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Volume 24 No. 137

Marketing and Sponsorship

NFL owners could vote as "early as this week on allowing casinos to advertise in NFL stadiums, team publications and on club radio broadcasts," according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The vote is a move the league has "long resisted out of fear of being seen as close to gambling." The NFL has been "studying the issue, and it's among the planned discussion topics for this week's NFL annual meetings" in Palm Beach, Fla. A team source said that he "expected a vote, though as of the middle of last week, the subject had not been set for one." NFL officials "declined to comment." Several restrictions "would apply to any potential deals -- most notably that the casino could not have a sports gaming book." A casino also would "not be able to use team logos in its advertising." The sector would be "one of the first new sponsorship categories the NFL has opened in several years that previously had been off limits to teams." Sources said that NFL clubs could earn more than $3M annually in spending from casinos. Kaplan notes other leagues such as the NBA and MLB "allow casino advertising" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/26 issue).

Chinese shoe and sporting goods company Li-Ning last week made official "what was becoming apparent as early as January last year: Chicago rules its U.S operations, not Portland," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. Digital Li-Ning GM Ray Grady Friday said that the company "quietly made Chicago its U.S. division home in August." On Thursday, the Chicago office "announced the introduction of a Li-Ning brand website and e-commerce strategy with the digital marketing company Acquity Group." The operation will do business as "Digital Li-Ning." When it was based in Portland, the U.S. operation was named Li-Ning Sports USA. Grady said that basketball shoes will "continue to be designed at the Portland office." He did "not know how many employees remained in the Pearl District location, where the retail store, believed to have been the only one the Chinese brand was operating in the U.S., has been closed for weeks." Grady added that the design of Li-Ning running shoes, a "task that used to be assigned to the Portland office, has been shifted to the company's corporate headquarters in Beijing." Li-Ning has "made a clear shift to digital-only sales in the U.S., after it stumbled in one of its few attempts to find a bricks-and-mortar audience in the U.S." The company's shift from Portland to Chicago had been "underway for more than a year" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/24).

Jets QB Tim Tebow will be formally introduced to the media this afternoon, and while Zimmerman Advertising Exec VP & Managing Dir Scott Becher noted Tebow has a “tremendous upside” from a marketability standpoint, and if he has “just a little bit of on-field success, he explodes.” Tebow’s marketability was examined Friday on NBC Sports Network’s “CNBC Sports Biz: Game On!” Baker Street Advertising Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman said Tebow staying with the Broncos “being the No. 1 guy is going to help him more than playing three downs a game” in N.Y. But Dorfman said Tebow’s sponsors need to “go full speed ahead” and market him heavily now that he’s playing in the nation’s largest media market. Dorfman: “Nike has been kind of remiss a little bit with Tebow. I don’t think they really activated as much as they could. You have a perfect opportunity now.” CNBC’s Darren Rovell agreed, saying Nike “has not mobilized” its marketing of Tebow. Rovell: “It’s the only criticism I have of Nike. They don’t turnaround marketing fast enough” (“CNBC Sports Biz: Game On!,” NBC Sports Network, 3/23). Saturday morning’s edition of “CBS This Morning” also examined Tebow’s new marketing opportunities, and CBS’ Seth Doane noted it is an “open question how Tebow will play under the microscope of New York.” Doane: “But the bright lights of New York could make Tebow an even bigger star.” PR consultant Joe Favorito said, “There’s lot of opportunity for him, but they have to win.” New York magazine columnist Will Leitch: “Certainly, Tebow is popular and he’s been very famous for a long time, (but) it’s still different here” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS. 3/24).

WHAT’S THE BUZZ? The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Sentiment Tracker, which followed the online buzz about Tebow’s trade to the Jets, found that 29% of the conversation on social networks was in favor of the trade, 34% was against it, 30% was fans making comparisons to Sanchez and 7% of the conversation was jokes. The analysis consisted of examining 28,000 posts on social media (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/24). In Newark, Kevin Manahan noted Tebow’s press conference today “could mark the height of Tebowmania.” Experts have said that as “popular as Tebow is, don’t expect a slew of endorsements now that Mr. Forbidden Fruit has reached the Big Apple.” New Jersey-based PR firm MMW Group CEO Michael Kempner said, “It’s critically important that they don’t make Tim Tebow bigger than the game, bigger than the team and bigger than his teammates” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 3/25).

ON THE SCENE: The N.Y. DAILY NEWS’ Myers notes Tebow on Saturday night “hit Broadway,” attending the play “Wicked.” The turnout for the Jets press conference to introduce Tebow "is expected to be so large that the Jets are holding it in their massive fieldhouse” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/26). In N.Y., Stephanie Rosenbloom noted Manhattan publicists were “starting to strategize about how to attract the city’s newest sports star to their red carpet events.” Publicist Lizzie Grubman said that if she were advising Tebow, she would “tell him to attend museum, charity and fashion events” Grubman: “I think you’re going to see him go to the Hamptons. I think you’re going to see him at polo. I think you’ll probably see him at Fashion Week. At the higher-end events. I don’t think you’re going to see him clubbing” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/25). The N.Y. POST’s Page Six notes Tebow's reps reportedly have “invited both country singer Taylor Swift and ‘Glee’ actress Dianna Agron to his second annual Tim Tebow Foundation Charity Golf Tournament on April 14 in Ponte Vedra, Fla.” Other guests invited to the golf event include “actress Jennifer Garner, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, Dwayne Johnson, Ben Affleck, Jack Black, Mark Wahlberg, Justin Timberlake and Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, who coached Tebow at the University of Florida” (N.Y. POST, 3/26).