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SBD/July 19, 2013/Marketing and SponsorshipPrint All
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Ed O'Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA recently "amended their complaint by adding a series of new highly charged allegations," according to Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY. They "mention specific alleged actions not only [by] the NCAA, but also by each of the other defendants," EA and Collegiate Licensing Co. Even comments of late NCAA President Myles Brand "were spotlighted." One of the allegations was that Brand in public remarks in '08 agreed that the "right to license or sell one's name, image, and likeness is a property right with economic value.'" Another was that EA and CLC allegedly "actively lobbied for, and obtained, administrative interpretations of those rules that permitted greater uncompensated exploitation of student-athletes' names, images, and likenesses." This "addresses an argument by EA and CLC that, as business partners of the NCAA, they were simply following the association's rules pertaining to the use of athletes' names and likenesses, so the plaintiffs have no right of action against them." Berkowitz reports EA in August '07, "when licensing of video games was being negotiated," allegedly offered to "establish a 'players' fund' for the use of the (student-athletes') names, images, and likenesses." CLC, negotiating on the NCAA's behalf, instead suggested that the money "should go to the NCAA." EA "agreed to pay a kicker to the NCAA in order 'to align interests and incentivize all parties to help build the category with new rights.'" EA "made this offer contingent on 'no royalties ... to a player fund'" (USATODAY.com, 7/19).
CURRENT PLAYERS JOIN SUIT: Six active college football players -- Arizona LB Jake Fischer and K Jake Smith, Minnesota TE Moses Alipate and WR Victor Keise, Vanderbilt LB Chase Garnham and Clemson CB Darius Robinson -- joined the O'Bannon lawsuit as named plaintiffs. All six players are seniors (Mult., 7/19). ESPN.com's Tom Farrey wrote the players by adding their names to a "highly contentious" lawsuit "enhance the chances that damages in the suit could reach into the billions of dollars." U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken in June "asked plaintiffs in the O'Bannon suit to add a current player to the lawsuit." Wilken later this summer will "rule on whether the class of current and former players will be certified, allowing it to pursue its claims as a group instead of as individuals" (ESPN.com, 7/18). SI.com's Andy Staples reports Robinson's "inspiration to join the suit came a few months ago" when he learned while someone is an "athlete at an NCAA institution, your name and your face do not belong to you." Robinson "wanted to get a job to earn extra money, but he couldn't work regular hours because of his commitment to the football team." He "hit upon 5LINX, a multilevel marketing company with a business model similar to Amway." While such companies "certainly have their drawbacks, 5LINX does offer direct sales." In Robinson's case, he "intended to sell mobile phones and phone plans." Someone in Clemson's compliance department "noticed an uptick in business-related posts on Robinson's Facebook and Instagram accounts, and Robinson was called in to meet with compliance officials." Robinson said, "According to the NCAA, the rule is that a student-athlete can have his own business. But they were saying that I couldn't have it because I couldn't detach my name from it. They were saying I couldn't promote it" (SI.com, 7/19).
NCAA ON THE DEFENSIVE? In L.A., David Wharton writes the NCAA by "dropping ties" with EA on Wednesday "could be showing signs of worry about its chances in a major civil lawsuit." Attorney Michael Marrero, who is not involved with the case, said, "The NCAA may foresee that it will not be able to collect licensing fees from EA Sports for much longer without sharing the revenues with former and current student athletes. If that's the eventual outcome of O'Bannon v. NCAA, the deal may no longer be as lucrative for the NCAA. And any licensing fees that the NCAA continues to collect will only enhance the plaintiffs' damages claims" (L.A. TIMES, 7/19).
IndyCar is "entering a formal, multi-year marketing partnership" with the Akron-based FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby, according to a front-page piece by Jim Mackinnon of the AKRON BEACON JOURNAL. The agreement will "place the IndyCar logo on Derby cars this year in Akron and spread from there in 2014." IndyCar also will "promote and display the Derby logo." Soap Box Derby President & CEO Joe Mazur said that the cross-promotion agreement "does not bring in money to the Derby but will give the nonprofit program significant brand exposure." He added that the Derby will be "promoted in 30-second commercials on giant video screens at IndyCar racetracks, on the IndyCar website and through other measures." Mazur said that IndyCar also is "agreeing to invite local Derby race champions to two of its races," and that Derby race wheels this year "will get IndyCar stickers." He added that at least one IndyCar driver will be "displayed at Derby Downs next week as part of the new partnership" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/19).
TURBO-CHARGING INDYCAR'S EXPOSURE: In N.Y., Phil Patton noted DreamWorks Animation SKG's film "Turbo" was "chosen by Izod IndyCar Series racing to widen its exposure to a younger and more family-oriented audience." Several of IndyCar's commercial partners "got on board with the film, including Firestone, Sunoco, Chevrolet and Verizon," and AAA "will have a Turbo-theme safe driving campaign." Film franchises "fit nicely around auto themes but the most successful of them are marketing engines for product tie-ins." If IndyCar's partnership with DreamWorks on "Turbo" is "any indication, auto racing is looking to hook up with the same sort of marketing powerhouse." IndyCar "hopes to connect with a younger audience through an engaging film, and of course, through video games and apps" (NYTIMES, 7/18).
Giants C Buster Posey is the reigning NL MVP and a two-time World Series champion, but he is “not a brand” and “not a renowned pitchman,” according to Tom Verducci of SI. Endorsement offers “poured in” to Posey and agent Jeff Berry during the offseason, and Posey “rejected just about all of them.” He did shoot a commercial for Sony’s “MLB 13: The Show” and has endorsements with Under Armour, DirecTV, sports drink BodyArmor, and "Bay Area car dealers, but that’s about it.” Posey, who has the best-selling jersey on MLB.com since the start of the season, said, “I don’t ever want to do something that will compromise my preparation for the team.” Giants President & CEO Larry Baer said, “Buster is cut out of all-America land. … If Buster was walking down Madison Avenue on a busy Saturday afternoon, my guess is that one or two people might -- might -- recognize him.” Verducci notes Posey last year “did become the first major league player to release a self-branded mobile app.” It is an “Angry Birds-type flick game in which players try to hit home runs to win the currency of virtual sunflower seeds” (SI, 7/22 issue). "Buster Bash Pro," the sequel to Posey's app, was released earlier this week and is available as a free download on iTunes. The game integrates BodyArmor and DirecTV into play. CAA Sports brokered the deal for the app on behalf of Posey (CAA).