The Charlotte Hornets logo and colors “are back in style, and retailers are cashing in on the retro-chic wave of nostalgia,” according to a front-page piece by Andrew Dunn of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. The team's "jerseys, shirts and, most prominently, snapback hats" have seen a resurgence, and speculation in recent weeks that the name of Charlotte's former NBA team could return "has made the gear even hotter.” Concord, N.C.-based Hat Shack Assistant Store Manager Jason Hurley said the gear has "been on fire.” He said, “It flies off our shelves. It’s one of our top sellers.” EPM Communications President Ira Mayer, whose company regularly publishes a sports licensing report, said, “It’s kind of a retro trend.” He added that old team logos “are in demand,” and said, “People are starting to license them more heavily.” Charlotte-area Lids Manager Adrian Splawn said that he “had to have Charlotte Hornets hats rerouted to his store from others in the chain just to keep up.” Dunn notes national brands “are diving in as well,” as adidas “sells Charlotte Hornets shirts, including a throwback [Larry] Johnson shirt.” Following the team's move to New Orleans in '02, Hornets merchandise "largely disappeared from Charlotte shelves." However, the Hornets were sold to Tom Benson earlier this month, and his desire for a new team name that is more associated with New Orleans "has fueled more demand for the purple and teal" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/24).
Marketing and Sponsorship
The Yankees and StubHub are "having a spat about ticket prices, and it could lead to a divorce at the end of this season," according to sources cited by John Crudele of the N.Y. POST. For the past few years, the "cheapest unwanted Yankee tickets have been reselling on StubHub at just a few dollars apiece, and sources say the team isn’t happy." Right now there are 7,184 tickets "listed on StubHub for next Monday night’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, with prices starting" at just $3. If fans "went to the Stadium box office or to Yankees.com, the team’s official site, those seats would cost" $15.20 apiece. There are at least 8,318 seats "priced below the box-office price for that game against" the Orioles. StubHub's contract with MLB ends after this season, and sources said that the Yankees, Angels and some "other clubs would like StubHub to place a floor on ticket prices offered for sale on their site." However, Crudele notes it is "very unlikely that StubHub, or its parent company, eBay, will go along with the idea of a price floor." It is "still unclear whether the Yankees and the dissatisfied members of MLB’s lineup can break off from the teams that seem satisfied with StubHub and might want to renew the contract." Yankees President Randy Levine confirmed that the team is "looking at other options for secondary market sales and that it is trying to determine if re-upping with StubHub makes sense" (N.Y. POST, 4/24).
Struggling engine manufacturer Lotus today “released Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing" from their IndyCar engine contracts, according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. The release “clears the two teams to cut new deals with powerhouse manufacturers Chevrolet and Honda, and leaves Lotus with just three cars spanning two teams.” Letting BHA and DRR go “probably helps Lotus, which has not been able to build enough engines and lags far behind the other manufacturers in horsepower.” A reduced workload “could give Lotus a chance to catch up.” Fryer notes Lotus was “a late entrant into IndyCar, and has been unable to catch up to the competition.” With BHA and DRR moving on, Lotus will field engines for Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge and HVM Racing's Simona de Silvestro (AP, 4/24). SPEEDTV.com’s Marshall Pruett noted the “three-party split, made with the support and sanctioning of IndyCar, will see BHA and DRR receive assistance from the series to find new, season-long engine leases.” However, the in-season change of engine manufacturers, which “should allow BHA's Alex Tagliani and DRR's Oriol Servia to be far more competitive, still leaves more questions than answers on how all sides of the fracas will now move forward” (SPEEDTV.com, 4/24). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes team officials “declined comment, but it's expected Dreyer & Reinbold will sign with Chevrolet and BHA with Honda in preparation for next month's Indianapolis 500.” IndyCar will “allow Lotus to focus on its smaller lineup this year before requiring growth for 2013, although details are still being finalized” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/24).
The lesson in a recent court decision involving Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall is that morals clauses are “everywhere in Hollywood talent contracts, but the standard contractual language might be too broad to stop a celebrity from being polemical on Twitter,” according to Eriq Gardner of the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER. Mendenhall sued Hanesbrands for “terminating his million-dollar contract to promote Champion sportswear.” Champion “ditched Mendenhall after he sent eyebrow-raising tweets on sociopolitical topics, including an attempt to temper celebration after Osama bin Laden was killed” last May. A judge has “denied Hanesbrands' attempt to escape the lawsuit, saying that Mendenhall alleged a plausible claim for breach of contract.” Gardner wrote Hanesbrands had “a pretty standard morals clause with Mendenhall that prevented the NFL star from making actions that would bring him ‘into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or tending to shock, insult or offend a majority of the consuming public.’" But before the company “exercised its rights to terminate the endorser's contract, it had certain obligations.” The judge noted that Mendenhall’s deal “could only be terminated based on Mendenhall becoming involved in an act that brought him ‘into public dispute ...’ and that ‘mere disagreement with Mr. Mendenhall’s comments would not have triggered Hanesbrands’ termination rights.’" Hanesbrands argued that the "public backlash was enough to trigger termination under its morals clause, but the judge says it's too early and the facts aren't complete to analyze news reports on Mendenhall's controversial tweets or how the public reacted.” The case now moves to “a question that could set precedent in many lawsuits: How do you measure what's offensive to an audience on Twitter and beyond?” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 4/23).
In an effort to "maintain a thriving toning-shoe business," Reebok said that it has "enhanced its testing protocol and tweaked its marketing message," according to Natalie Zmuda of AD AGE. The company was fined $25M last year after claims that its toning shoes could "make muscles more fit ran afoul of the Federal Trade Commission." Head of Reebok Women's Sport division Martina Jahrbacher said, "We are 100% convinced, and have done more consumer insights to identify, that there is still a market for toning. It will not be as hyped as it was in the beginning. That's our job in the industry, to bring it to a reasonable level." Zumda reported rather than "abandon the lucrative category, Reebok went back to the drawing board and conceived a more rigorous testing protocol." New ads from McGarryBowen "carry the tagline: 'A beautiful way to reduce body fat,'" while fine print "details Reebok's study." The campaign, "now running in Europe and Asia, will be rolled out globally," though plans for the U.S. "are not finalized." While sales in the category have "slowed dramatically, consumers still appear to be smitten." SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said that dollar sales "for toning shoes were down" 50% last year, to $550M, but unit sales were down only 20%. Powell: "My read is the consumer still really likes these shoes" (ADAGE.com, 4/23).
SETTING GOALS: MARKETING DAILY's Sarah Mahoney noted Under Armour is "introducing a goal-setting Web site called 'What’s Beautiful.'" Involving Twitter and Facebook, the site is "a competition to redefine the female athlete," with an end result of three new "faces" for UA, as well as seven brand ambassadors. Through the site, women "declare a goal, and then post proof of their progress with videos, photos and diary entries." In addition, users will get 15 Under Armour Missions, as well as "motivational content from guest trainers, UA’s athletes (including the likes of skier Lindsey Vonn and sprinter Natasha Hastings), gear giveaways and updates on other competitors." Both 30- and 45-second spots are "scheduled for Under Armour Women’s social media channels" (MEDIAPOST.com, 4/23).