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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

Comcast has signed a one-year renewal with the NHL that allows the cable giant activation rights at and around the '12 Bridgestone Winter Classic. The deal is separate from Comcast/NBC’s 10-year U.S. television distribution deal with the NHL. Terms of the deal were not available. Comcast has signed one-year deals for the Winter Classic since '08. This year Comcast will promote its Xfinity digital cable service with a booth in the spectator plaza on Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, as well as its “Best Seat in the House” promotional couch, which will be located in the front row at Citizens Bank Park adjacent to the visiting team’s dugout during the game on Jan. 2. Comcast in early December conducted a video sweepstakes with Rangers and Flyers fans, and the winners will sit on the couch during the game. Comcast has used the couch activation at three regular-season MLB games and three preseason NFL games thus far. “We film fans in the seats and then make a campaign out of their reactions,” said Comcast Dir of Digital & Sports Marketing Strategy Matthew Lederer. GMR Marketing designed Comcast’s activation for the Winter Classic.

The NFL’s decision to change suppliers from Reebok to Nike, combined with the Packers’ “nationwide popularity, is depleting inventories of merchandise, especially jerseys,” according to Richard Ryman of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. Packers Dir of Retail Operations Kate Hogan said, “All of us that sell Packers merchandise are experiencing the same challenges. We bought heavy going in and we bought a lot of jerseys. We are not going to be able to sustain it much longer.” Ryman notes Reebok’s 10-year contract to supply NFL apparel is ending and Nike and several other new vendors “will take over” in April. Retailers said that as a result, Reebok “ordered conservatively going into the season.” The most popular teams will experience “the worst shortages, and the Packers are breaking all sorts of popularity records this year, from on-field performance to stock sales to merchandise sales.” Green Bay-based The Jersey Store Manager Mike Walters said that his shop is “buying what it can find and contracting for some exclusive custom pieces, though they will miss the sales they could have offered, particularly of sweatshirts and jackets.” Hogan said that “adult jerseys, Sideline gear and some other goods cannot be restocked.” Women’s apparel, long-sleeve T-shirts and “certain colors, such as gold, are also in short supply, but children’s jerseys are plentiful.” Playoff apparel “will be available as always because it is not made until needed.” NFL Corporate Communications Coordinator Joanna Hunter in an e-mail wrote, “We are not concerned. can supplement other retailers’ offerings so fans can get the gear they are seeking.” Hogan said that the Internet is “boosting Packers’ merchandise sales nationwide.” Wisconsin residents “continue to purchase the most items from the Packers Pro Shop, but buyers come from all 50 states as well as several countries” (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 12/29).

UNHAPPY CAMPERS: In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted some fans who purchased shares of Packers stock “have complained that the stock certificates either didn't arrive at all, didn't arrive on time, or were damaged in some way.” Packers Assistant Dir of PR & Corporate Communications Aaron Popkey estimated that “less than one-half percent of orders had problems,” which would be “roughly in the neighborhood of 1,100 orders.” Popkey acknowledged that there were “some problems, but said the team and its partners, including Wells Fargo, which handles the Packers' shareholders services, were committed to fixing the problems” (, 12/28).

The relationship between Nike and the Univ. of Oregon is often "criticized as incestuous" and unhealthy, but in a college sports landscape "littered with scandals, probations and lies," the bond between Nike Chair Phil Knight and his alma mater is a functional one, according to John Canzano of the Portland OREGONIAN. Canzano: "It works. Nobody gets hurt. Far as we know, no major rules have been broken because of it." Nike "listens to the market," and UO "listens to Nike." And while the "inherent danger is that the sneaker company relationship is already more valuable to UO than the university-fan relationship, there isn't a college football program in the country that wouldn't trade some admirable honk barbecuing in the parking lot on Saturdays for a chance to look cool for recruits." The school's Rose Bowl uniforms, designed by Nike and "touted as 'the most advanced uniform system ever designed,' had roughly five times the activity" that the Trail Blazers' season-opener had on the Oregonian's website yesterday. The Blazers' home opener "had a typical number of big-game page views," but the uniform unveiling "buried everything else, including the actual coverage of the Jan. 2 game between Wisconsin and Oregon." Nike "used the Ducks on Tuesday, big time." And the "Ducks used Nike," as the unveiling "was covered locally and nationally." Canzano writes, "Nike has done a marvelous job with developing product and staying innovative as times change. But what the company does more than anything else is understand the marketplace. It gets you -- in the simplest manner. And Oregon doesn't try to hide the fact that it's mostly attempted to emulate the Nike mindset when it comes to marketing and promotion" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/29).

HELMET DESIGN: In Portland, Allen Brettman notes Oregon-based Hydro Graphics Inc. "dipped deeply into its bubbling vat of application techniques to give glittering wings" to the helmets UO will wear during the Rose Bowl. The company "worked for months with Nike, helmet maker Riddell" and UO to achieve the glossy design. As a result, Hydro Graphics "will undoubtedly bolster its growing reputation as Nike's go-to wizard of custom helmet makeover jobs." Nike "began working with the paint coating and finishing company in 2008 to revolutionize the look of football helmets," starting with UO and TCU. Hydro Graphics has since added "about a dozen schools that have the closest business relationships with Nike among the more than 100 colleges and universities licensed to wear Nike gear." Hydro Graphics "has applied Nike-inspired designs to about dozen schools' helmets as well as other manufacturer's products." But it was "only this year, after four years of experimenting, that Hydro Graphics was prepared to introduce the shiny look -- dubbed 'LiquidMetal' -- that will adorn the Ducks' Rose Bowl helmets" (Portland OREGONIAN, 12/29).

The UFC has announced that MetroPCS is now the exclusive wireless partner of the UFC in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The multiyear deal includes MetroPCS signage at all domestic UFC events, a presence in UFC PPV event broadcasts, fighter endorsements and appearances, retail promotions and UFC-branded MetroPCS products. The first event featuring MetroPCS is Friday's UFC 141 in Las Vegas. MetroPCS as part of the deal will also participate in the UFC's Octagon Nation Tour (UFC).

In St. Paul, Charley Walters notes Sunday's Bears-Vikings game could be the "last game at the Metrodome" as the Vikings currently do not have a lease for the '12 season, and it "could be an opportunity for memorabilia collectors." Twins curator Clyde Doepner said, "Any time you have a ticket from the first game ever played at the place, and any time you have a ticket from the last game ever played at a place, they have value." He added, "Any time there's a significant event in sports, everybody wants to say they were there. And one of the proofs is that you've got your ticket" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/29).

FAIR WARNING: In Jacksonville, Don Coble noted Phoenix Racing Owner James Finch last week hired Kurt Busch to drive the No. 51 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry, but "not before making some ground rules for the temperamental driver." Finch "made it clear he won't tolerate any more boorish behavior and profane" outbursts from Busch. He told WJHG-NBC, "He lost a job and he's lost several million dollars, so I think that's been a wake-up call. I told him, I said, 'Kurt, it's about winning races.' ... I hired him for his foot, not his mouth" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 12/28).

NOTES: The NBA's latest ad via Goodby Silverstein & Partners includes The Turtles' song "So Happy Together" in a "big-bobblehead commercial that imposes the heads of the biggest stars in the league" on the band's video. The "expressions are definitely worth a watch" (, 12/27)....Baltimore-based Northeastern Supply will return as an associate sponsor on Turner Motorsports' No. 31 NASCAR Nationwide Series entry driven by Justin Allgaier (THE DAILY).