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Volume 24 No. 156

Marketing and Sponsorship

The WTA today unveiled a new ad campaign with the tagline "Strong is Beautiful," featuring 38 current and up-and-coming stars. The campaign includes TV, print and digital ads, along with social media efforts, and will appear in 80 markets over the next two years (WTA). WTA CEO Stacey Allaster said that the campaign is "aimed to convert 'peripheral fans' who watch only a couple of major tournaments into diehards who follow the entire women’s tennis tour." In N.Y., Andrew Adam Newman reports one of the new spots opens with a "slow-motion film of top players hitting ground strokes while wearing billowy dresses and scarves." A voiceover says, "What are little girls made of? They’re made of sugar and spice." Then Caroline Wozniacki, wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps, hits an overhead smash, and adds, "And sweat. And fury. And grit. And strength. That’s what little girls are made of.” The "film, and photographs for print ads, are by the filmmaker and photographer Dewey Nicks." Other "slow-motion spots focus on individual players," like Ana Ivanovic, who in a 30-second ad "hits a single forehand while an off-screen fan blows back her long hair and a shawl." She says in Serbian with English subtitles, "During the war in Serbia, they bombed us all day and all night. But if I got up early enough, I could practice before the planes came.” In another spot, Chinese tennis player Na Li says, "China is a country of 1.3 billion people. Yet we’ve never had a No. 1 player or Grand Slam champion. No pressure.” Goodby, Silverstein & Partners' Stefan Copiz, the Creative Dir for the campaign, said, "The duality we picked up on in women’s tennis is on the one hand they are tremendous athletes who have tremendous strength and power. But on the other hand they do it with such grace -- the grace of ballerinas -- and such beauty.” Allaster "declined to reveal how much the new campaign cost to produce." The WTA "will make the campaign available to individual tournament organizers in 33 countries, who then will decide whether to pay to place the ads" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/12).

The Cowboys have launched a new company called Silver Star Merchandising that has signed a 10-year deal with the Univ. of Southern California for the exclusive rights to manufacture, license and distribute its sports apparel on campus and at USC athletic venues. Silver Star, an offshoot of Cowboys Merchandising Ltd., will be run separately by the Jones family, the owners of the Cowboys. Jerry Jones Jr. is Silver Star’s president. Cowboys Merchandise Ltd. COO Bill Priakos holds that same title with Silver Star. The deal with USC consolidates all licensing deals for its apparel under one agreement with Silver Star with the exception of uniforms and apparel worn by USC athletes and coaches on the field of play. Nike continues to hold those rights. Silver Star’s strategy is to develop a private label brand of Southern Cal jerseys, T-shirts and hats with the tags on those items displaying only the Trojan athletics logos, Jones said. Under the terms of the agreement, Silver Star has flexibility to sign deals with other manufacturers to produce items to take advantage of market trends, he said. Those lines would also be branded exclusively with the Trojans marks. Silver Star does not get the rights to sell Nike authentics. The deal is more profitable for USC because Silver Star pays the school a greater amount of royalties compared with Southern Cal’s past licensing agreements, Jones said. He declined to provide specific financial terms. Silver Star is pursuing other college licensing and distribution deals and is one of three companies competing for a similar agreement with Ohio State Univ., according to published reports. The company has also had discussions with the Univ. of Texas but no deal has been signed, Jones said.

PICK THEIR SPOT: Silver Star was formed after Cowboys Merchandising officials began talking with Longhorns athletic officials about the college licensing and distribution business prior to the North Carolina-Texas men’s basketball game in December '09 at Cowboys Stadium. The company’s approach is to pursue new deals with a select number of major college programs that are consistently among the top sellers in sports merchandise. “We would never want to do hundreds of schools,” Jones said. “To do this the right way, we need to treat it as a brand and not just a piece of apparel, and have the university involved in the process so they have complete ownership and are not just contracting out somebody.”

In N.Y., Filip Bondy wrote New Era's new TV ad, in which a Yankee fan (played by Alec Baldwin) "travels to Boston to unapologetically punch" a Red Sox fan (John Krasinksi), goes "a bit too far." The New Era campaign "leading up to this particular ad, with these same two actors, was generally well-written and amusing." But in the "wake of the beating in Los Angeles of Giant fan Bryan Stow, this newer spot seems ill-timed and over the top" (, 5/11).

SPEAK SOFTLY?'s Howard Bryant writes the issue between Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall and former sponsor Champion is "as much about control as free speech." Mendenhall "sold his free speech rights when he signed on to the sponsorship deal," and as a result "dumping him is well within Champion's right as a company." Mendenhall's "great error was not in engaging in a political discussion but in taking Champion's money in the first place." There are only a "few athletes who can skillfully navigate the controversial." Bryant: "The headlines say Mendenhall was fired by Champion. But in a real sense, he was liberated. He regained a commodity -- his right to speak his mind -- that should never be for sale" (, 5/12).

ON THE CUTTING EDGE: Nike designer Michael Shea, who has spent the last two years in the company's "Innovation Kitchen," spoke yesterday about his work at a seminar titled, "Innovation and the Creative Process." Shea said that Nike designers who "come up with the ideas for differently designed footwear, for gadgets and for apparel try to ignore their company's status as the largest sporting goods company in the world." He noted that the gift Nike Chair Phil Knight recently gave to Oprah Winfrey, a pair of "LunarGlide+ 2 iD" shoes, "was crafted and devised in the Innovation Kitchen" (, 5/11).

STEPPING INTO THE RING: DeWalt has announced the launch of its '11 Knockout Challenge to help promote its sponsorship of the June 18 Saul Alvarez-Ryan Rhodes bout in Mexico. The Knockout Challenge includes a series of competitions at select The Home Depot stores nationwide from May 5-June 17 (THE DAILY).

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