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Volume 24 No. 160

Marketing and Sponsorship

Chobani has signed former softball player Jennie Finch as the Greek yogurt brand's "first celebrity endorser of any kind," according to Stuart Elliott of the N.Y. TIMES. The brand is "stepping up efforts to sell" its new children's product Chobani Champions, with new commercials featuring Finch "being added to the mix this month" ahead of the London Games. Chobani is an official sponsor of the '12 U.S. Olympic team. The Chobani Champions campaign was created by Leo Burnett, N.Y., with a budget "estimated at" $12M. The theme of the campaign is "Win the day." Finch appears in the Chobani Champions commercial "with one of her two sons, Ace." The commercial "begins with a couple of lighthearted nods to the athletic prowess of Ms. Finch, who calls herself, tongue in cheek, 'a typical mom.'" In one scene, she "stops at a booth at an amusement park and knocks over enough bottles to win Ace a giant stuffed bear." In another scene taking place at her son's baseball game, she "casually catches and tosses a ball without paying much attention." The spot ends with Finch "proudly placing Ace’s (tiny) trophy on a mantel in a living room, in between her Olympic medals." Leo Burnett Chief Creative Officer Jay Benjamin said of the brand's plans for Finch after the London Games, “I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of her" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/15).

The Univ. of Iowa and Anheuser-Busch have "renewed their relationship," according to Jens Manuel Krogstad of the DES MOINES REGISTER. A new four-year agreement approved this month by the UI athletic department "allows Anheuser-Busch to place Iowa's Tigerhawk logo on retail displays such as posters and flags, and promotional giveaways like cups, caps and T-shirts." All the items the logo will appear on "require athletic department approval, and must include the message 'Responsibility Matters.'" The agreement is "part of a larger one with Learfield Communications" that will pay UI $114M through '26. All proceeds from the deal "will fund the university's alcohol harm reduction plan," launched in '10 to reduce binge drinking. While the sponsorship "complies with NCAA advertising standards that require a 'drink responsibly' message, the agreement stands out" among UI's peers. Seven Big Ten schools said that "they had no sponsorships with companies that sell alcohol." Meanwhile, the Univ. of Illinois said that its "only sponsorship with an alcohol company is the annual 'Busch Braggin' Rights' men's basketball game" against the Univ. of Missouri. Iowa State Univ. has "had an agreement for several years with Anheuser-Busch that is similar" to the one with UI. School officials said that some details in the deal "that remain unchanged include radio advertisements and guest entertainment" at home games for football, basketball, wrestling and golf (DES MOINES REGISTER, 6/15).

None of cyclist Lance Armstrong's "top sponsors -- including Nike, Oakley, 24-Hour Fitness and Trek -- have bailed, nor are they flashing early warning signs that they might," amid doping allegations from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency,  according to Bruce Horovitz of USA TODAY. Nike said in a statement, "Our relationship with Lance remains as strong as ever." Oakley said in a statement, "As always we believe in Lance." Sports Business Group President David Carter said that marketers "recognize that many consumers decided a long time ago that they 'believe in Lance.'" Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard said, "Lance has proven that his marketability is Teflon-coated. Most of his fans will look at this news with a degree of indifference, and sponsor shouldn't be too worried" (USA TODAY, 6/15). In Milwaukee, Don Walker noted Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp. "is supporting" Armstrong. Trek spokesperson Bill Mashek "confirmed that Armstrong has a sponsorship agreement with the company." Mashek said, "He has been a great partner for Trek." He added that the company "had no comment on the new allegations" (, 6/14).

SEE YOU IN COURT: Armstrong earlier this spring said that "he would not fight any more doping charges that cropped up against him because he was tired of it." But in N.Y., Juliet Macur writes it now "appears that he has changed his mind." One of Armstrong's lawyers, Robert Luskin, "sent a letter to the antidoping agency late Wednesday, aggressively questioning its evidence that Armstrong violated antidoping rules" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/15).

Heat F LeBron James, Thunder F Kevin Durant and “many other superstars in the NBA playoffs have found a novel way to accessorize their bespoke suits: thick-rimmed, chunky, ostentatious eyeglasses,” according to Cacciola & Cohen of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. For many NBAers, the eyewear is “purely a fashion statement,” as Thunder G Russell Westbrook "admits that his lenses are nonprescription" and Heat G Dwyane Wade has “gone so far as to wear glasses without glass in them as fashion models are sometimes known to do.” With a “few exceptions, those who do need corrective eyewear prefer contact lenses.” But after the games, “out come the high-end frames that can go for $500.” Many Heat and Thunder players are "flaunting the latest in designer eyewear at the NBA Finals." Some of Westbrook's frames are from "designers like Barton Perreira, Mykita and Thom Browne.” Durant “has a pair from Nike, one of his sponsors.” Fashion is “very much on the minds” of Wade and James, both of whom “employ stylists.” After Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals, Wade “showed off frames crafted by Edward Beiner, the proprietor of 11 eyewear stores in Florida.” The front of the frames was “dark tortoise shell, but the color at the back changed to translucent blue, which matched Mr. Wade's sky-blue blazer.” Beiner said that he “customized the glasses with that particular jacket in mind” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/15).

STRUT YOUR STUFF: In N.Y., Tom Spousta writes the NBA Finals "postgame stage doubles as a runway of sorts for competing geek-chic styles that have become the rage in a league that was put under a dress code in 2005.” After Game One of the NBA Finals, all of the players “broke out the lensless eyeglass frames” and, except for Westbrook, all “included matching pocket squares.” Spousta: “To a man, they agreed they were not trying to make a cultural statement” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/15). USA TODAY’s Jeff Zillgitt writes NBA fashion “extends beyond the glasses, from Westbrook’s wild, nautical-themed shirts to Wade’s pink pants with accoutrements such as a pink finger bandage and pink-soled sneakers.” Washington State Univ. professor David Leonard said that fashion choices “must be seen through the prism of the NBA’s dress code.” Leonard: “(In) the ways in which we are seeing players confirm to the dress code while also asserting their owner style and identity.” He added the dress code “reflects a particular anxiety that fans, the media and the league have had about what NBA players represent and questions about hip-hop and the way race is wrapped up in these discussions.” Westbrook said, “I’ve just got a style of my own, and I’m going to keep it that way” (USA TODAY, 6/15).