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Volume 24 No. 112

Marketing and Sponsorship

The NFL disclosed that it is "advising sponsors to be wary about signing group licensing deals with the players' newly established trade association, strongly suggesting that the group might not have the legal right to market the players," according to Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The decertified NFLPA has said that it "continues to represent players for group licensing, but the league is questioning that assertion." NFL Senior VP/Business Affairs & General Counsel Gary Gertzog said, "We don't understand the source of their rights. In the (now expired) CBA, it states group licensing rights are designed to support the objective of the union. If the union no longer exists, there is certainly a question whether those rights are valid, and people who do business (with the new players association) should be looking into those questions." Gertzog added, "We have communicated to our sponsors who were relying on these rights (that) if they are still interested in group players they will have to find out how to access those benefits, whether through some other entity the former union has or going directly to the agents or players." Kaplan notes his "point is that group licensing is tied directly to the union's bylaws, which no longer exist." Octagon Exec VP Woody Thompson, whose agency works with NFL team sponsors Sprint and MasterCard, said, "The waters are very murky. There are statements being made by a number of parties about what will and will not fly for (NFL) sponsors and non-sponsors. I think it's a little bit of a wild West show right now." He added, "The PA is telling us that their marketing agreements are unaffected ... but if the PA doesn't exist, I don't know how they can have any rights over what we do with individual players" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/21 issue).

NFLPA TALKING WITH SPONSORS: The NFLPA's marketing and licensing arm is currently in discussions with some NFL sponsors as well as a number of non-NFL sponsors in many categories which are now open to deals with the players about new sponsorship deals with the decertified union, which is now operating as a trade association. "We have had several discussions with league sponsors and for contingency sponsorship agreements that would essentially continue their ability to utilize group player licensing rights, but the majority of sponsorship categories remain open," said Keith Gordon, President of NFL Players, the NFLPA's marketing and licensing arm. "And NFL Players has engaged in discussion with a variety of potential sponsors across those categories," he said. The categories which are open for new, non-NFL sponsors include QSR, automotive, beer, travel, and various technology products, he said. Meanwhile, the expiration of the commercial agreement will not affect EA Sports' "Madden" videogame franchise, as the NFLPA has a separate licensing agreement with EA Sports, Gordon said. "Madden will be released this year," Gordon said. "What you may see is some delayed rosters” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

PARTNERS WARY OF LABOR UNCERTAINTY: Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy revealed yesterday that "some corporate sponsors are expressing concern about renewing their deals with the uncertainty of the 2011 regular season." Murphy: "For a lot of sponsorships, there is a lead time. They're worried (whether) this will be resolved in time for (them) to be able to start programs in time for the season." He also suggested that "some teams are having trouble getting commitments for premium seating in their stadiums, although the Packers are not likely to be one of those" (, 3/20). Murphy added, "Sponsorships require lead time, and a lot of the sponsors you're talking to are worried about this being resolved in time to do something (for the 2011 season)" (N.Y. POST, 3/21). Bank of America Senior VP/Global Sponsorship Charles Greenstein said that BofA has "been in close contact with the teams it sponsors" about the lockout. Industry sources said that BofA and other sponsors are "holding off, for now, on planning specific in-season promotions and advertising" (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/18 issue). Meanwhile, Panthers President Danny Morrison said that team officials have "reached out to their corporate partners to address alternatives should the lockout drag into the summer and threaten the league's training camp or regular season." Morrison: "We're just having continuing dialogue. And that way, we're able to shift gears if needed." He noted that the Panthers "have sponsorship deals connected to the draft that will not be affected" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/21).

EA Sports for the second straight year will use a fan vote to select the cover athlete for the upcoming version of "Madden NFL." This year's process will be greatly expanded from '10, with the voting being featured on ESPN's "SportsNation" and including one candidate from each NFL team. Beginning today and lasting through April 27, fans will be able to vote for their "Madden" cover choice at in a seeded bracket-style format. The full bracket will be unveiled this afternoon on "SportsNation," but candidates include Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, Bears DE Julius Peppers, Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Saints QB Drew Brees and Eagles QB Michael Vick. For Vick, the cover athlete of "Madden NFL 04" while with the Falcons, the entry further signifies an image rehabilitation since his release from prison and return to the league. The campaign continues an increased interest in fan voting initiated last year with "Madden NFL 11," resulting in Brees winning the cover nod over Colts WR Reggie Wayne and Vikings DE Jared Allen, and extending recently to "NCAA Football 12" with a quartet of choices. EA Sports is also leveraging an existing, multi-faceted partnership with ESPN in the latest vote effort. EA Sports has repeatedly said it will release "Madden NFL 12" in August, as originally scheduled, regardless of the status of the NFL's ongoing labor dispute. If Brees were to win the vote, he would be the first player to appear a second time on the cover. John Madden himself was on the game cover from '90-'00 until EA Sports began using players, starting with former Titans RB Eddie George.

Bears DE Julius Peppers Jets QB Mark Sanchez
Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap Lions DT Ndamukong Suh
Bills WR Steve Johnson Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Broncos QB Tim Tebow Panthers OT Jordan Gross
Browns RB Peyton Hillis Patriots RB Danny Woodhead
Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman Raiders RB Darren McFadden
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald Rams QB Sam Bradford
Chargers QB Philip Rivers Ravens RB Ray Rice
Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles Redskins DE Brian Orakpo
Colts DE Dwight Freeney Saints QB Drew Brees
Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware Steelers WR Hines Ward
Dolphins OT Jake Long Texans WR Andre Johnson
Eagles QB Michael Vick Titans RB Chris Johnson
Falcons QB Matt Ryan Vikings RB Adrian Peterson
Giants WR Hakeem Nicks 49ers LB Patrick Willis
Jaguars RB Maurice Jones-Drew The Seahawks' 12th Man


Announcer Gus Johnson "plans to launch a Web site some time before the NCAA men's basketball tournament ends" where fans can buy New Era-licensed hats and T-shirts bearing his "Rise And Fire" catchphrase, according to Darren Rovell of Johnson, who is calling NCAA tournament games for CBS and Turner, trademarked the saying last fall. Christian Gesue, Johnson's marketing agent, said, "The reason to trademark the phrase was to create a brand and a movement out of his signature call that can be instantly recognizable by his fans to inspire passion." Gesue added that in addition to the apparel line, there "will be other initiatives such as graphic design exhibits, picture galleries and books with 'Rise and Fire Moments.'" Rovell noted Johnson in the past year "has begun to capitalize off his fame." Johnson is the voice of a Buffalo Wild Wings ad and "is in his second year of voicing lines" for EA Sports' "Madden NFL" franchise. Fans also can "buy some of his favorite lines on iTunes for $9.99" (, 3/18). 

Tennis player Maria Sharapova yesterday “launched the Sony Ericsson Xperia Hot Shots -- a campaign that connects new media, social networking and reality TV to the world of tennis,” according to Ellen Horrow of USA TODAY. The concept of the campaign is that “six rising, young women's tennis players from six countries shine a spotlight on themselves and build their fan base and profiles through Facebook and YouTube.” The winner “receives a support package from longtime women's tennis sponsor Sony Ericsson.” Fans will have the opportunity to “vote for the winner, which will be announced during the U.S. Open in New York.” Sony Ericsson VP & Head of Global Marketing Partnerships Stephan Croix “conceived a campaign that would capitalize on the global reach and popularity of women's' tennis by utilizing the technology of the telecommunications company to help create new stars.” Sharapova was “intrigued with the concept and wanted to get personally involved, though mostly in a behind-the-scenes capacity.” The six players -- Dominika Cibulkova, Sorana Cirstea, Alize Cornet, Sabine Lisicki, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Heather Watson -- will be “filming their own lives, giving viewers a backstage pass to their lives on the tennis court and away from it, while showcasing their personalities and interests.” Segments will be broadcast weekly on YouTube, and the players “will supplement their videos with interaction on their Facebook and Twitter pages” (, 3/20).

Trevor Bayne’s win in the Daytona 500 “guaranteed him eligibility" for a chance to win the $1M top prize in this season’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, but his Wood Brothers team “currently doesn’t have funding to field the No. 21 in the race,” according to Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Bayne will run every Cup race through the April 17 race at Talladega, but the team “will not stretch to fund a non-points race.” Team co-Owner Eddie Wood, “We’re looking for more money and we are already planning to run the 600 at Charlotte. So far we haven’t come across anything that really works.” He added, “If you had money to go to the all-star race or the money to go to a points race, you’d probably pick the points race right now” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/19).’s Bob Pockrass noted the Wood Brothers have “sponsorship for half the season for Ford through Motorcraft, and Quick Lane Tire & Auto.” Wood: “You want to sell the one you’re going to the soonest, that’s the one that you focus on first. That would be the All-Star (after) Richmond and Dover. Those would be the three that you would like to get in place. Hopefully something will come along” (, 3/20). Still, Wood said, “Honestly, I think we are on road upwards. We’re lined up with Roush Fenway Racing with our cars and engineering.” Wood said the team is “not going to run all the races; we’re still running a limited schedule,” but if the “money came along, we could run more races, whether it was one more or 18” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 3/20).'s weekly roundtable discussion this week focused partially on Tiger Woods’ future as an endorser after he made the media rounds to support the release of EA Sports' "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12" video game.’s Mike Walker wrote, "Post-scandal, he seems determined not to show any personality at all. He doesn't even appear on the cover of his own video game. The question: Is Tiger's career as a corporate pitchman over?” SI's Michael Bamberger wrote Woods “just has to keep quiet, stay out of the tabs and win several majors. People will be beating his door down again, just like the old days.” SI's Jim Gorant wrote if Woods ”wins the deals will come.”'s Jeff Ritter added, “I agree. Just one major victory could be enough for him to write the comeback story, and for the endorsements to pour in again” (, 3/20). GOLF WORLD's Sam Weinman writes, "As a public figure who is still looking to rewrite his own narrative, Woods may want to reconsider his habit of only putting himself out there when it appears he's contractually obligated to do so" (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 3/21 issue).

DUSTIN THE DESTROYA: In Boston, Greg Turner noted New Balance “unveiled a T-shirt collection designed” for Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia with proceeds helping his charity of choice. The shirts “include a green tee with his initials in camouflage, a blue tee showing Pedroia swinging a bat, a black shirt emblazoned with his ‘Laser Show’ catchphrase and a red one with a big spark plug, a reference to his playing style.” New Balance is selling the shirts for $25 for adults and $20 for kids, and 5% of proceeds “will go to the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program, which helps soldiers returning from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars” (BOSTON HERALD, 3/19).

I LOVE THE SIXTIES: The Cowboys Friday announced the release of Nineteen60, the team's new apparel line for men and women. The line, whose name is a play on the team's inaugural season in the NFL, will debut at the Dallas Apparel Market on March 24-27. Nineteen60 is Dallas Cowboys Merchandising's first foray into the boutique and specialty market with the apparel available in stores in September. The Cowboys said that DCM is the only major sporting brand to design, manufacture and distribute its own apparel (Cowboys).

SUPER BIKE: Bridgestone and Dorna Sports have signed a new three-year deal that will see the Japanese manufacturer continue as the official tire supplier to the MotoGP World Championship from ‘12 to '14 (MotoGP).