SBJ/April 25 - May 1, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Griffin jams Vizio into endorsement lineup

NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Griffin’s star rose when he co-starred with a Kia in the slam dunk contest.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, who is expected to be named NBA Rookie the Year this week, has added to his burgeoning portfolio of corporate partnerships by signing an agreement with consumer electronics company Vizio.

Vizio will use Griffin’s likeness on packaging, in print and in at least one television commercial. Financial terms and the length of the deal were not released.

Officials from Vizio were unavailable for comment.

Irvine, Calif.-based Vizio is the latest brand to embrace Griffin as an endorser. The 6-foot-10 All-Star also has deals with or has appeared in commercials for Subway, AT&T, Kia, Nike and Nestlé brand PowerBar. Earlier this month, he secured a long-term trading card and memorabilia deal with Panini America, the official trading card of the NBA.

Griffin came into the league out of the University of Oklahoma with all the right credentials to be a top endorser: a clean image, standing as the No. 1 pick in 2009 NBA draft, and honors such as the John Wooden Award, the Naismith College Player of the Year award, and the Oscar Robertson Trophy.

Subway signed him before the draft, and Nike and PowerBar followed with deals that summer. But when Griffin suffered a knee injury during the preseason that would ultimately cost him the full 2009-10 season, it gave some sponsors pause.

“People were like, ‘Do we still need to be working with this guy?’” said Paul Bamundo, director of sports marketing and public relations for Subway and a former NBA marketing executive. “I said, ‘Yes, we do.’”
Subway featured Griffin while he was sidelined and recovering from injury in its campaign that also showcased Michael Strahan, Michael Phelps and Nastia Liukin.

When Griffin returned to the court this season — he proceeded to win rookie-of-the-month recognition every month of the year — Subway featured him in two more commercials, running before and after the All-Star Game. Subway plans to begin running another spot around the expected Rookie of the Year announcement, Bamundo said.

After Griffin won this year’s All-Star Weekend slam dunk contest by jumping over a Kia Optima, Kia made a commercial using footage from the dunk in slow motion. The deal was supposed to be a one-off, but Kathryn Cima, Kia’s national manager for sponsorships and promotions, indicated the company could use him in the future. “We would certainly welcome the opportunity to work with him again,” she said.

Griffin is represented by New York-based Excel Sports Management. Founder and NBA agent Jeff Schwartz and NBA agent Sam Goldfeder represent him on the court, and Excel vice president of marketing Jaymee Messler represents him for marketing.

While the Clippers’ missing the playoffs has kept Griffin off the court for the postseason, Messler said it has given him more time to do appearances and other things for his sponsors. Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, also noted the Clippers’ secondary standing to the Lakers in Los Angeles as something that could work against Griffin long term but doesn’t seem to have had an immediate effect.

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