New England Sports Ventures has changed its corporate name to Fenway Sports Group, a move driven to reflect better the more global nature of the business, particularly following last year's acquisition of EPL club Liverpool FC. The previous Fenway Sports Group, the sports marketing and sales agency owned by the prior NESV, will in turn change its name to Fenway Sports Management. The rebrandings did not create any staffing or title changes, and the entity will continue to be led by Principal Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner. All told, Fenway Sports Group owns the Red Sox and Fenway Park, Liverpool FC and its home Anfield Stadium, 80% of the New England Sports Network, half of Roush Fenway Racing, and Fenway Sports Management. Boston-based Conover Tuttle Pace, the Red Sox' external agency of record, aided the new FSG creating new corporate logos and the overall rebranding. A new corporate website launched earlier today.
Marketing and Sponsorship
The NFLPA’s marketing and licensing arm yesterday issued a strongly worded statement saying that it does have the right to use group player licensing rights in deals with NFL and non-NFL sponsors and disputing public comments made by an NFL exec questioning whether the association’s subsidiary has those rights. “Once NFL Owners decided to lock the players out, they also locked out their fans and are now locking out sponsors,” said NFL Players President Keith Gordon in a statement. Gordon said, “Statements made by the NFL regarding the NFLPA's licensing and marketing business, particularly those of its senior business counsel Gary Gertzog, are factually incorrect.” Gertzog had questioned NFL Players' rights to sign group player licensing deals now that the NFLPA has decertified as a union and is operating as a trade association. But Gordon explained yesterday, “To clarify, our rights emanate from a stand-alone contract, called a Group Licensing Assignment (‘GLA’). Each year, the NFLPA and NFL Players Inc. (the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA) enters these contracts with current and future NFL players. The GLA contract is not premised on the existence of any Collective Bargaining Agreement (‘CBA’) or the NFLPA remaining a labor union. These rights are exclusive and can only be obtained through NFL Players Inc.” Gordon said in the statement that NFL sponsors are currently in an “unfortunate” position, but that it is a situation that was created by the league, not NFL Players Inc. “Perhaps more disappointing is the lack of transparency to their own sponsors who, while still paying for player rights in their sponsorships, will no longer receive them,” Gordon said. “Sponsors should be asking themselves why they would pay the NFL for something they cannot contractually deliver” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
SACKED FOR A LOSS? In N.Y., Garett Sloane reports EA Sports "could suffer a $165 million hit if the NFL lockout leads to a canceled season." EA is "going full speed ahead with 'Madden NFL 12' production, yesterday calling for fans to vote on which currently locked-out player to put on the cover." But Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter said that "if players and team owners don't strike a deal, Madden sales could drop by as much" as 50%. Pachter said, "I would guess that half the people who play Madden play because they genuinely like the game and half buy it because it's a gift, and it's the gifts that are at risk if the season is cancelled and football is not foremost" in peoples' minds (N.Y. POST, 3/22). CNET.com's Don Reisinger noted "Madden NFL 12" is "scheduled to launch this August," and the labor dispute "won't stop it." EA Sports Senior PR Manager Rob Semsey yesterday said, "Fans of Madden NFL will not have their season interrupted, regardless of when the labor issues are resolved. We plan to release Madden NFL 12 in August as always" (CNET.com, 3/21).
The Basketball HOF is "close to putting a title sponsorship package on the market," according to Terry Lefton in this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Sources indicated that the HOF has been "quietly conducting a search for a sales agency for months." That search has been "winnowed to two and is expected to be completed within a few weeks." There is "no word on whether the corporate moniker would supplant or be used in conjunction with the current name of the 52-year-old institution, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame." Lefton notes a title sponsorship would make it the "first sports hall of fame to sell title rights." HOF officials are "hoping for at least $1 million a year" from a title partner, though the package price "would fall to the agency selected" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/21 issue).
Twins 1B Justin Morneau last season said that he “almost certainly would wear a batting helmet designed to withstand significantly greater impact than the helmet most players wear” after he suffered a season-ending concussion, according to Kelsie Smith of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Rawlings is the official helmet provider for MLB, and Morneau this spring has been wearing the Rawlings S100 helmet, named because it “can withstand an impact of up to 100 mph.” The Rawlings Coolflo helmet the “vast majority of big-leaguers wear protects up to around 70 miles an hour, a speed surpassed by virtually every pitch thrown in the majors.” Morneau said, “If you walked up to someone who doesn't know that, I think they'd be shocked to find out that their helmet is rated for a Little League pitch compared to a big-league fastball. I'm sure Major League Baseball and the union won't be happy with me saying that, but I think they should just change it so everybody can wear it. Number one, it wouldn't look out of place, and number two, everyone would be safer." MLB Senior VP & General Labor Counsel Dan Halem said that the league is “trying.” MLB last year “mandated the S100 helmet across the minor leagues first for safety and, second, in hopes that by wearing the helmet at a younger age, players will grow accustomed to them and continue wearing them once they make it to the big leagues.” Halem: "We want players to wear the safest equipment possible. It's like anything, they just have to get used to it.” The MLBPA “must agree to a change of equipment,” and Halem said that the two sides “certainly will discuss that” as baseball's CBA talks advance. But Smith noted “few players have chosen to wear it on a daily basis” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/21).
Tony Kanaan will drive for the KV Racing Technology team in the '11 Izod IndyCar Series, with Geico to serve as the primary sponsor. He joins fellow KV drivers Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso on the three-car team (KV Racing Technology). Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reports Paul Tracy has secured sponsorship from Wix Filters to drive the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold car in the Indianapolis 500. Tracy will not compete in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg Sunday, but he "hopes to be one of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's regular drivers soon" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/22). Sources indicated that Dreyer & Reinbold is likely to "put Tracy in one of their Honda Dallaras at both the Honda Indy Toronto and the Edmonton Indy in July" (TORONTO SUN, 3/22).
TAX WRITE-OFF: Golfer Retief Goosen on Saturday discussed his dispute with the IRS, which "centers on how Goosen’s licensing and endorsement income from the tax years 2002 and ‘03 is classified for tax purposes." Goosen said, "I know I’ve paid my taxes. I don’t owe the government anything." He contends that "his largest endorser, TaylorMade, is a worldwide company that uses his [likeness] in promotions and advertising more overseas than in the U.S." Goosen: "I’m a worldwide player, and they want to tax me for my time and appearances outside the U.S." A similar tax dispute in the U.K. "was dropped" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/21).
ROUNDUP: Seiko Corp. of America yesterday announced that it has signed MLS Galaxy F Landon Donovan as the watchmaker's new endorser. Donovan will promote the Sportura Collection (Seiko)....Bulls G Derrick Rose has agreed to be AT&T's spokesperson for its "Texting and Driving -- It Can Wait" campaign (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/22).