SBD/June 5, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

IBM Discontinues NFL Sponsorship, Future Of League's Headset Branding In Limbo

Coaches' headsets could now feature, NFL Network branding
IBM, an NFL sponsor since ‘03, “has opted not to renew its league sponsorship rights, joining Motorola as another veteran sponsor deciding not to return to the NFL,” according to Terry Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. IBM has been “a model business-to-business sponsor during its tenure as an NFL corporate sponsor.” IBM VP/Client Exec Marketing Rick Singer said, “It was a good nine-year run. We had some very good discussions, but we decided that the things they want to do aren’t the same as what we want to. It wasn’t about money as much as it was about each party’s philosophy on the (technology) category.” Sources said that the league “is on the street with the framework of a larger technology deal, and that the thought within league circles is that adding IBM’s broad category rights in computer hardware, software and IT services to those formerly held by departed telecom hardware rights holder Motorola could form the rudiments of a broad technology deal.” Such a sponsorship “could include Motorola-like headset branding, integration of tablet PCs on NFL sidelines, widespread use of tablets by coaches and as playbooks, and rewiring NFL stadiums.” Lefton notes it is “hard to believe the NFL will be able to fashion such a complex deal in time for the coming season.” The headsets “have carried branding since the mid-1990s,” but sources said that without a sponsor next year, “that valuable real estate would promote or NFL Network.” However, sources also “cautioned that the category is changing week to week" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/4 issue).
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