SBD/October 22, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Nike Advertising Campaigns Focusing Less On Individual Athlete Endorsements

Nike's non-celebrity campaigns include the "We Run" road race series
In a “shifting world where some experts are starting to doubt celebrities' power to heavily influence consumer buying,” Nike's $2.7B in annual marketing is being “spent like never before on things other than endorsement contracts for famous athletes,” according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. Nike “forged a partnership” with the NFL “to supply uniforms for its 32 teams.” Nike also “outfits the majority of Division I college football and basketball programs” and is the “official soccer ball sponsor for the English Premier League, four other major soccer leagues, 23 soccer federations and hundreds of teams worldwide.” Nike ads, via Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, have “shined a spotlight on non-celebrities.” The company's "Find Your Greatness" campaign during the London Games “focused on the everyday athlete.” Nike has also “placed its marketing muscle behind other non-celebrity campaigns, such as the ‘We Run’ road race series.” The company has “stopped signing major deals since paying" a reported $90M to Heat F LeBron James "in a seven-year deal that was extended in 2010.” SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said, "Brands do need athletes to play and excel in their shoes, but athletes don't move product like they used to." Brettman wrote there will “never be another Michael Jordan." adidas “may have similar hopes” for Bulls G Derrick Rose, with whom the company signed an estimated 13-year, $185M deal. But Powell said there is "no way Adidas can make that back on shoe sales." Sportswear company Li-Ning may “realize a sales bounce in its native China through its endorsement deal” with Heat G Dwyane Wade. However, Powell said Li-Ning's U.S. sales “won't matter at all” and called the endorsement "a major waste of money” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/21).

SEPARATING FROM LANCE: In a separate piece, Brettman wrote Nike’s image “may have suffered a black eye when it severed its endorsement contract” with Lance Armstrong last week, but “it's unclear how much money the fallen cycling star ever brought to the sports apparel company.” Brettman: “It's clear the dollars from cycling were never big. If they were, Nike would still be in the game.” Nike partnered with Amaury Sport Organisation from ‘96-‘11 as “an official sponsor, supplier and licensee of the Tour de France.” About a year after Armstrong's last Tour de France win in ‘05, the company “largely abandoned selling its branded bicycling apparel and shoes” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/21).

DROP HIM LIKE IT'S HOT: In DC, Deron Snyder wrote Nike “had no choice but to drop Armstrong.” He had become “a toxic asset for premier corporate brands." Nike was “wise, though, in covering itself on both ends, asserting its continued backing of Livestrong," which has raised $500M million to help people fighting cancer (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/21). ESPN’s John Saunders said, "Nike stood by Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger during disgraced times and will gladly take your money for sneakers or a set of golf clubs. But Nike knows when it helped wrap Armstrong’s yellow band around your wrist, it did so because of a lie. We’re thankful it helped fight cancer, but we were deceived” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 10/21). Meanwhile, Oakley today announced it has severed its longstanding sponsorship of Armstrong. The company added that it will continue to support the Livestrong Foundation, which it referred to as a "positive force" (Oakley). The move comes after the UCI, cycling's governing body, "stripped him of his Tour de France titles and banned him for life following doping allegations" (AP, 10/22).
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