SBJ/20090907/Marketing/Sponsorship

Contract with Eli Manning offers Samsung exit from NFL deal

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has signed a two-year contract to endorse Samsung’s large-screen TVs, a deal that is intriguing for a variety of reasons. Of primary interest is that we’re told the use of Manning as an endorser marks the beginning of the end of Samsung as an NFL corporate sponsor.

Samsung has been an NFL corporate patron since 2005, and is paying about $6 million annually for those rights. While the Korean electronics brand has successfully used its NFL ties to rise from a second- or third-tier brand to a contender in the consideration set among those buying large-screen televisions, sources said it could not justify continuing to pay a premium price for the NFL when margins on its top-tier sets have been shrinking to infinitesimal levels.

Samsung has another year remaining on its current NFL deal. Still, unless something drastic happens (and we’re told definitively that it won’t), Manning is Samsung’s exit strategy from its NFL sponsorship. Manning, the MVP after his team was victorious in Super Bowl XLII, will appear in print and TV ads that also include Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. The ads should break late this month.

Another reason the Eli/Samsung deal is an interesting one is that it’s the first endorsement that conflicts with older brother Peyton, who has been tied to rival TV maker Sony since 2005 -— meaning that you could have the two brothers squaring off on the floor of electronics retailers. Part of what completed the exception to what had seemed to be a “no-conflict” rule for the brothers is the sheer size of the deal — it’s now one of the younger Manning’s largest — and the importance of the NFL in selling high-end TVs.

The Mannings compete in the fictitious Double
Stuf Racing League. Is an HDTV contest next?

We’ll be interested to see where Samsung’s expected departure leaves the NFL with regard to a sponsor in the TV category. The league certainly covets a nameplate like Sony, but we doubt that brand would feel any need to add NFL marks when Peyton Manning has served it so well. Some of the lower-tier brands have used sports affinities to burnish their brands, most notably Vizio’s use of San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and Mitsubishi’s PGA sponsorship.

Further reflecting on the Eli/Samsung hookup: It’s fascinating to note that Eli was tied for 15th in passer rating among NFL quarterbacks last year; accordingly, fans would not rate him among the NFL’s elite quarterbacks. However, Peyton’s younger brother is now the NFL’s highest-paid player, and likely the second- or third-highest off-field earner. Such is the power and appeal of playing the most important position for a New York NFL franchise.

Eli’s other endorsements are with Reebok, Citizen, DirecTV, Oreo and the New York area Toyota dealers co-op. Alan Zucker at IMG represents the Manning family. He would not comment.

RAZOR’S EDGE: Even with the tepid economy continuing to restrain sports marketing activity, the NFL season brings with it some other new deals. Atlanta second-year quarterback Matt Ryan is Gillette’s new spokesman for rights gained under P&G’s multibrand NFL rights package. Ryan will tout razors and Gillette body wash, hair care, antiperspirants and shave gel products, but initial duties for him will be to market the Fusion MVP razor that will carry NFL indicia.

In a program that’s impressive as much for the considerable logistical challenge as for the retailer involved, Fusion 2 MVP razors with logos of the local team will be available at Wal-Mart stores within all NFL markets starting in mid to late September. In the past, Gillette has put both NASCAR and college logos on its razors.

Another program sees millions of the same Fusion 2 MVP razors with NFL logos on packaging only at other retailers. Ryan supports Gillette’s NFL ties with online, print, point-of-sale and TV ads from BBDO, New York. Mark Heligman at CAA Sports represents Ryan.

Elsewhere across the P&G NFL landscape, we’ve started to note some of the activation behind its multibrand NFL sponsorship, and two questions come to mind after seeing its recent free-standing insert. While his name wasn’t used in the insert, is Steelers center Justin Hartwig, a player in uniform wearing his number 62, being used to represent the “NFL-sized odors” Febreze is supposed to eliminate?

We’re also curious if the NFL’s multiple air freshener licensees were consulted when P&G’s designations were granted, because we’re fairly confident they aren’t happy with Febreze now having the right to call itself the “official air freshener of the NFL.”

SHOWING SKIN: NFL sack record holder turned Fox NFL analyst and now sitcom star Michael Strahan will cut some new TV ads for Unilever’s Vaseline for Men face and body lotion later this month. Print and media executions support the TV ads that will be seen within a variety of sports buys, including a large purchase across ESPN media.

Last year, Strahan and Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley did a spot together. This year’s features Strahan solo. The campaign should break in mid to late October. Maury Gostfrand’s Vision Sports Group, New York, represents Strahan, who’s also a corporate pitchman for Subway.

The ex-Giant’s “Brother” sitcom debuts Sept. 25 on Fox.

CLEANING UP: As noted here previously, SpongeTech, already ubiquitous across MLB venues, is looking to make the same kind of, er, splash within NFL stadia. Director of marketing Jack Schwartzberg said his company has signed signage/sponsorship pacts with the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New York Giants and Jets, and Washington Redskins, and is looking for three to five more deals.

With SpongeTech in the process of shifting distribution from direct to more traditional retailers, along with the branding and media included in the sponsorships, Schwartzberg said he’s trying to insist that each deal has some retail distribution component by a team’s retail grocery or drug sponsor.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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