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SBJ/March 19-25, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship
NFL looks to make connection with Motorola replacement
Published March 19, 2012, Page 13
Wireless remains one of the most lucrative sponsorship categories, and since Motorola signed its last NFL sponsorship, the NBA has signed a huge deal that does not include on-court branding. Based
|Motorola, whose name has gained millions of dollars in exposure on NFL coaches’ headsets, won’t be back for the coming season.
NFL officials are also hopeful that the dramatic rise of tablet computers like Apple’s iPad will allow for a large deal, which would include sideline rights for tablets. Emarketer estimates there were 33.7 million tablets in the U.S. by the end of 2011, with iPads representing 28 million (83 percent) of that total. By the end of 2012, some estimates suggest there will be an installed U.S. base of 54.8 million tablets.
No one expects Apple to pay for NFL rights, but certainly anyone with a competitive tablet could use the NFL’s reach to lay claim to the No. 2 spot in the market, especially if the deal included coaches toting branded tablets on the sideline (SportsBusiness Journal, Nov. 7-13, 2011) and the use of tablets as team playbooks. However, those moves would require the approval and cooperation of the NFL’s competition committee, which in the past has moved with the speed of analog technology, so we’re doubtful that such a deal will be in place for the coming season.
As far as which handset/tablet brand might pick up those rights?
Various sponsorship experts suggested that Samsung, which has a TOP global Olympic sponsorship and a sports-friendly U.S. CMO in the person of former Pepsi marketer Ralph Santana, might be a good fit, particularly since its Galaxy tablet and phones are leading competitors to Apple’s iPad and iPhone, enough so that there are numerous patent infringement lawsuits.
However, there were some strained relations after the last NFL/Samsung sponsorship (2005-10) for the HDTV category that would need to be mended first.
Other leading Korean handset brands that might covet the “Americanization” that NFL ties would provide include LG and HTC. Another intriguing issue is whether the NFL would accept non-endemic branding on its headsets, similar to when E-Trade replaced Gatorade with branding on college sideline coolers. “Doubtful,” opined one NFL club’s CMO, “but if it’s a big check and long term, never say never.”
WELCOME TO NEW JERSEY: It only takes a bit of Internet trolling to find a depiction of Peyton Manning in every NFL jersey. Normally, we’d rather answer questions than pose rhetorical ones, but bear with us on this.
Reebok’s NFL jersey rights expire at the end of this month. Nike’s five-year deal begins April 1. So if Manning, only the highest-priced free agent in NFL history, signs with a new team before the month is out, which apparel company will fill the demand by manufacturing Manning’s new uniform shirt?
We’ve been getting mixed signals on this from the various parties involved in this murky scenario. The situation is further clouded by the fact that Reebok has few blanks left. “We’ve been in a situation where we’ve been liquidating our NFL supply,” said David Baxter, Adidas vice president of sport performance, adding that, to the best of his knowledge, a jersey from the team Manning will play for next season would be “forward looking” and thus prohibited contractually.
Does that mean Nike would be willing, able or inclined to fill the expected hot market before its rights are in effect, especially considering Manning’s longtime affiliation with Reebok? Or will there just be a void in the market? Stay tuned.
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Terry Lefton can be reached at email@example.com.