MLS Sounders FC has been one of the league's most successful franchises since it began play in '09, and now it could be in the market for a new jersey sponsorship. The team has retained CAA Sports to explore opportunities because its jersey deal with Xbox could end after the ‘13 MLS season. Sounders FC signed a five-year deal with Xbox in ‘08 that has been valued at $4M per season. The franchise has consistently led MLS in virtually every business metric, including attendance with an average of 41,480 fans this season, local TV ratings, merchandise sales and website page views. CAA Sports had worked with Sounders FC Majority Owner Joe Roth when he acquired the team, and has other soccer business, including the handling of commercial sales in representing EPL club Chelsea and La Liga club FC Barcelona, while it also operates the Herbalife World Football Challenge, the summer tour of international friendlies in North America.
Marketing and Sponsorship
2K Sports yesterday confirmed it will feature the '92 Dream Team in the upcoming "NBA 2K13" video game, scheduled for release on Oct. 2. The virtual Dream Team, however, will be an 11-man squad, as the publisher was unable to secure licensing from Basketball HOFer Scottie Pippen. "NBA 2K13" will also feature the recent '12 U.S. men's basketball team that won the Gold Medal in London. "The fantasy matchup between the legendary 1992 'Dream Team' and the 2012 USA men's national team has become one of the greatest sports debates of our time," said rapper and Nets investor Jay-Z, recently signed on by 2K Sports as an executive producer of the game, in a statement. "In 'NBA 2K13,' we're giving fans the opportunity to play as two of the best teams ever assembled in sporting history, literally putting the debate right into their hands" (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). Bobcats Owner and Basketball HOFer Michael Jordan said, “It’s going to start more arguments. When you stack up all the stats, which in some ways is how the game is going to be viewed and discussed, our stats are going to be a lot better than their stats. So I think it’s going to start more debates.” ESPN.com’s Zach McCann noted it is the Dream Team’s “first depiction in a video game since ‘Team USA Basketball’ for the Sega Genesis in 1992.” Pippen “isn’t part of the NBA Retired Players Association and couldn’t come to terms with 2K Sports.” Other U.S. squads, “like the talented ’96 team or disappointing ’04 team, won’t be in this year’s game.” 2K Sports VP/Marketing Jason Argent said, “We wanted quality over quantity in this first year” (ESPN.com, 8/15). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said "it's not a problem" that Pippen is not in the game. However, John Salley said, "I understand Scottie ... saying 'I played so great on this video game that I should get more money,' but he doesn't realize that it was 20 years ago and it's not even him. Scottie Pippen just wrote himself out of it. It's a check you could have gotten that you don't have now" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 8/15).
WORTH THE INVESTMENT? ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell noted in ’11, when Jordan was “signed to be part of the game, 2K Sports rode his ‘Airness’ to 5.5 million copies sold.” At the time, Jordan’s “presence in the game was magnified by the fact that the greatest player in the game opted out of video game deals during his career.” Current NBAers “no longer have the option to decline their appearance in video games.” Rovell writes it is “always interesting to see whether these types of investments pay off.” 2K Sports parent company Take Two Interactive has "been pressured amid the video game decline.” Rovell: “All the more chance to reinvest in the Dream Team idea because staying conservative in this marketplace is not the right thing to do” (ESPN.com, 8/15).
CASH INFUSION: Electronic Arts reportedly is "quietly exploring a sale" and discussions are "at an early stage." The company has been approached by private-equity firms KKR and Providence Equity Partners. EA, which has a market cap of around $4B, said that it does not comment "on rumor and speculation" (N.Y. POST, 8/16).
The Baltimore Grand Prix has “landed its largest sponsor” as Chrysler Group's Street and Racing Technology -- SRT -- “will be added to the race's official logo,” according to Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore SUN. The deal will give Chrysler the title of "presenting sponsor" and officials from event organizer Race On LLC said that the sponsorship will “bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars … but not as much as a title sponsorship, which runs more than $1 million.” Andretti Sports Marketing President John Lopes said, “It's a significant investment with the event. There is still the opportunity for a title sponsor to come on board, in addition to SRT. There's also the possibility of SRT to grow into a title role." Broadwater notes the “second running of the IndyCar race will take place over Labor Day weekend along streets near the Inner Harbor” (Baltimore SUN, 8/16).
The Expos’ vintage red, white and blue cap, with the tri-color “M” on the front, “has become an improbably popular fashion accessory for a younger, urban crowd” and the hats are “seen far more frequently on the streets of Montreal these days than when the star-crossed franchise actually existed,” according to Benjamin Shingler of the CP. The Expos cap has “been described over the years as a gang symbol in a number of North American cities -- including Los Angeles, Seattle, Wichita and, naturally, Montreal.” New Era Canada Sales Manager Ken Haqq said that the popularity of the logo “actually spiked three or four years ago when several hip hop artists, including the members of the popular American duo Outkast, started sporting the old cap.” Haqq said, “Our (Expos hats) were going from coast to coast.” The company said that Expos caps “are now the third-biggest sellers in Canada, behind only” the Blue Jays and the Yankees. Haqq said that in the past year Expos gear “has become even more popular in Quebec, while tapering off somewhat in the rest of Canada” (CP, 8/15).
CAUSE & EFFECT: ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted after NFL free agent Chad Johnson was released by the Dolphins on Monday, his "difficult week continued Wednesday, as coconut water brand Zico dropped the wide receiver from its endorsement roster." Zico in a statement said, "In light of recent events involving Mr. Johnson, we have decided to terminate our relationship. The values we espouse, through our employees, our customers and our brand, are central to our mission. We have taken this proactive step to demonstrate just how important those values are." Rovell notes it "is not clear whether the company had the right to terminate Johnson with cause or is still paying him." Reebok Corporate Communications Manager Daniel Sarro said that he "was still under contract with the company" (ESPN.com, 8/15).
HE'S SO SMOOTH: In New Orleans, Nakia Hogan noted Smoothie King has announced a partnership with Saints TE Jimmy Graham "to bring products and promotions" to the region. Graham's likeness "will appear across multiple local channels including Smoothie King advertising, giveaways, retail items, merchandise and limited time offers" (NOLA.com, 8/15).