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Following congressional criticism of the USOC regarding Team USA Opening Ceremony uniforms for the London Games being made in China, designer Ralph Lauren Friday announced that the uniforms for the ‘14 Sochi Games “will, in fact, be made in the United States,” according to Eddie Pells of the AP. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun in a statement on Friday said that there is “not enough time to make a change for the London Games because some athletes have already arrived in London and uniform distribution” began this past weekend. The USOC initially “defended its choice of Ralph Lauren, saying it was grateful for the support from an ‘iconic American company’” (AP, 7/13). In N.Y., Eric Wilson wrote judging by “consumer complaints to Ralph Lauren that have followed, the Chinese production appears to be a public-relations nightmare for the company.” The “uproar has caught officials at Lauren by surprise” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/15). NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell said the USOC “stands by Ralph Lauren and says it relies on private funding to support the team." O'Donnell: "Many American companies that sponsor the Games also make their goods overseas, where labor is cheaper. ... In a way, the athletes will represent both their country and the difficult issue of outsourcing” (“Nightly News,” NBC, 7/13).
FROWNING UPON ACTION: In Chicago, Rick Telander wrote, “Just freaking pitiful. Shame on everybody, from super-cool designer Ralph Lauren to U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun to the drones who make up the committee to anybody involved with the U.S. Olympics in any way.” It is “actually a good thing this made-in-China deal occurred and came to light.” Telander: “Good in the sense of educational. This is how our big shots think of us. Our patriotic leaders. This is how our government has allowed corporations to follow the cheapest route to profit, our country be damned” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/15). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote, “Seriously? The U.S. Olympic team’s uniforms weren’t made in the USA?” Both the USOC and Ralph Lauren execs “had to be tone deaf not to think this was going to come back and bite them.” This was an “unintentional slap in the face to the ‘Buy American’ movement” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/14). The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson said of the Team USA uniforms, “It was a foreseeable PR nightmare and somebody should have foreseen it.” Syndicated columnist Mark Shields said the uniforms “look like Preppy Night at the yacht club" ("NewsHour,” PBS, 7/13). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote the “preppy white slacks and double-breasted dark blue blazers will make every American athlete look like a spoiled rich kid named Thad stepping on to his family’s yacht.” Cote: “Far worse, the uniforms are topped by a French beret! Everybody looks dorky in a beret. … The beret finds the spoiled rich kid Thad wearing a paisley ascot, smoking an elaborate pipe and driving a Fiat” (MIAMI HERALD, 7/15). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said, “What are you more offended about with those Ralph Lauren Olympic outfits: That they were manufactured in China or how Wimbledon umpire-ugly they are? Berets? Seriously?” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 7/15).
MADE IN THE USA: In N.Y., James Covert cited sources as saying that the Russian Olympic team since ’11 “has been in talks with Los Angeles-based American Apparel for a deal to design its clothing for the 2014 games” (N.Y. POST, 7/16). In Ft. Worth, Gil Lebreton wrote under the header, “Clothing Issue Misses Point On U.S. Olympic Team.” When the Chinese and Russian Federation teams take the field at the London Olympics, they will “be wearing uniforms by Nike.” Lebreton: “What goes around also comes around. ... [but] I understand the complaints” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 7/15).
LATE NIGHT LAUGHS: NBC’s Jay Leno said the USOC is “coming under fire now after it was revealed that the uniform for Team USA that they’re going to wear in the Opening Ceremony were made in China. The Olympic uniforms were made in China and it turns out they were made by some of the same kids who could wind up beating us in gymnastics.” Leno said, “A lot of people are complaining (the uniforms) look too French.” The broadcast aired a local news story about the Olympic uniforms which features a blazer and a beret, saying the uniform is not “portraying American style” and critics are “calling for the uniforms to be changed to something Americans can identify with.” At this point in the video, the uniforms were changed to McDonald’s uniforms (“The Tonight Show,” NBC, 7/13).
Puma is "pinning its hopes" on Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt's performance at the London Games to "speed up sales and outpace its bigger competitors Adidas and Nike," according to Etienne Balmer of the AFP. Bolt is a "key plank" in Puma's strategy to "shift its focus from lifestyle clothing to sportswear." The sportswear category currently accounts for 35% of Puma sales, but company CEO Franz Koch "wants to boost that to 40 percent and the company sees its sponsorship of double world-record holder Bolt as key to that aim." Puma also sponsors the entire Jamaican Olympic team, and Puma Head of Global Sports Marketing & Sports Law Christian Voigt said, "The way of life in Jamaica, its music, its relaxed attitude, its style, its colours. This is also Puma's spirit." Balmer noted with profits "hit by the eurozone crisis, Puma is hoping for a strong Olympics to revive its fortunes." For the full year, Puma "is aiming at an increase of between five and 10 percent in turnover with a roughly five-percent boost in net profits." The company is "due to release updated figures on July 26" (AFP, 7/15).
Under Armour is planning to use its sponsorship of EPL club Tottenham Hotspur "in an ‘aggressive’ digital marketing drive this summer as part of a wider strategy to steal market share from Nike and Adidas in the apparel category in Europe,” according to Sebastian Joseph of MARKETING WEEK. UA will “launch its biggest pan-European digital campaign later this summer including promotions on Facebook and Twitter.” The campaign, using the tag "New Battles, New Armour, Our technology for your challenges,” will feature Tottenham branding as well as players such as D Michael Dawson. The company last week unveiled its first jerseys for Tottenham. This is UA’s “first major push into professional football, in a bid to build awareness for the brand, its products and its other sports sponsorships.” UA Senior VP/Global Sports Marketing Matt Mirchin said that the "'aggressive' digital push is necessary because the brand needs to expand quickly.” Joseph notes UA will “support the club’s tour to the U.S. this month with a CRM blitz to encourage its customers to become Tottenham Hotspur fans” (MARKETINGWEEK.co.uk, 7/16).
Non-Olympic sponsors have "bought the majority of advertising space within venue zones in a last-minute marketing ‘victory’ that gives them more visibility than sponsors who have paid millions to be associated with the games," according to Vanessa Kortekaas of the FINANCIAL TIMES. CBS Outdoor, the outdoor advertising partner for the London Games, said that billboards, posters and digital sites "around Olympic venues had sold out in the past few weeks, and that more than half of the ads would feature non-sponsors." Advertising "within a few hundred metres of Olympic venues was originally reserved for sponsors." However, amid slow sales, LOCOG "agreed to let CBS Outdoor offer space to companies from the music, film and theatre sectors, among others -- deemed non-competitors to games’ sponsors." CBS Outdoor U.K. Dir Jason Cotterrell said the non-sponsors would get “very close” to the Olympic audience. When asked how much of the vicinity space was initially taken up by sponsors, Cotterrell said, “Frankly not a lot.” He said that sponsors “had not shunned the traditional ad space, but rather chose ‘large impact’ campaigns, such as wrapping a red double-decker bus or a whole tube station in a poster” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/16).
COVER IT UP: CNBC’s Ross Westgate noted with the start of the Olympics less than two weeks away, we are "now going into the blackout period where individual athletes will no longer be able to show their own sponsors off.” Westgate said to U.S. track and field athlete Nick Symmonds, “You’re known because you’ve got this tattoo on (your arm) which you sold for about $11,000.” Symmonds noted it is a temporary tattoo of Hanson Dodge and said, "Domestically, I’m allowed to display it but internationally ... I have to tape over it. So in competition you’ll see me with a piece of tape on my left deltoid, but everybody knows Hanson Dodge Creative is the sponsor.” Westgate asked if this was “going to be the future” for athlete marketing. Symmonds said, “I sure hope so. We train for four years for these events and we come here and all these sponsors have helped us throughout the years. ... When we get to the Olympics, where we can give them a return on their investment, they’re suddenly not welcome anymore. I just think it’s terrible” ("Worldwide Exchange," CNBC, 7/16).
NFL Panthers QB Cam Newton’s appearance at a for-profit autograph session in Charlotte Saturday “drew criticism from observers locally and nationally,” but his marketing agent, IMG’s Carlos Fleming, said that Newton was “doing nothing different than most other top picks, whose first endorsement deals generally are with memorabilia companies,” according to Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. A crowd of around 300 people attended the session. Newton was “scheduled to sign for 2 1/2 hours, but he was through after an hour.” He was “escorted to a private area, where he autographed items for GT Sports Marketing and any stragglers who arrived late.” Newton had appeared at “five previous autograph sessions in New Jersey and Alabama as part of his obligations to Hawaii-based GT Sports Marketing.” Terms of Newton’s memorabilia deal are undisclosed. Newton helped Auburn Univ. in the national championship in '10, and GT Sports Marketing President Gary Takahashi said that the crowd Saturday was “not comparable to those at Newton’s autograph sessions in Alabama.” Takahashi: “I think the people that did come had a good time.” Panthers PSL holder Ritchie Blount said of Newton, “The guy was very gracious, took his time. It wasn’t a rushed procedure. He looked everybody in the eye.” Takahashi seemed “disappointed in the turnout,” and he “called Charlotte a nice city, but one that does not have a history with paid autograph events.” Takahashi said that he would “come to Charlotte for as many as five Panthers’ games this season but did not commit to any more autograph sessions.” He said, “We don’t have any scheduled for the time being” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/15). Newton during the signing wore a polo from Under Armour, one of his first sponsors (THE DAILY).
DIFFERING OPINIONS: NBC Sports Network’s Shaun King said he was "completely fine" with Newton charging for autographs. King: "This is an event that markets a different group of people than say if this was his football camp and he had little kids coming or if this was after a Panthers game and these were Panther fans.” However, NBC Sports Network’s Erik Kuselias said for the $40,000 Newton made for the signing, he is "going to spend 10 times that in negative publicity for what he gets." Kuselias: "This is a bad investment" ("NBC Sports Talk," NBC Sports Network, 7/13).
Hornets F Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, has "finalized an endorsement deal with Nike," his first pro endorsement deal. Davis "already has a 'Nike Swoosh Unibrow' print for sale" (SPORTS EXCHANGE, 7/16). ESPN's Darren Rovell on his Twitter account notes with the signing of Davis, Nike "has signed 7 out of the last 10 #1 overall draft picks" (TWITTER.com, 7/16).
HYPER COLOR: In Austin, Lori Hawkins reports locally-based Hyperwear fitness products company has "a new line of free weights made using rubber sandbags instead of hard metal," and is "now making sales in 20 countries." With former Nike Americas Sales Dir Denver Fredenburg as CEO, Hyperwear had revenue of $850,000 last year and "plans to more than double sales this year." Hyperwear's customers include the Austin, L.A., and Dallas school districts, the Univ. of Texas football and basketball teams, and Auburn Univ. football. The 10-person company "recently tripled its office space" by moving to a new 10,000 square-foot HQs in North Austin. Hyperwear now is "gearing up to raise a second round of funding to expand sales and marketing" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 7/16).
DRIVEN TO SUCCEED: NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is sponsored by the National Guard, which last week announced it was going to maintain its NASCAR deal. However, with U.S. Army's recent decision to end its sponsorship of Stewart-Haas Racing, Earnhardt said, "I feel that our program [with the National Guard] is really productive. Apparently they don't feel like theirs was productive. I feel like ours is successful. Marketing in any business is hard work, and, I feel like we do a good job of it and always have." Earnhardt added, "I'm just disappointed when any company or big entity like that leaves the sport entirely" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 7/13). Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote Panther Racing IndyCar team Owner John Barnes "has seemed confident about keeping the National Guard in recent conversations about it." Panther Racing "has been exceptional in building that program, which does more than just try to recruit soldiers" (INDYSTAR.com, 7/13).
CAN'T WAIT! ESPN.com's Doug Williams wrote under the header, "Athletes Trademarking The Phrase That Pays." Williams noted athletes such as Jets LB Bart Scott, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and Knicks G Jeremy Lin have recently trademarked phrases, slogans or nicknames. N.Y.-based attorney Jaia Thomas, who specializes in intellectual property and represents athletes and celebrities, said, "One of the main reasons is for economic reasons. ... It's also good just in terms of brand building. As athletes start to build their brand it's good to start to protect their individual property rights as soon as possible" (ESPN.com,7/13).