July and has endorsement deals with several golfers, including Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Luke Donald and Matt Kuchar. The Heritage has been on the PGA Tour's schedule since '69 and Verizon had sponsored it from '06-10.
PGA Tour golfers Ben Crane, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan and Bubba Watson have teamed “to form a foursome set to storm both the course and the charts: the Golf Boys,” according to Chris Cutmore of the London DAILY MAIL. The mock group has released their debut video, 'Oh Oh Oh,' and the “song's style is typical boyband fare.” The video is the “latest in a series by ... Crane and is set to raise cash for charity, with Farmers Insurance donating $1,000 for every 100,000 views the video gets on YouTube” (DAILYMAIL.co.uk, 6/15). In Charlotte, Roy Green Jr. wrote, "Based on the early reaction, there could be plenty of money headed to charity" (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 6/15). ESPN's Jim Rome said, “While I won’t be bumping ‘Oh Oh Oh’ in my car, big ups to these guys for having some fun and making some dough for charity” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN, 6/15). At presstime, the video had garnered 633,960 hits on YouTube (THE DAILY).
BEHIND THE MUSIC: The four golfers appeared on Golf Channel Tuesday after the world premiere of the “Oh Oh Oh” video, with Crane wearing a Farmers Insurance cap. Crane has put out several humorous videos on YouTube this year and he said of putting the “band” together, “These guys came to me at one point or another and said ‘I’d love to be in a video,’ and all of a sudden it was like, the band is getting back together.” Golf Channel’s Rich Lerner jokingly said, “If you can get Vijay Singh to do a video, then you really are something special.” Crane said, “We’re looking at some guys maybe trying out for the band, maybe get a (Justin) Timberlake or a Justin Bieber.” Mahan: “They can try out. … There’s going to be a try out process.” Crane: “No guarantees!” Lerner asked Watson if he would rather win a Grammy or a U.S. Open, to which he replied, “Truthfully or you want me to do PC on this one? … I’d rather win a Grammy! I’ve won three trophies.” Lerner: “You know there are some old-timers who listen to Perry Como who are at home going, ‘That’s what’s wrong with American golf. These kids are too busy making videos.’” Crane later noted, “We just want to grow awareness for the game, want people to enjoy it. It’s the USGA, we’re growing awareness for the game. More people playing the game of golf. More people making boy band videos” (“Live from the U.S. Open,” Golf Channel, 6/14). Crane said of the reaction to the video, "It's been all positive. It's been fun" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/16).
IT'S GOOD TO SHOW SOME PERSONALITY: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Jason Sobel asked, "Remember when professional golfers were thought of as boring guys in khakis?" The video and song are a "giant leap toward creativity and marketing players' personality in a sport which desperately needs guys to stand out from the crowd." Sobel: "Let's hope this is only the beginning, with more players choosing to show a side of themselves we don't often witness inside the ropes" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 6/15). In Oklahoma City, Jenni Carlson wrote under the header, "'The Golf Boys' Are Just What This Sport Needs." Golf needs to be "less buttoned down." Carlson: "It's a fun game. It's an exciting sport. ... You so rarely see that side of golf." What Crane, Fowler, Mahan and Watson have done "should be lauded by everyone in golf. It should be celebrated. It should be lauded. Most importantly, it should be repeated" (NEWSOK.com, 6/15). GOLF WORLD's Sam Weinman writes during Tiger Woods' latest absence, golf "needs personalities that fans gravitate toward for more than just their short games." Weinman: "Perhaps you could do without the sight of Watson in his overalls or Crane in a helmet and a unitard. But one thing's for sure: You're not going to forget it anytime soon, either" (GOLF WEEK DAILY, 6/16). In Jacksonville, Garry Smits: "Just to prove that PGA Tour players aren't a bunch of robotic clones and that golf isn't a stuffy, boring country club sport ... well, we're not sure what they're trying to prove" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 6/15).
NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER'S TOUR: In Augusta, John Boyette wrote golf writers "tend to complain that the current crop of golfers aren't forthcoming enough, or they lack personality, or they won't cooperate.” But the Golf Boys video shows “these guys in a different, if not disturbing (i.e. Bubba Watson in overalls), light.” It is “hard to imagine” Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson or Woods “doing anything like this.” But Boyette writes, “Times have changed” (AUGUSTA.com, 6/15). In Sydney, Mark Hayes wrote under the subhead: “It’s About As Far Removed From Golf’s Staid Traditions As You Could Imagine.” Hayes: “Four of the US PGA Tour's finest have done their best to break their sport's traditional image” (HERALDSUN.com.au, 6/15). In West Palm Beach, Matt Porter wrote there is "one thing we know: This isn't your grandfather's PGA Tour." Porter: "Could you imagine Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player pulling off something like this?" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 6/15). The AP's Jim Litke wrote, "It's not the kind of video you can imagine Jack Nicklaus or Arnold Palmer ever taking part in." If the USGA "had any problem with the video, they held their tongues during the organization's annual 'State of the Game' news conference." The PGA Tour, which is "in the business of merchandising their golfers," had the video posted on its home page (AP, 6/15). Comcast SportsNet’s Ivan Carter said, “You need some young talent having fun, bringing in a new generation of fans” (“Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 6/15). But ESPN's Michael Wilbon said there is a "zero percent chance" the video will help create new golf fans ("PTI," ESPN, 6/15).
FUNNY BUSINESS: ESPNW's Amanda Rykoff wrote the video "brings a winking eye and gives viewers a glimpse into the personality and sense of humor of guys who are typically all business on the golf course" (ESPNW.com, 6/15). In Louisville, Eric Crawford wrote under the header, "Who Says Golfers Aren’t Funny?" (COURIER-JOURNAL.com, 6/15). ESPN's Scott Van Pelt: "I thought it was hysterical, but then again I’m not a PGA Tour professional" ("SportsCenter at the U.S. Open," ESPN, 6/15).
Polo Ralph Lauren is “dressing up” the U.S. Open at Congressional this week with a “redesigned 36,000-square-foot merchandise pavilion, new styles that commemorate the U.S. Open, and an upscale feel to the shopping experience inside a tent that looks nothing like a temporary structure,” according to Michael Smith of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Polo has "long had a presence" in golf, but this is its first year as the USGA’s apparel partner under a five-year agreement signed in October. In addition to providing “at least half of the product for the pavilion, Polo will be outfitting 5,500 volunteers, more than 300 USGA staffers and about 1,100 USGA committee members on-site.” Nike, adidas, Ashworth and other golf apparel makers also “will have space in the pavilion," which is located “next to the 17th hole, near the main entrance for spectators.” Polo “does not pay a traditional sponsorship fee to the USGA,” and Polo’s expenses are “built into the construction and design of the merchandise pavilion." Polo said that it is advertising in Golf Digest and the New York Times, but “does not plan a media buy on the tournament’s broadcast partner, NBC” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/13 issue).
DIGITAL DRIVE: American Express has launched its new Course Curator digital service that is available during this week's U.S. Open. The Course Curator gives AmEx card members suggestions on where to find the best action, concessions, analysis and guest services, based on personal preferences. The device also features the official ESPN Radio broadcast of the tournament, presented exclusively by AmEx. Card members also have exclusive access to hand-held televisions, powered by FanVision, that deliver updated player information and a live telecast of the on-course action, as well as commentary and updates from ESPN Radio. In addition, the company is hosting the American Express Hospitality Chalet on the 11th hole (AmEx).
Carlsberg has signed a deal with England's FA that extends its "long-standing relationship as the official beer" of the England men's soccer team, according to Oliver Luft of MARKETING magazine. The new deal runs through '14, "improving Carlsberg's sponsorship rights, and comes ahead" of the FA officially unveiling Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser brand as its new FA Cup sponsor. There were reports that Carlsberg, a partner of the FA dating back to '92, "was angered by the FA's decision to bring in Budweiser, arguing it would breach some of its sponsorships rights." But the new deal, valued at around US$3.23M annually, gives Carlsberg "increased rights around pitch-side signage during international matches." In addition, the brewer will gain "greater rights around the use of player imagery and an entitlement to use the England team rights worldwide." Luft noted the pouring rights at Wembley Stadium "will be resolved by making Carlsberg available at England games and Budweiser at FA Cup matches." Carlsberg's "secondary sponsorship deal with the FA Cup is understood to have been downgraded to a supplier agreement in the past year" (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 6/15).
THIS BUD'S FOR YOU: The FA and A-B this morning formally announced Budweiser's new title sponsorship of the FA Cup, which will now be known as the FA Cup with Budweiser (FA). In London, Justin Allen reports it is a three-year deal "understood to be worth" approximately US$12.9M annually. Budweiser replaces E.ON as title sponsor of the annual tournament after the Germany-based utilities company stepped down after five seasons (THESUN.co.uk, 6/16). This marks the "first US sponsor" of the FA Cup. The deal means both of England's "domestic cups are now sponsored by beer brands," as Carling titles the League Cup (BBC.co.uk, 6/16).
Capital One, an NCAA corporate champion, has agreed to a three-year deal to be presenting sponsor of the College World Series fan festival. The CWS opens Saturday in Omaha at the new TD Ameritrade Park. This marks the first CWS in the new ballpark and the first time one of the NCAA's corporate champions has stepped up to support a fan fest at this event. In the past, NCAA fan fests have been held at the men's and women's Final Fours, but not typically at other championships. The fan fest will include the Capital One Cup Fan Zone, batting cages, speed-pitch booths, interactive games from a variety of NCAA sports, souvenir photos, autograph sessions, food, prizes and merchandise. Turner Sports, in partnership with CBS, runs the NCAA's corporate partner program (Michael Smith, SportsBusiness Journal).
READY TO PLAY: In Omaha, Maggie O'Brien noted TD Ameritrade Park "will open its doors to 24,000 fans in Omaha for the College World Series ... starting with Friday's opening ceremonies." Ballpark operator Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority President Roger Dixon said that "after a few early problems that came up during Creighton baseball games there earlier this spring, the ballpark is ready for the craziness." There were "no ATMs inside the ballpark" for the Creighton games, and during an April Nebraska-Creighton game "long lines bogged down the concession stands." But Dixon said that since then "two First National Bank ATM machines have been installed." Additionally, Levy Restaurants, the "food service company for the ballpark, axed a few menu items that took too long to prepare and contributed to the long waits" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/15).
FLOOD PREPERATIONS: Also in Omaha, Burbach & Robb report NCAA officials "have contingency plans that could include delaying College World Series games or even playing them elsewhere if Missouri River flooding exceeds expectations and makes the event unplayable at TD Ameritrade Park." NCAA VP/Baseball & Football Dennis Poppe said that city officials "have assured the NCAA that the series will be able to be played despite the flooding." But he "acknowledged that unprecedented amounts of water are on the way to Omaha in an already flooding Missouri River." Poppe: "It would be negligent if we didn't have something in the plan." However, he did not discuss emergency plans. Burbach & Robb note the College World Series is scheduled to end June 28 or 29, and "peak releases from dams upriver are expected to reach Omaha next week" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 6/16).
The official Bruins Stanley Cup championship locker room apparel is currently on sale at the Bruins' Pro Shop at TD Garden, NHL.com and the NHL store in N.Y. All Boston-area Modell's locations were scheduled to re-open immediately following last night's game, while area Dick's Sporting Goods stores were scheduled to open at 5:00am ET this morning (NHL). Modell’s Senior VP/Marketing Jed Berger at midnight posted on his Twitter account, “Wow. There are 500 people in our Medford store right now!” WHDH-NBC's Janet Wu tweeted, “Fans going crazy buying #Bruins championship banners @Modells. ... Bruins shirts @#modells almost sold out. Next shipment at 3am” (TWITTER.com, 6/16).
AIR PACMAN: Top Rank Chair Bob Arum on Tuesday said that boxer Manny Pacquiao “will come back to the United States for a family vacation” next week. Arum: “Manny is going to Oregon, up to Nike headquarters to meet the big boss, Phil Knight, and all the other top people with the company. Nike is planning a huge Pacman product line along the lines of Air Jordan and all the things they did with and for Michael Jordan.” Arum also said that a media tour is "going global” for the “massive buildup for the third bout” between Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez on Nov. 12 (EXAMINER.com, 6/14).
A CONGRESSIONAL FEEL: GOLF.com's David Dusek noted adidas, Nike and Puma are all releasing U.S. Open commemorative footwear, with several golfers debuting the shoes this week. Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry are scheduled to wear adidas Golf’s U.S. Open shoe, “a special edition of its Powerband 3.0 golf shoe ($140) in patriotic red, white and blue.” Paul Casey, Lucas Glover and Charl Schwartzel will sport Nike's limited edition U.S. Open shoe, which comes with “an American-flag embroidered shoe bag.” Meanwhile, Puma Golf “will dress Rickie Fowler on Sunday in a limited edition of his trademark orange Cell Fusion golf shoes.” Only 500 pairs “are to be sold worldwide” (GOLF.com, 6/14).
SMOKIN HOT: Ferrari has announced that its F1 team “extended its sponsorship deal with tobacco giant Philip Morris through the end of 2015.” AUTOWEEK.com’s Brad Constant noted Philip Morris “has sponsored the Italian F1 team since 1984, with its Marlboro brand being the team's title sponsor since 1997.” The current deal, which the parties “signed in 2005, was set to expire at the end of this season." Since F1 “bans tobacco advertising, the team's official name in Formula One remains Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro” (AUTOWEEK.com, 6/14).