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NCAA President Mark Emmert on Thursday said that the organization "will 'exit' the business of selling player and school related memorabilia and apparel" on its ShopNCAASports.com website, according to Dennis Dodd of CBSSPORTS.com. The site had come under fire for selling "jerseys identified by individual players" as well as the "autograph of a player who was a central figure" in an NCAA case in former USC RB Reggie Bush. The shop also was offering videos of a Penn State game "that had been vacated by the association in the Sandusky scandal." Emmert during a conference call with the media said, "I don't believe we should have been in that business. I don't think that's appropriate for us and we're going to exit it." He added that "no revenue was realized from the portion of the website that sold player jerseys." Emmert: "We certainly recognize why that could be seen as hypocritical. ... It's not something core to what the NCAA is about. We probably never should have been in that business." The conference call was "presented as an update" after the NCAA BOD's Thursday meeting in Indianapolis." However, most of the questions "had to do with players' rights to their likeness, the website and Emmert's job security" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/8). NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis said, "Moving forward, the NCAA online shop will no longer offer college and university merchandise. In the coming days, the store's website will be shut down temporarily and reopen in a few weeks as a marketplace for NCAA championship merchandise only." Emmert said that the shop would "continue to offer NCAA-related merchandise." The site was "copyrighted by Fanatics" (ESPN.com, 8/8).
LATEST MOVE BY THE NCAA: In N.Y., Steve Eder notes the move "came less than a month after the NCAA said it would not renew its contract" with EA, which "makes the college football video game series that bears the organization’s name." The NCAA also is "facing fresh questions about why its star players are not allowed to be compensated for such things as signing autographs." Sources said that the moves "appear to be motivated by mitigating legal threats as the NCAA faces a serious challenge as a result of a lawsuit filed by the former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/9).
DAMAGE CONTROL: In L.A., Chris Dufresne writes shutting down the shop "was a brilliant public relations pivot by Emmert." It "just didn't look good selling trinkets under the NCAA umbrella in the week in which it was learned the organization is investigating whether Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel exchanged his autograph for cash" (L.A. TIMES, 8/9). In Houston, Randy Harvey wrote under the header, "NCAA Makes A Right Move In Wake Of Manziel Controversy" (CHRON.com, 8/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Eisenberg wrote, "The abrupt policy change was probably Emmert's attempt at damage control." The NCAA "certainly doesn't need more negative press at a time when its amateurism model is under fire from all corners." Emmert's statements were "significant because they represented one of the few times the NCAA president has publicly acknowledged the hypocrisy of one of his organization's rules." Eisenberg: "Credit Emmert for his honesty" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/8). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I'm going to give them credit for having the common sense to listen to a very good report and react to it immediately." Kornheiser added that the NCAA "can't be selling autographed Reggie Bush pictures after you stripped him of the Heisman!" But ESPN's Michael Wilbon does not credit the NCAA, noting Bilas "forced them out." Wilbon: "Institutionally, they're liars and hypocrites" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/8). In Orlando, Matt Murschel notes the move is "just the latest in a long line of calamities that have followed the NCAA in recent months, including gaffes during investigations of UCLA and Miami programs" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/9). SPORTING NEWS' Matt Hayes wrote under the header, "NCAA's Latest Move: Spineless, Embarrassing, Clueless" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/8).
NFL ads led to more football content in the magazine
MLS Real Salt Lake G Nick Rimando had a beer crafted after him by Utah-based Epic Brewing Company in March as part of a marketing deal, and it now is one of the better-selling brews at Rio Tinto Stadium. The wheat beer, entitled "Rimando's Wit," is currently the seventh best-selling brew at Rio Tinto. The drink prominently features Rimando on its label and sells at Rio Tinto for $5.50 (small) and $8.75 (large). Exact details of Rimando's deal with Epic were not disclosed, but he will receive a percentage of sales from his beer's profits if they reach certain thresholds. Epic typically brews high-gravity beers, but in creating its Unsacred Brewing line -- which features lower-gravity beers so its product could be sold at more places in Utah -- it decided to team up with Rimando, whose profile in the city is high. Epic Brewing Company National Sales Manager Michael Malachowski said, "With soccer being as big as it is in Salt Lake nowadays, myself and one of the owners thought, 'Why don't we see if Nick wants to have his own beer?'" The process of getting the beer sold at Rio Tinto was made difficult because Unsacred is not affiliated with league sponsor Anheuser Busch nor Uinta, the stadium's current craft beer supplier. RSL President Bill Manning said that the club received approval from A-B and Uinta to sell Rimando's Wit at the stadium after it assured the companies that the beer would not be marketed on the premises in any shape or form. Malachowski confirmed the move was unusual and added that the company's product almost certainly would not have landed at Rio Tinto had Manning and Rimando not personally gotten involved. Rimando said, "They pulled some strings and got it in there."
SELLING LIKE HOT CAKES: Both Rimando and Manning referred to the idea of selling the brew at the stadium as a "no-brainer," and sales thus far show why. Not only is the beer doing well at Rio Tinto, but it also is the best-selling of the four Unsacred beers at retail. Epic does not currently have any plans to expand distribution of Rimando's Wit to other markets, but Malachowski said that could change if demand warrants it. Malachowski added that the company is generally pleased with the association thus far, and Rimando echoed those sentiments. "Still to this day, I'm getting people sending me pictures of them purchasing beers at the store with my face on the beer," Rimando said. "People ask me where they can get it, and multiple stores that I go to say they're already sold out of it, so I think it's been a success so far. I think it's a great deal to have in this market."
Lids Sports Group has reached a deal with Macy's to "open licensed team merchandise departments" in stores nationwide, according to Hamlet Fort of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. The new departments "will be called Locker Room by Lids, and that service also will be available online at the Macy's website beginning in the fall." Lids will sell "headwear and apparel for men, women and children, as well as 'home and novelty products.'" There will be 25 locations initially in September, while an "additional 175 in-store locations are expected to be added to the pilot group" in the spring. Macy's Chief Merchandising Officer Jeff Gennette said that new stores "typically will carry the most popular teams in that area." However, he added, "With Macy's rapidly emerging omnichannel capability, we can effectively sell and fulfill orders for customers who may be fans of teams anywhere in America" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 8/9).
AD AGE's Natalie Zmuda examines the comeback of Coca-Cola's Mello Yello brand and notes the soft drink last year took over the NHRA title sponsorship from Coke's Full Throttle brand and launched a new campaign, "including TV, radio and updated packaging." The majority of its marketing budget is "dedicated to huge amounts of sampling -- handing out cans to thousands of race attendees." The NHRA deal has "given the brand a national platform, with 24 races taking place" this year. Coca-Cola North America Group Senior Sports Marketing Manager Al Rondon said that the title sponsorship deal "has helped Mello Yello to 'amplify' its retail efforts" (ADAGE.com, 8/9).
WHERE'S THE BEEF? In Chicago, Nausheen Husain reported Pro Football HOFer Mike Ditka has partnered with Vienna Beef to create the Ditka Sausage. The eight-inch sausages "come in two varieties: hot Polish and chicken with tomato and mozzarella." Vienna Beef Head of Business Development Tom McGlade indicated that a "new Ditka Dog with beef sausage will also be available at Soldier Field by next Thursday" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/8).
TIME TO LET IT GO: Golfer Rory McIlroy finished the first round of the PGA Championship tied for 23rd, but prior to the start of the event he "refused to let the equipment-switch storyline linger." He said of his switch to Nike, "It was a valid point at the start of the year. I don't think it's a valid point now. I mean, it's nine months in. Of course there's going to be a transition period. But now I'm really happy with everything that I've got in my bag" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/8).