MillerCoors filed a lawsuit against the Patriots Monday, claiming that the team "reneged on an exclusive and more lucrative deal and chose to award that deal to its top competitor, Anheuser-Busch InBev, instead," according to Darren Rovell of CNBC.com. MillerCoors has "been a sponsor of the Patriots for nearly 10 years" and said that it "negotiated an exclusive beer deal with the team that would begin at the end of this season and run through 2019." But the company indicated that "after the deal was signed and even commemorated with a dinner by the marketing agent working on behalf of MillerCoors and the Patriots sales team" the Patriots "decided it was not a valid contract and chose to do the deal, for the same category and time frame of seven years, with Anheuser-Busch InBev." The suit "asks for the exclusive agreement to be deemed valid and enforceable and that the brewer be awarded additional damages to compensate them for costs and good will." The Patriots currently "have deals, through this season with MillerCoors, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Boston Beer, parent company of Sam Adams" (CNBC.com, 9/26). MillerCoors spokesperson Pete Marino said, “We negotiated in good faith with the New England Patriots for several months, at their invitation, to become their exclusive and official beer partner after several years of a shared deal. Regrettably the team has now reneged on the deal that was reached, and we are left with no choice but to take legal action and ask the courts to uphold the integrity of our binding legal agreement.” Patriots attorney Dan Goldberg said via e-mail, "I have not seen any complaint or official filing yet, so I wouldn't be comfortable offering my comment." MillerCoors' current sponsorship deal with the Patriots expires in February (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 9/27).
Marketing and Sponsorship
The U.K.'s Football League is "searching for a new sponsor for the League Cup after the owners of current title sponsor Carling failed to match the League's valuation of the knockout competition," according to Paul Kelso of the London TELEGRAPH. The Football League board "rejected Carling's final offer at the conclusion of an exclusive negotiation period last week, preferring to test the value of the competition in the open market." Carling's current deal is worth US$7.8M a year, but the company was "unwilling to match that valuation in discussions over a new deal." Molson Coors has sponsored the cup "since 1998, first as the Worthington Cup and then for the last eight years" as the Carling Cup. The league "will be hopeful that the availability of one of the English game's topline properties will attract potential successors from multiple sectors, but the negotiations will inevitably be a test of football's appeal in the depressed economic climate." The Football League is expected to draw "interest from the telecoms and betting sector" as it "remains the only pure title sponsorship available in English domestic football" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/28). In London, Ashling O'Connor notes marketing experts "regard a new deal as a chance to gauge the strength, or weakness, of a sponsorship market flooded with contracts around the 2012 Olympics and the 2015 rugby World Cup" (LONDON TIMES, 9/28).
Detroit-area retailers said that interest in Tigers merchandise has "picked up after the team clinched its first division title in 24 years,” according to Jaclyn Trop of the DETROIT NEWS. Retailers said that “merchandise has been moving faster" since the Tigers beat the A’s Sept. 16 to win the AL Central and advance to the postseason for the first time since '06. Comerica Park Retail Director Janine Kurpiel said that the store is "adding more T-shirts bearing the names of players who weren’t as popular in the regular season," including Ps Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister and SS Jhonny Peralta. Grand Rapids-based Meijer Inc., which has “superstores throughout Michigan, also reports an uptick in sales.” The difficulty now for retailers “is to gauge how much merchandise to order, especially since two full series remain before the World Series” (DETROIT NEWS, 9/28). In Michigan, Shandra Martinez noted sales at Grand Rapids-based retailer MC Sports “are brisk, with about 40 percent of the stock sold” in locations throughout the state and in Toledo. Grand Rapids-based Legends Sports & Games store owner Lou Brown said that his location “received a shipment of about six dozen division championship T-shirts last week and expects to sell out early this week.” Meijer, “which has a marketing partnership with the Tigers, had division champ clothing in its stores since" Sept. 17, the morning after the team won the championship (GRAND RAPIDS PRESS, 9/27).
MILWAUKEE'S BEST: In Milwaukee, Stacy Vogel Davis wrote there was a “rush for Milwaukee Brewers playoff merchandise Saturday morning after the Brewers clinched their first division championship since 1982.” Shoppers “crowded around racks prominently displayed around the entrances of stores," and all locations were “selling T-shirts similar to the ones the players wore in the clubhouse Friday night and shirts with the team roster." Some stores were "selling playoff hats” (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/24).
Panthers QB Cam Newton “could soon rival, or even eclipse, the late Dale Earnhardt as Charlotte’s most enduring sports icon,” according to Erik Spanberg of the CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Newton has "electrified the city and the Panthers” with his combination of a “winning smile and what national experts are now billing as unlimited potential on the field.” GMR Marketing Exec VP Mike Boykin said, “He’s going to be a natural pitchman. Have you seen a smile like his since Magic Johnson?” Already, Newton “has eclipsed the celebrity of any player in the Panthers’ 16-year history.” Panthers PR Dir Charlie Dayton said that following the Sept. 18 opener against the Packers, “the supply of Newton jerseys for sale is limited, with more on back order.” Dayton: “They’re selling at a very brisk pace. He’s created the most demand we’ve had in a long time.” Newton already has deals with Under Armour and GMC Trucks, and UA Senior VP/Sports Marketing Matt Mirchin said, “One thing we thought Cam could do is transcend football. We signed him with the thought process that he has the potential to be a Pro Bowl quarterback and win Super Bowls. Nothing in the last two weeks has changed that.” GMC has “yet to unveil its plans for Newton.” Spanberg reports before being drafted, Newton and agency IMG "decided on a gradual process for endorsements.” The strategy is “to find blue-chip companies without creating too many demands detracting from his time learning the pro game.” IMG agent Carlos Fleming, who handles Newton’s marketing portfolio, said that “while Newton will be selective … the discussions with companies are constant” (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/23 issue).
Under Armour is “readying its first-ever marketing campaign just for women,” and the company also is “looking to broaden its demographic reach -- launching the Under Armour Challenge this week, a gauntlet-style competition" on college campuses, according to Sarah Mahoney of MEDIA POST. The Under Armour Challenge event will run at Auburn, Arizona State and Penn State, and ties in with MTV's "Real World/Road Rules Challenge." UA Senior Dir of Women’s Marketing Adrienne Lofton-Shaw said the company “launched a college program with brand ambassadors just for female college students, using online engagement, on-campus fitness-oriented events with celebrity guests, fitness center takeovers, and pop-up shops.” She said it is “a first for us in the women's brand, and a first step toward consumer brand ambassadors, not just professional athletes.” Lofton-Shaw said UA has “covered the high school athlete and the young working woman,” but the company on campus “can't always be seen -- especially when a college has a relationship with another brand.” Lofton-Shaw: “Our women's program, as a whole, continues to grow at a pace nobody expected -- not just apparel, but footwear and accessories, too. Next year, we'll kick off a marketing campaign that will be larger than any campaign you've seen from Under Armour.” She added, “Our marketing will always be athletic, but this new campaign will have a little wider lens. … This new effort will [be] a little more general, and appeal to women who work out with passion and drive. We want women around the world to know Under Armour is here for them” (MEDIAPOST.com, 9/26).
SPARTAN STRONG: Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro and UA announced on Monday the company has become the official outfitter of UNCG athletics beginning this year. The multiyear agreement gives UA the right to provide on-field and training gear to each of the school’s 17 varsity teams. The agreement includes marketing entitlements as well as marketing campaigns through print and on-field presence at the university (UNCG).
Nike is “setting up a venture-capital offshoot called the Sustainable Business & Innovation Lab to back startups focused on alternative energies and more efficient approaches to manufacturing,” according to Kharif & Townsend of BLOOMBERG. Nike’s website notes that the lab will “seek out companies that promote healthy lifestyles.” The company is “counting on innovation to help it cope with the economic slump and supply constraints.” Nike declined to say how much money it will devote to the project. Nike Dir of Global Corporate Communications Mary Remuzzi said that the effort is “in its early stages and hasn’t made investments, which would need to be approved by management.” Remuzzi in an e-mail noted, “Leveraging innovation in sustainability can be a vehicle for growth.” Harvard Business School professor Shikhar Ghosh said that investors in 30-40% of cases “lose most or all the money they put into startups.” Investors 70-80% of the time “don’t get their projected rate of return.” The lab “will primarily make equity investments in young companies focused on alternative energies.” Nike’s website states that it will also “finance partnerships with government and nongovernment organizations.” Kharif & Townsend note Nike "may be able to make its products more cheaply,” and it also “helps the company appeal to environmentally minded customers.” Nike has “tapped venture-capital and private-equity managers to run the new operation, including Avi Sahi, who was hired last December after working at the buyout firm Perseus LLC.” John Hull, a “long-time venture capitalist, also is working as a partner.” Hull previously served as “managing director at Marquam Hill Capital LLC and Intel Corp.’s venture arm.” Nike’s website noted the company is “considering adding more staff to the effort” (BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK, 9/28).
In N.Y., Rob Hughes writes under the header “Barcelona Changes Jerseys And Its Values.” The Spanish soccer team has put the Qatar Foundation logo on the front of its jerseys, while UNICEF has been “relegated to the back.” Barcelona will “reap $232 million over five years to carry the Qatar Foundation name on its shirt front and in its stadium.” But the Qatar deal has “caused division and acrimony in the club.” Former FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta, who initiated the UNICEF deal, said, “Our team looks like the Qatar national team now. They’ve sold the shirt for four cents.” Current club President Sandro Rosell “blames Laporta for debts that, he said, threatened the team as he took over.” Hughes notes Rosell’s links to Qatar “go back years, to his work helping to establish a soccer academy in Doha for promising players from around the world.” Rosell last week said, “It’s a country that has asked us to give them a helping hand to open themselves to the world in return for money” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/28).
HOWDY, PARTNER: JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Brad Daugherty yesterday said that the company is “looking at potential alliances with Richard Childress Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing for the 2012 Sprint Cup season.” Daugherty said that the “goal for the operation is to run the team from its own shop in Harrisburg, N.C.” For the past three seasons, the team “has been working from MWR's shop in Cornelius, N.C.” (ESPN.com, 9/27).
PON DE REPLAY: MARKETING magazine’s Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith reported Gatorade is planning to bring its “Replay” campaign to the U.K. “in an attempt to increase its 2% market share.” The campaign in the U.S. “gives consumers the chance to replay a sports match from their youth that was left without a clear winner.” Gatorade Senior Dir of Consumer Engagement Morgan Flatley said that a “new range of Gatorade products will launch in the UK in the next six months, with a campaign planned for after the London 2012 Olympics” (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.co.uk, 9/27).