EPL club Liverpool has landed the "biggest kit deal in the history" of the league, securing a US$41.3M-a-year contract with Warrior Sports, according to Andrew Kennedy of GOAL.com. The agreement doubles the US$19.8M deal the club currently has with adidas, which "opted not to match the offer." The deal also surpasses the previous British record of US$38.5M annually paid by Nike to Manchester United. Warrior Sports, a subsidiary of Boston-based New Balance, is "prominent in the lacrosse world." The company "will take over production of Liverpool shirts in time for the 2012/2013 season, with the agreement believed to a be a long-term contract" (GOAL.com, 4/22). In London, Ben Smith notes Fenway Sports Group, Liverpool’s owner, has in recent months become "increasingly close" to New Balance Chair Jim Davis. New Balance earlier this month announced a multiyear partnership with the Red Sox. The Liverpool agreement with Warrior "would appear to have solved the short-term cashflow problems caused by failure to qualify" for the UEFA Champions League. Liverpool’s "defection has come as a huge blow" to adidas. According to German market research company PR Marketing, Liverpool is the "fourth-biggest replica kit seller in football." About 900,000 shirts are sold annually; only Real Madrid sells more jerseys for adidas (LONDON TIMES, 4/22).
FRESH START: In London, Tony Evans writes under the header, "Anfield Exults In American Idols After Idle Americans." Liverpool last year was "riven with dissention and debt" under former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett. The "erratic owners, a lame-duck manager, clueless executives and unhappy players gave Anfield an air of decay and chaos." But in the six months John Henry and FSG have had control, the "landscape has changed." The "malign elements behind the scenes have been discarded and those with energy and ability promoted and utilised." The Warrior kit deal "proves FSG can get things done" (LONDON TIMES, 4/22).
Chargers S Eric Weddle filed suit Tuesday in federal court against Bayer AG, Bayer USA and Athlon Sports, "alleging the companies illegally used his image in a national marketing campaign," according to Kevin Acee of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The "multi-million" dollar lawsuit "alleges Bayer used an image of Weddle from when he was at the University of Utah on its Alka-Seltzer antacid boxes." The image "also appeared as part of the promotion of Athlon Sports' college football preview magazine." The suit was "filed after Weddle's representatives pursued to no avail for several months some sort of settlement from Bayer and Athlon" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/22). Weddle's agent, David Canter, in a statement said, "Though this campaign never identified Eric throughout any advertisements, it was clear from the photo in question, that the image used was of Weddle, bearing the number 32 worn during his collegiate playing days at Utah. It is the same jersey number that Eric has worn for his entire NFL playing career." Weddle is "represented by Adam Kenner in the lawsuit" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 4/21). Canter said, "The image was photoshopped to take out all logos and intentionally darkened to make his shield cover his face but it was a photo readily used in all promo material and every time (Utah) discussed Eric. They also didn't get permission from Utah. A staffer pulled it off the Internet" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/21). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the lawsuit is "another example of the ongoing tension between college athletes and NCAA sports programs" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/21).
IN THE DARK: THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION's Brad Wolverton noted College Sport Research Institute conducted a survey in which it "asked 3,000 football and men's basketball players if they realized that, by signing a consent form the NCAA requires them to hand over before suiting up, they were giving the association and its licensees permission to profit from their image or likenesses." Nearly 300 players responded to the survey, and "almost half said they didn't understand what rights they were signing away." Four out of 10 said that there "should be additional information clarifying how the NCAA uses their images." St. Louis Univ. sports business professor Anastasios Kaburakis, the study's lead author, noted that 54% of respondents "thought that by appearing in video games bearing their images or likenesses, they were endorsing those commercial goods." Vermont Law School Sports Law Institute Dir Michael McCann said that the results "could prove valuable for lawyers in Ed O'Bannon's closely watched case against the NCAA" (CHRONICLE.com, 4/20).
SCENEDAILY.com's Bob Pockrass reported FedEx "will sponsor the May 15 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Dover International Speedway and will continue the track’s tradition of making that race a fundraiser for Autism Speaks." Terms of the partnership call for FedEx to donate $100,000 to Autism Speaks if its driver, Denny Hamlin, wins the race, which will be titled the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks. Also, the race's charity package offers "two tickets (regularly priced at $84 each) for $111 to the May 15 event with proceeds going directly to Autism Speaks" (SCENEDAILY.com, 4/21).
EARNING THEIR STRIPES: adidas on Thursday announced partnerships with two more NFL Draft prospects: LB Von Miller (Texas A&M) and WR Randall Cobb (Kentucky). Miller and Cobb are the "latest additions to the growing adidas football roster." Other Draft prospects who have signed with adidas include DB Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), RB DeMarco Murray (Oklahoma), WR Titus Young (Boise State), TE Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame) and WR Jerrel Jernigan (Troy) (DALLASNEWS.com, 4/21).
SHADES OF BLUE: Bloomberg TV's Deirdre Bolton reported Pabst Brewing co-Owners Evan and Daren Metropoulos are planning to "cut endorsement deals with celebrity friends to get the brand a little buzz." Since buying Pabst and all of its brands last year for $250M, the Metropoulos brothers "have done lots of guerilla marketing." With the NFL season on hold, "football players may be free from league rules limiting their alcohol endorsements, and the brothers are talking to some of the league's stars about deals." Daren Metropoulos noted Pabst is talking to Saints RB Reggie Bush, Panthers TE Jeremy Shockey and Ravens LB Ray Lewis, as well as NFL Network's Warren Sapp ("Inside Track," Bloomberg TV, 4/21).
TAKING YOUR VITAMINS: CAMPAIGNLIVE.co.uk's Anne Cassidy reported Vitaminwater is "looking for a digital agency to handle its advertising in Europe." The Coca-Cola-owned brand is "planning a major digital push with a focus on engaging its target market via social media." The "online activity will centre mainly on the UK and Nordic regions" (CAMPAIGNLIVE.co.uk, 4/21).