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SBD/July 19, 2011/Marketing and SponsorshipPrint All
Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall yesterday filed suit against Hanesbrands, "asking for more than $1 million in damages" after the company's Champion brand terminated his endorsement deal in May, according to Darren Rovell of CNBC.com. After Champion ended the sponsorship "due to tweets related to Osama Bin Laden's involvement in Sept. 11," the company said that it "would immediately end the relationship with Mendenhall and wouldn’t pay him for the five years and the remaining $1 million-plus on his contract." The lawsuit filed yesterday in North Carolina District Court reads in part, "This case involves the core question of whether an athlete employed as a celebrity endorser loses the right to express opinions simply because the company whose products he endorses might disagree with some (but not all) of those opinions." Rovell noted it remains to be seen if Champion "had the right to terminate" Mendenhall's contract, which did "have a version of a morals clause." Champion execs "obviously thought that they were covered." Rovell also noted Hanesbrands "had no problem hiring Charlie Sheen on its payroll even though he has said plenty of controversial things about 9/11." Hanes ended its deal with the actor in January '10 "because of domestic violence charges" (CNBC.com, 7/18).
CAN MENDENHALL PROVE HIS CASE? Mendenhall's attorney, Steven Thompson, said that the lawsuit "will hinge on the reasonableness of the company's decision to terminate Mendenhall's contract." Mendenhall claims that Hanesbrands "never cared about his posts" on Twitter "before his comments of May 2 -- the day after it was announced that bin Laden had been killed by American military personnel." Thompson said, "He said lots of things on lots of subjects and Hanes never had a problem with any of them." In Pittsburgh, Paula Reed Ward notes among the "controversial topics Mendenhall previously addressed, he tweeted about Islam, compared the NFL labor situation to modern-day slavery and called women 'selfish'" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/19). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson wrote, "The problem here for Mendenhall is that because he's dealing with an issue like 9/11, he'll have an uphill battle to prove that the majority of the consuming public wasn't offended by his comments, particularly given the storm of media coverage it generated. ... Perhaps the biggest problem is the resulting image hit that Mendenhall could suffer. Even though he's defending a basic American tenant -- free speech -- he's going to remind everyone in the country exactly why he got fired in the first place; it's unlikely that the general public's stance has changed on his statements since then" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/18).
International Sports Management officials are planning to launch an "all-out effort to maximise" British Open winner Darren Clarke's potential off-course earnings, according to Karl MacGinty of the Irish INDEPENDENT. ISM's Chubby Chandler said, "Darren's already a brand and is massively popular all over the world, so I think my job for him is going to be very easy." Clarke's sponsorship portfolio "shrank as he slid out of world golf's upper echelon in recent years, leaving Chandler with a clear field in which to work." Chandler believes that he "can be far more aggressive in marketing 21-year Tour veteran Clarke" than fellow client and U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy. Chandler: "The phone will never stop ringing but it will be a different sort of call than Rory gets, a different set of sponsors. The great thing about Darren is that he doesn't have quite as many logos on him as anyone else" (Irish INDEPENDENT, 7/19). In N.Y., Larry Dorman reports Clarke will receive a "more than $3 million bonus from the apparel division of the sporting goods company Dunlop, whose logo Clarke has been wearing on the front of his golf shirt since 2008 in an unusual agreement." Clarke sports the Dunlop logo on his chest "for no guaranteed compensation -- unless he wins a major championship, in which case he collects the bonus." Chandler has negotiated "similar deals for Lee Westwood and David Howell" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/19). Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow said Clarke "will be an endorser-extraordinaire on the international scene over the next couple years” (“Bloomberg Bottom Line,” Bloomberg TV, 7/18).
The U.S. women's soccer team “might have just left $10 million in endorsements on the table after Sunday's shocking loss to Japan” in the FIFA Women's World Cup Final, according to Rich Thomaselli of AD AGE. U.S. F Abby Wambach and G Hope Solo were “likely the biggest endorsement losers." Both players “were looking at $3 million to $4 million a year in marketing deals -- a modest sum predicted by sports marketing experts but still a decent amount for a sport that has had trouble sustaining roots with the American public.” The experts said that another $2M “could collectively be brought in by remainder of the team.” Baker Street Advertising Exec VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman said, "The defeat cost the U.S. women some heavy endorsement dollars, but I don't think it's a total loss. The final was an epic match, it likely drew a huge audience, and it made household names of Wambach, Solo and (Alex) Morgan" (ADAGE.com, 7/18). Dorfman added that Sunday’s loss “makes it a bit tougher for the players to move up in the world of sports marketing deals.” Dorfman: “I heard there were some marketers who were planning on using them but decided not to because of the loss. Everyone loves winners” (USA TODAY, 7/19).
RESIDUAL EFFECTS: In L.A., David Wharton writes the Women’s World Cup “provided enough drama to boost the Q score of the two biggest personalities” on the U.S. roster: Wambach and Solo. Wambach “developed into a fiery leader,” as television shots of Wambach “encouraging her teammates, hollering, veins popping out, confirmed her role on the national squad.” Solo came into the tournament “recognized as the world's top goalkeeper but won a new legion of fans with a dramatic turnaround against Brazil” in the quarterfinals (L.A. TIMES, 7/19). In Miami, Michelle Kaufman writes Solo “became a household name over the past few weeks.” She went “from 10,000 Twitter followers to nearly 200,000.” She and Wambach “are scheduled to appear on ‘Late Show With David Letterman’ on Tuesday night” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/19). Solo also appears on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated (THE DAILY). Solo appeared on ESPN's "SportsCenter" this morning and was asked what her plans were for the immediate future. She said, “I still have a World Cup to win ... and it’s not like I have time for all this entertainment, crazy rock star status buzz because ... there’s so much going on in my professional career.” Maksim Chmerkovskiy, a member of the "Dancing With The Stars" cast, has campaigned for Solo to be a contestant on the show. Solo said, "He’s crazy. First off, I can’t dance. Secondly, I can barely walk in high heels. He would have quite a challenge if he got his hands on me, I can assure. Plus, two fiery personalities, we might be going at it” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/19).
RAUCOUS RECEPTION: The U.S. team today made appearances on all three network morning shows following their World Cup run. Wambach said, “The bitter part is obviously not winning and not bringing home a Cup for our country. The sweet part is the reception that we’ve gotten all across this nation. We got back here to Times Square yesterday, couldn’t believe the crowds. It was amazing and honestly, as tough as it is to lose, it’s making us all feel a little bit better just knowing how much this country supported us” (“GMA,” ABC, 7/19). Solo said, “We showed America everything that they finally wanted to see in a final.” NBC’s Ann Curry added, “You should also take away from this a transcendent moment that you’ve created. … This was a victory for women’s soccer” (“Today,” NBC, 7/19). Wambach and F Lauren Cheney also appeared on CBS’ “The Early Show” this morning (THE DAILY). USA TODAY’s Aimee Berg notes the U.S. women’s team bus “rolled into midtown Manhattan” yesterday to "supportive shouts from tourists and a sea of cellphone cameras." U.S. MF Heather O’Reilly: “I didn’t expect to pull into Times Square and have this kind of reception” (USA TODAY, 7/19). Meanwhile, REUTERS' Alastair Himmer notes the Japan team received the "rock star treatment on Tuesday on their return from an astonishing World Cup triumph." The team arrived to a "media crush of around 300 reporters" (REUTERS, 7/19).
LITTLE IMPACT ON GROWTH OF GAME: CNBC’s Darren Rovell said the U.S. team's performance during the World Cup “won’t affect” the growth of women’s soccer in the U.S. that much. Rovell: “This was more about -- when you look at the ratings -- the stakes and nationalism and less about the game of women’s soccer. People were watching it because they knew there was a lot on the line, but not watching it because they loved soccer” (“OTL,” ESPN, 7/18). CSNBayArea.com's Ray Ratto said, "We as a sporting culture are event-driven more than we are sport-driven, and this was an event.” In a week, fans will not have members of the U.S. team "on their minds." Ratto: "They’ll try to monetize them and market them, but no, the event is over. The moment was magic. The moment’s over” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN, 7/18).
Women's groups complained that
Rogers Cup poster was sexist