2K Sports Thursday night named Tigers P Justin Verlander as the cover athlete for "MLB 2K12," the forthcoming release in its baseball simulation video game series. The Verlander announcement arrived slightly earlier than the cover nods in prior years of the game, but it dovetailed with Verlander also winning '11 Player of the Year and AL Most Outstanding Pitcher honors for the MLBPA's annual Players Choice Awards. The award selections, made by fellow major league players, were announced Thursday night in a one-hour special aired on MLB Network and sponsored by 2K Sports. Verlander traveled to the channel's Secaucus, N.J., studios to accept the awards, participate in the cover announcement and sit for an interview airing in the special. "This is definitely something I wanted, something I've wanted for a long time," Verlander said of the video game cover. "I do play ["MLB 2K"], often as myself, and being on the cover is something you dream of as a kid." "MLB 2K12" is set for release on March 6 and will be the last in an exclusive third-party console deal signed between 2K, MLB and the MLBPA in '05, a pact that has been a noted money loser for 2K Sports. MLBPA GM/Business Affairs, Media & International Richard White said it was too soon to tell what the next iteration of baseball video game licenses will hold. "We're taking a long look at the entire industry and we're still at an early stage in that process," he said. White added, "The cover selection of Verlander for the game had been made totally separately before the awards were decided. But the moon and the stars sort of all lined up on this one."
Marketing and Sponsorship
Spanish bank Santander "is rolling out a new TV ad starring" golfer Rory McIlroy, according to Alex Brownsell of MARKETING magazine. The campaign launches Sunday and will promote the bank's "new fixed rate savings bond." In the ad, created by Engine, McIlroy is "seen attempting playing a chip from an almost impossible angle, to emphasise the unusual nature of its Upfront Interest Bond product." The campaign is the "first to feature McIlroy since Santander signed him" to a multi-million dollar deal in September. The bank's previous ads have "starred long-term brand ambassadors Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button" (MARKETINGMAGAZINE.com, 11/3).
Nike Portland opens Friday and it is the “latest in a string of new or refurbished stores the Oregon company has opened over the last four years in an effort to set a more aggressive course in selling products directly to consumers,” according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. No “retail middle man is needed, though Nike officials emphasize the strong ties the company retains with the likes of Foot Locker, Dick's Sporting Goods and The Sports Authority.” Nike's direct-to-consumer business -- sales in its own stores and on the web -- “grew 16 percent last year to $3.2 billion.” That number is “expected to grow to $5.5 billion by the end of fiscal year 2015 -- when $30 billion total revenue is projected.” The company owns about 760 stores worldwide and “expects to add nearly a hundred more by the end of 2015.” Brettman reports it is “clear upon entering Nike Portland that the store shares a ‘wow’ factor with NikeTown's confined spaces.” The new store includes “several nods toward the history of a company nearly 40 years old.” The running shoes are “positioned against a black background that's corrugated in the shapes of a waffle iron -- an homage to the historic birthplace" of Nike co-Founder Bob Bowerman's waffle shoe. The Michael Jordan statue “suspended from the ceiling is the same one that once hung in NikeTown.” The "Bowerman Wall" on the mezzanine level is “a combination of six large video screens, all of which feature a mosaic of 1,404 tiny images.” Nike expects the store "to earn highest possible LEED Platinum Certification” (Portland OREGONIAN, 11/4). Nike plans several "grand opening events" over the coming days, including appearances by Trail Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge and long-distance runner Kara Goucher (BIZJOURNALS.com, 11/3).
Style "has become a priority” among many college football teams' choice of uniforms, but in the 20 years Kansas State Univ. coach Bill Snyder has been at the school, the Wildcats "have made no significant alterations -- silver pants with purple home jerseys or white road jerseys,” according to Kellis Robinett of the K.C. STAR. K-State “has tried new looks in the past … but they were met with negative responses.” The school has a sponsorship agreement with Nike, and it “could decide to work with Nike and incorporate one of its popular ‘Pro Combat’ uniforms into its football rotation the way the men’s basketball team switched uniforms in midseason a year ago.” Some football players “have indicated they would embrace similar changes to their uniforms, but Snyder says he has never discussed uniform changes with Nike.” ESPN.com columnist Paul Lukas said, “Everyone talks about Nike coming up with all these new uniforms. Nike did this. Nike did that. Well, Nike outfits Penn State, and they haven’t changed their look in a century. Nike would like nothing better than to jazz up Penn State’s uniforms, but Penn State has said, ‘No, we don’t want to do that.’” Robinett noted Oklahoma State, which is playing K-State Saturday night, “was all-in when approached by Nike.” OSU coach Mike Gundy: “The players were excited about it. We feel like it can help us in recruiting. Young people like change, they like new things and they like the colors we were able to offer” (K.C. STAR, 11/2).
RECRUITING TOOL: Former NFLer Brian Westbrook said he believes high school recruits are "swayed by the uniforms these days." He said uniforms are an effective recruiting tool because “everybody wants to go to the Oregons and the Boise States." Westbrook: "I think Virginia is very old-school, classic uniforms, Terps have the new helmets with the shells” ("Washington Post Live,” Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 11/2).
Richard Childress Racing Friday is expected to announce a 20-race primary Nationwide Series sponsorship with AdvoCare. The deal gives the direct marketing company the majority of races on the famed No. 3 car, which will return to NASCAR's second circuit for the first time for a full season since Childress put it away after Dale Earnhardt's death in '01. The car will be driven by Childress' grandson, Austin Dillon, who is currently driving the No. 3 in the Camping World Truck Series. AdvoCare, which has a white and blue logo, will use a black paint scheme for the car in an effort to stay true to the sport's heritage. Earnhardt drove a black No. 3 Chevrolet sponsored by Goodwrench in most races. AdvoCare VP/Marketing Jan Wold said, "We don't want to mess with bringing back that car if it can't be in its original colors. The value and the emotion tied with the No. 3 is in the color." The sponsorship represents a step up in AdvoCare's spending in NASCAR. The company, which sells health and wellness products, signed a race entitlement agreement with Speedway Motorsports for the Atlanta race in September. Wold said that the company got a lot of positive feedback from its distributors after the race and began looking for ways to increase its involvement in NASCAR. It got a call not long afterward from RCR execs searching for a sponsor for the No. 3 Nationwide Series car. Wold said the idea of sponsoring the No. 3 "clicked." She added, "We feel that with the 3 back, we will get a lot of branding and a lot of awareness and a lot of PR."
Rheem Manufacturing Co. Thursday announced a multiyear agreement with Richard Childress Racing to be the primary sponsor for the No. 29 Chevy driven by Kevin Harvick for 10 races during the ’12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Rheem will also be the co-primary sponsor alongside Budweiser for the NASCAR All-Star Race and an associate sponsor for the remaining 26 races of the season. The company will continue its co-sponsorship with Menards for RCR’s No. 33 Chevy driven by Paul Menard and others in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in the ’12 season. Rheem also announced an agreement with Eddie Sharp Racing to be the season-long primary sponsor of the No. 33 Chevy in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in ’12 (RCR).
RETIRING THE BULL: NASCAR driver Brian Vickers talked about his primary sponsor Red Bull pulling out of the sport and said there was one single reason for why they "decided to exit." Vickers said, "They decided to sell the team and exit the sport and focus on some other media stuff in Europe and different things. There’s really no more information at this time. They’re still trying to sell the team. I know there was a comment that they were going to stay in the sport. To my knowledge, that’s not true. I wish they would." He noted internal figures show the NASCAR sponsorship is "probably one of the best assets they have" (“NASCAR Now,” ESPN2, 11/2).
RETURNING STARTERS: Penske Racing Thursday said that it again will field Izod IndyCar rides in '12 for Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves and Will Power, the "same lineup Penske has fielded since 2009.” The team said that sponsorship announcements “will be made in the coming months” (AP, 11/3).
NOTES: YAHOO SPORTS’ Jay Busbee reported Michael Waltrip Racing “has officially confirmed that [driver] David Reutimann’s time with the team is done as of the end of the 2011 season.” This “gives fuel to the reports earlier in the week that Mark Martin would be coming on board MWR as a part-time driver, with much of Reutimann’s sponsorship money potentially going to Clint Bowyer” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/3)....Freescale Semiconductor Holdings “has become an official sponsor for NASCAR, and Freescale’s engine control chips will be on modules that control the fuel injection system for every NASCAR race car.” The chip connection “officially starts in February at the Daytona 500” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/4).
In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley noted a new poll by Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling (PPP) shows Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is "insanely popular" in Wisconsin. The poll shows Rodgers is "viewed favorably by 89% of the 1,170 Wisconsin voters it surveyed from Oct. 20-23," while "only 4% had an unfavorable opinion of him." PPP indicated that it has "never in its polling experience encountered a favorable percentage as high as the one for Rodgers." It also found Packers coach Mike McCarthy is viewed favorably by 77% of respondents. Former Packers QB Brett Favre is viewed favorably by 41% of respondents and unfavorably by 45% (JSONLINE.com, 11/3).
OWNING THE CITY: CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin noted Asics has been the "footwear and apparel sponsor of the New York City Marathon since the late 1980s and it's expected to sell over $2 million worth of marathon merchandise just this Sunday." Asics America CEO Kevin Wulff said the company does a "ton of activations" around the marathon. Wulff: "We try to own the city during the marathon, leading up to the marathon, during the marathon and a little bit after the marathon. So we'll have a new campaign that we're actually debuting here as part of the marathon called 'Stop at Never'" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 11/3). Wulff said he could not quantify how much the sponsorship to the company’s bottom line, but he noted Asics will sell "millions of dollars of marathon product" during the event's expo (Fox Business, 11/3).
NEW BRAND IN THE RUNNING: MARKETWATCH's Sam Mamudi noted '09 N.Y. Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi "will be wearing shoes made by Skechers USA Inc. -- the first time the company will have its shoes worn at a competitive sporting event." Skechers, "which this summer signed Keflezighi to a one-year deal, is hoping the exposure will show how serious it is about entering the lightweight running shoe category, a new area for the company." Skechers Fitness Group President & CMO Leonard Armato: "It’s not going to be easy because people aren’t used to Skechers making running shoes ... but we think our running technology is right in the sweet spot of the industry" (MARKETWATCH.com, 11/3).
THE ICEMAN COMETH: In N.Y., Andrew Adam Newman notes a commercial for Columbia Sportswear features Wim Hof, a bearded man who "runs barefoot, wearing only shorts and running across a frozen lake." After "jumping into a hole cut into the ice, he resurfaces from another hole, and then is buried up to his neck in snow in an acrylic glass box." The brand calls Hof an "'antispokesman' for a new line of electrically heated jackets and gloves." Five commercials, via Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, California, "will appear only online beginning Monday" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/4).