ESPN reporter Erin Andrews will have to give up her Reebok endorsement as soon as the deal with the shoe company ends, ESPN Exec VP/Production Norby Williamson said. The decision results from ESPN's new endorsement guidelines, which mandate that reporters and hosts can not sign endorsement deals with "apparel, footwear or athletic equipment" companies that ESPN may cover. Williamson said the new guidelines would affect "four or five" endorsement agreements. Williamson: "There are a handful of existing agreements that would be in violation of these guidelines. We will allow those commitments to be honored for the rest of the contract term." The guidelines will not affect Chris Berman's endorsement deal with Applebee's restaurant, Williamson said, because ESPN does not cover Applebee's (John Ourand, THE DAILY). Williamson said that "fewer than 10 of the network's 1,000 on-air personalities would be required to relinquish endorsement deals by the end of this year as a result of the policy revisions" (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/14). Andrews will "have to give up her lucrative new endorsement deal as of Jan. 1, 2012." ESPN VP/PR Josh Krulewitz: "For Erin's Reebok agreement, we plan to allow that commitment to be honored for the rest of the year before that relationship ends. The fact is that the sponsor has made significant commitments to campaigns involving Erin and we feel it's the right thing to do to allow those commitments to be honored" (USATODAY.com, 4/13). ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt has an endorsement deal with Titleist, and in N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes the new policy "would have probably prohibited" the deal from being signed. IMG's Sandy Montag, whose agency reps several ESPN broadcasters including Andrews and Van Pelt, said, "I have no problem with ESPN not allowing reporters and anchors to endorse products indigenous to the sports they cover." Krulewitz said Van Pelt will also be able to continue his association with Titleist for "a logical length of time." Montag said that they "would finish their contracts, which each have a year or less remaining" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/14).
Marketing and Sponsorship
The NBA fined Lakers G Kobe Bryant $100,000 for an anti-gay slur toward a referee Tuesday night, and "any perception that he is homophobic, especially in Los Angeles, would chip away at his newly strengthened cornerstone while adding to the smoldering wreckage of the days when he was scorned for his recklessness off the court and his selfishness on it," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Because Bryant's legacy has "been filled with so many bumps and bruises, that legacy remains as fragile as his knees." His "taut personality will never allow him to spend his post-basketball career like the charismatic and influential" Magic Johnson. But if Bryant "wants to maintain his own brand of magic, he needs to show folks that the screaming fool on Tuesday night was indeed not him." Cyd Zeigler, co-Founder of gay sports website Outsports.com, said that he "heard from many folks Wednesday who were outraged by the Bryant remark and apparent lack of remorse." Zeigler: "Los Angeles is one of the gayest cities in America, and the message I'm getting from many is that they are no longer Kobe Bryant fans" (L.A. TIMES, 4/14).
DAMAGE CONTROL: Bryant yesterday issued a statement apologizing for saying the slur, then appeared on ESPN Radio 710 L.A.'s "The Mason & Ireland Show" to further apologize for the incident. Bryant said, "It's important for me to talk about that issue because it's okay to be who you are. I don't want this issue to be a part of something or to magnify something that shouldn't be." He added he plans to speak to gay and lesbian groups because it is the responsibility of "athletes and as those who are in the spotlight to bring awareness to certain issues." Bryant: "Where this stems from, it stems from a negative light. But it's our responsibility to turn it into a positive and try to raise as much awareness as we possibly can to say that is not okay. ... I will be saying something to them, saying plenty to them, and hopefully we can do some things to try to prohibit violence and prohibit hate crimes and things of that nature because it's extremely important to do that" (ESPN Radio 710 L.A., 4/13). Bryant's initial apology noted his comment to the referee "should not be taken literally." He added, "The words expressed do NOT reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were NOT meant to offend anyone." Bryant later said, "The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say, and are inspired by how I play, or look to me as a role model … they're not to take what was said as something that is a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease" (L.A. TIMES, 4/14).
Tiger Woods is in Asia this week to promote Nike, and he has “enjoyed 'rock star' receptions at golf clinics and meet-and-greets,” according to Yi Hyun-young of REUTERS. Nike Golf President Cindy Davis said the company’s decision to stay with Woods amid his personal scandal "was absolutely right and there was not even a hesitation in being with Tiger." Davis: "He's been a part of what we do and making the very best product and to have an athlete of that calibre to give us feedback and perspective and be part of the team. ... Tiger does that in spades in developing the innovations we bring to the market." Woods has traveled to China and South Korea, where he was “greeted by throngs of fans at a Nike shop opening at Shenzhen's Mission Hills golf complex and cheered at a packed assembly hall where he addressed Beijing sports students with Chinese Olympic track gold medallist Liu Xiang.” Davis: “It has been a mob-scene." Davis said that one of Nike's “aims in bringing Woods to Asia was to inspire the younger generation to take up the sport and failing that, develop an interest in the apparel.” Davis: "(Asia) represents about 40 percent of the global golf market and growing" (REUTERS, 4/14). Davis added Asia is a "priority market for us," and that China and South Korea "represent some of the greatest growth opportunities." Davis: "If you look what has happened with China in particular in the last two years, it's amazing how golf has just multiplied there. We point to two key reasons. One, as the economics are getting stronger, we are seeing a growing middle class, and as the middle class is growing, there is a lot more aspiration to play golf. And then lastly, and really what I think is the most exciting thing that's happened in golf truly in the last decade is the fact that golf is now an Olympic sport" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 4/14).
Sales of Unequal Technologies gear "have settled in at about triple what they were a year ago" since the company signed Eagles QB Michael Vick to an endorsement deal in January, according to the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Lee Hawkins, who details the process of making the deal happen. Vick, "who had been wearing retrofitted Unequal football pads all season," called Unequal CEO Rob Vito in November saying that he "wanted to be Unequal's official spokesman." Vito recalled, "One of our consultants said we would be committing 'business suicide' if we hired Michael Vick. We're a small company. We can't afford that kind of backlash, where a Dick's Sporting Goods or a Modell's says, 'Hey, because you have Michael Vick, we're not going to carry you in our stores.'" Vito conceded that he was "nervous about aligning his fledgling company's brand" with Vick. Vito said Vick "didn't want money," rather he "wanted stock." Vito: "He was going to be a shareholder in this company, and it was a significant amount of stock. So we needed to know, could Michael Vick be a stigma or an asset?" But after visiting Vick at his home, Vito "was sold." Hawkins notes the news of the deal "caused a media explosion." Vito: "Within 24 hours, we had about 10 million hits on the website, and I was on CNN, Bloomberg, Fox, ABC and CBS. We had so many hits, it crashed our site." Vito added, "The sales went up 1,000% when Mike came on board." The deal requires Vick "to wear Unequal's apparel at six public appearances during the two-year contract," and his "first appearance for Unequal will be at the National Athletic Training Association meeting in June" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/14).
IMAGE REHAB: Boston-based Regan Communications Group Chair George Regan said that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger "has done a lot to improve his image over the past 12 months." Regan: "Whoever has been advising him has done a very good job. And I believe that Roethlisberger's been very genuine and has gone through a lot of growing pains. Now he's finally starting to grow up." New Jersey-based Rosica Public Relations President & CEO Chris Rosica: "It's clearly been his actions that have led to the alteration in his image, and that's important." ESPN.com's James Walker wrote, "The general sentiment is that Roethlisberger is doing a good job, but his image remains a work in progress. For athletes in the public eye, a fractured reputation cannot be fully restored in one year. Roethlisberger also cannot afford any additional mishaps" (ESPN.com, 4/13).
Arizona State Univ. and its licensed merchandise retailers are "hoping the school's new look on the sports fields will jump-start flagging sales of its logo products," according to Max Jarman of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. ASU Assistant AD Steve Hank is "optimistic the new image, including edgy black uniforms, will result in merchandise sales and licensing revenue that doubles in the next few years." ASU logo products "currently generate about $1 million per year, and Hank sees that growing to $2 million a year by 2014." But he said that "revenue was not the primary reason for the new image." Hank: "It's more about creating an image and a brand that reflects the image we want to project." Tempe-based Cactus Sports opened an "hour early Wednesday, the first day the new merchandise was available, and people were already lined up." At Sparky's Stadium Shop at Sun Devil Stadium, student employee Stacie Fraser said that products featuring the new look "were selling briskly." Jarman reports in exchange for "helping ASU rebrand itself, Nike has been granted the exclusive rights to use the new logo, lettering and color palette on its apparel for the next year." Other apparel makers such as Under Armour, Champion and New Era "will continue to produce products featuring Sparky and the familiar 'AS' insignia" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/14).
FASHION MODEL: In Oregon, George Schroeder wrote it turns out the Univ. of Oregon is "fashion forward." Both Washington State Univ.'s and ASU's uniform changes "look suspiciously like" Oregon. And at Oklahoma State Univ., which also is planning to reveal new uniforms, a source said, "We're going to be the Oregon of the Midwest." Schroeder noted "all of these schools, and several others making similar changes, wear Nike." ASU officials "project their merchandising revenue to double" (Eugene REGISTER-GUARD, 4/13). Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Matt Fortuna reports the Penn State Univ. football team's "old-school jerseys will sport a retro look this fall, as the Nittany Lions will lose the colored trim on their necks and sleeves." The new jerseys, produced by Nike, "will resemble Penn State's uniforms from the 1970s" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/14).
Knicks F Amar'e Stoudemire’s clothing line with designer Rachel Roy is being released in September, and “sports will play a major role” in the collaboration, according to a cover story by Marc Karimzadeh of WOMEN’S WEAR DAILY. The line, which will launch at select Macy’s stores, macys.com and NBA.com, is “still in the early stages of development.” Roy said, “I am channeling a girl that goes to sporting events. She goes to basketball events or maybe football events. She needs something that is modern, something that represents her in a way that doesn’t look like it just came out of a sporting goods shop.” Karimzadeh reports some initial design concepts include images that “have a vintage-looking ‘1’ icon, in reference to Stoudemire’s jersey number, and some are takes on NBA logos, including vintage ones.” Roy also “added stars, taking the idea from the Star of David tattoo on Stoudemire’s hand.” Roy: “I wanted to incorporate things that were authentic to him.” Prices will range from $45-250, but the clothing company “declined to disclose projections for the line.” Karimzadeh notes Stoudemire and Roy have “figured out a system that appears to work for both.” After “initial conversations during which they bounced concepts off each other, Roy started sketching, and Stoudemire has been picking his favorites to narrow down the final lineup.” Stoudemire’s “fashion profile is clearly on the rise -- especially since he joined the Knicks.” In addition to “sitting in the front row at Tommy Hilfiger the last two seasons, Stoudemire was invited by Anna Wintour to the Fashion’s Night Out runway show in September, and he just appeared in Vogue’s April issue.” Stoudemire over the past few months has “repeatedly spoken of his desire to start his own line,” and he and Roy are “likely to help each other out beyond the one-season collaboration” (WOMEN’S WEAR DAILY, 4/13 issue).
HIGH SOCIETY: The N.Y. POST’s Page Six reports Stoudemire’s collaboration with Roy has landed him a “seat at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala on May 2” (N.Y. POST, 4/14). Stoudemire appeared on today episode of "Live with Regis & Kelly," where co-host Kelly Ripa mentioned his invite to the Met Gala and noted that is the "biggest event in the city." Co-host Regis Philbin noted Stoudemire has "become a fashionista." Philbin: "This guy is a real great businessman too. He's into designing clothes" ("Live with Regis & Kelly," 4/14).
New Balance yesterday announced the debut of a Boston Marathon-specific marketing campaign ahead of Monday's race. The "Let's Make Excellent Happen" campaign spotlights the new New Balance 890 running shoe, which launched in February, and showcases several Boston landmarks, including Fenway Park and the Charles River. Out-of-home activation includes signage on subway trolleys and bus displays, and the Boston-based brand also will sponsor "Runner's World" and "Running Times" magazines' online Boston Marathon channels. The campaign was developed by Arnold Worldwide, Boston (THE DAILY). New Balance is "not the only sneaker company seeking to get a boost from the marathon," since adidas is the official footwear and apparel supplier and Puma, Asics, Mizuno, Ecco and Converse "advertise in the official program" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 4/13).
LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH & FAMOUS: In London, Kevin Eason reports the McLaren F1 team is "ready to make" a US$163M investment in drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. McLaren execs are "prepared to sign both drivers to long-term deals to make sure that they stay together until at least 2017." Eason notes Hamilton and Button are a "marketing man's dream team, crucial to McLaren, with more than 30 sponsors paying out on deals running into tens of millions of pounds, who love the handsome, articulate and glamorous drivers" (LONDON TIMES, 4/14).
STAYING HYDRATED: The Celtics and Branded Bottle yesterday announced the creation of the first branded water for the team, "It's All About 18," as part of a sponsorship arrangement that will make Branded Bottle spring water the official water product of the Celtics. The water's slogan refers to the Celtics' push for an 18th NBA Championship with the playoffs set to begin this weekend. A portion of the proceeds from the branded water will benefit the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation (Celtics).