SBD/October 25, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

NFL Announces End Of Riddell Deal As Official Helmet Following '13 Season

One-third of NFL players use a helmet manufactured by a brand other than Riddell
NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the current NFL season "will be the last to feature Riddell as the official helmet" of the league, according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. McCarthy said that the NFL agreed in '89 "to give Riddell rights to be the official helmet of the NFL in perpetuity after a slew of helmet manufacturers went out of business." But he added that the league "recently renegotiated the deal to have it end at the conclusion" of the '13 season. The company in a statement Thursday acknowledged "for the first time publicly that the deal would end." Riddell said in the statement, "We are proud of our relationship with the NFL. ... We look forward to a continued positive and productive relationship with the NFL in the future. We are confident that we will continue to be the helmet of choice of our nation's elite football players." Rovell notes during the past few years, as the league "became increasingly focused on concussions, NFL officials were more concerned about the implication of selling exclusive branding rights to one helmet company over another." NFL players "can wear any helmet they want as long as it complies with prescribed standards, but Riddell is the only company whose name can appear on the helmet's nose bumper." Riddell currently "pays for this privilege as well as the right to produce regular-size and mini helmets with league logos on them that are most frequently sold to autograph collectors." Roughly one-third of the league's players "don't use a Riddell helmet" (ESPN.com, 10/25).

UNDER THE DOME: In Portland, Thomas Boyd notes Nike in '09 sought Oregon-based Hydro Graphics' help "applying an eye-catching, durable coating to football helmets" for the Univ. of Oregon and five other NCAA football teams. Colleges and high schools since "have flocked to Hydro Graphics, trying to come up with their own sleek, exciting new looks." But the NFL in August "informed its teams that players may use only one helmet during the season, eliminating the use of alternate helmets, such as with throwback uniforms." The league "cited safety concerns for making the move, though it has not offered data to support the decision." Hydro Graphics Owner Chris Thom is "concerned, knowing the NCAA could weigh in with a ruling of its own, regardless of the popularity of spiffed-up helmets." UO "will use six helmet designs during the regular season and another for an anticipated bowl game." UO Senior Associate AD/Marketing & PR Craig Pintens in an e-mail wrote that "not enough is known about the NFL's reasoning to comment on the league's policy." But Pintens added, "Every helmet that we wear is fitted professionally by our staff to ensure player safety" (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/25).
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