Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning through a deal with Heat G Dwyane Wade has “found the face" of its brand and the company "automatically becomes a much bigger player in the competitive world of Kicks,” according to Peter Walsh of SLAM magazine. The new partnership was formally announced yesterday and Wade will "serve in an official capacity as Chief Brand Officer and be responsible for guiding the creative direction of all WADE products." Wade also will have “a hand in marketing strategies and will be instrumental in selecting the athletes that he feels fit the philosophy of the brand as a whole -- a role that is usually non-existent with other shoe companies.” Wade said, “Having the opportunity to build my own legacy, an opportunity I didn’t have before with Converse and Jordan, was something I couldn’t pass on. I’m about making a change.” He added, “I had an unbelievable opportunity to do this here with a brand that is a big, huge brand in itself. It doesn’t have the ‘cool’ factor in the States just yet, but hopefully we can change that perception too.” Wade said of his new role, “I have to keep my eye out for players to help build this brand. I’ll be helping this brand even when I’m done playing and having my own brand similar to Jordan. … The NBA is about going global, they take us global and they’ve done an unbelievable job making our game huge and now I’m leading a global brand.” He added, “This is what you call a lifetime relationship. I have my own brand within the Li-Ning family, so hopefully my brand will live on for years if I pick the right players to represent” (SLAMONLINE.com, 10/10).
ODE TO LIFE: In Miami, Joseph Goodman notes Wade’s first design “is an ode to his life.” The soles of the shoes “feature initials of Wade’s loved ones, including his girlfriend, actress Gabrielle Union.” There also is a “Bible verse written into the shoes, which is a nod to Wade’s mother.” Goodman writes like “any American businessman venturing into China, Wade is taking a risk.” Li-Ning is “an enormous company, but its profit share in the basketball footwear market has diminished considerably in the past year.” With "shrinking shoe profits in the Chinese basketball market, Li-Ning is hoping Wade and his international popularity can resuscitate its image.” The company in the U.S. “has no image and it’s investing in Wade to possibly give it one.” Li-Nings “aren’t cool in the United States, but they’re also not uncool.” Wade was “given creative control of his new shoes, something Jordan Brand was never willing to completely hand over, and he’s hoping his designs will help carve out a space in the U.S. market” (MIAMI HERALD, 10/11).
STARTING A TREND? BDA Sports Management COO Bill Sanders wrote Wade’s signing is “clearly something more significant than any of the previous defections to the Great Wall.” Nike remains the “market share 800-pound gorilla,” but this signing is “more than an anomaly.” It signals “two key issues worth taking note of.” The first is that China “is for real" and the second is that Li-Ning “is for real.” Just a “few years back, many Chinese shoe companies would sign NBA stars and hope for the best.” Li-Ning’s signing of Wade “signals a quantum leap in their commitment to, and understanding of, the power of aligning with an NBA superstar.” Sanders: “This wasn’t about the money. This was about Wade’s commitment to China, and to helping a new partner move the needle” (ATHLETEMARKETINGGUY.com, 10/10).
Nike yesterday once again “reaffirmed its support of Lance Armstrong,” whose career was “tarnished by statements of 11 former teammates saying he used performance enhancing drugs,” according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. Nike's statement was “made hours after" USADA had issued its Armstrong findings and was the same statement the company “made in late August, when Armstrong said he would not challenge the agency's allegations in arbitration.” Armstrong was “on the Nike World Headquarters campus Oct. 1-2, working with Nike designers on Livestrong products and talking to Nike employees about the fight against cancer.” Nike in partnership with the Livestrong Foundation on Oct. 20 will be “sponsor of the University of Texas' cancer awareness game against Baylor University.” The game is “part of several events held Oct. 18-21 to recognize the 15th year of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.” Nike and Livestrong will “make an on-field presentation prior to the second quarter, which will be designated as the Livestrong quarter.” The 17,000-seat student section will be “wearing Livestrong T-shirts that Nike created for the game” (Portland OREGONIAN, 10/11). A-B VP/Marketing Paul Chibe said the brewer's relationship with Armstrong is "unchanged." Oakley was unavailable for comment (MARKETINGWEEK.co.uk, 10/11).
SOLID FOUNDATION: ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell wrote while Armstrong's “credibility has been attacked once again,” the foundation that “bears his name is still pulling in significant dollars.” Year-to-date revenues for the foundation, the “largest athlete-named charity in the world, are up 2.1 percent to $33.8 million through Sept. 30.” Foundation data shows that the number of donations is “up by 5.4 percent versus 2011 and the average dollar amount of those donations is up 5.7 percent (from $74.88 in 2011 to $79.15 in 2012).” Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman said, "It's pretty much across the board higher than normal.” Ulman: "Our goal was to raise $2 million. We've sold 1,600 of 1,700 total tickets and we're going to raise a minimum of $2.5 million." Since Aug. 23, the day Armstrong “said he would not fight charges” brought by USADA, the foundation said that the average donation is “well above normal at $93.” Rovell noted purchases of Livestrong-branded merchandise are “up, too.” More than “5,000 orders have come into the foundation website with an average order of $61, about one-and-a-half times the average purchase in the online store.” On the year, merchandise is “up 2.2 percent and the average purchase is $10.45 more than last year's average purchase.” Nike has not “scaled back its Livestrong line of products.” There are “nearly 100 Livestrong-branded items available for purchase on Nike.com” (ESPN.com, 10/10).
EPL club Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has defended the team's “controversial new sponsorship deal” with short-term loans company Wonga, and claims that the partnership “can help propel his team into the Premier League's top four,” according to Louise Taylor of the GUARDIAN. Pardew said, "As manager of this football club I can only say that to have the best sponsorship deal we've ever had is a good thing. It's about building the first team and it's about having the financial muscle to start improving the academy -- that's an area where we've lagged behind some of the senior clubs. Now there's no reason why we can't be one of those top-four clubs, especially on an organisational front." Pardew before the Wonga deal said that he “quizzed Errol Damelin, Wonga's South African owner, about the business and emerged satisfied with what he heard.” Pardew: "If our fans do have any concerns maybe they should contact Blackpool supporters (whose club is also sponsored by Wonga) and see how they've done. The feeling I get is that Blackpool fans have been happy with Wonga and what they've done for the club" (GUARDIAN, 10/11). In London, Jason Mellor writes Newcastle is “unlikely to face the threat of a protest or boycott from their four Muslim players over the controversial [US$40M] sponsorship deal with Wonga.” Islam’s moral and religious code “instructs its followers not to lend money for profit, the principle of charging interest going against its beliefs.” The club made “no official comment on the issue last night,” but sources “played down the prospect of any form of protest or refusal to wear the shirt once the new deal comes into effect at the start of next season” (LONDON TIMES, 10/11).
THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT IS: In London, James Corrigan asks, “Why should this Magpied majority concern itself with ethics when Wonga … has not only poured money into their club via a shirt sponsorship but also vowed to reinstate their stadium’s proper name?” Corrigan: “All that counts is the greenback the chief executive can count. Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to chant and buy. Start questioning and you stop dreaming. Sell your soul or your star striker. When will it come to a shuddering halt? Only when the Premier League's popularity tails off, only when the profiteers find easier, more gullible victims.” He adds, “Everyone knows the Premier League is king. We are prepared to put up with each sickening excess, with every transparent money-grab, for our weekly banquet” (London TELEGRAPH, 10/11).
The first official NASCAR slot machine “is coming to casinos in mid-2013,” according to Bill Speros of ESPN.com. Clint Bowyer is “one of five Sprint Cup drivers featured” in Bally Technologies' "one-of-a-kind gaming experience." The other drivers “competing on a virtual-gaming level against Bowyer” on each play are Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. Bettors will “choose the driver they want to compete as on each play by sitting at his designated machine, then watch the ensuing digitally-created race on a 32-inch screen display” while sitting in a "Pro Surround Chair." Bowyer and the other drivers “quickly hopped on board during the development of the slot machine.” NASCAR VP/Licensing & Consumer Products Blake Davidson said, "They thought it would be a good way to connect with their fans." Davidson added, "The growth of gaming has been pretty tremendous over the past several years. With the sheer numbers involved, we have the ability to connect with a lot of people and get them excited about NASCAR, make them want to become NASCAR fans ... and go to a race." Another game, Virtual Racing NASCAR, allows slot machine players throughout a casino “to choose between eight drivers (the five above plus Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin and Martin Truex Jr.) and win non-cash prizes.” Both of the games "debuted in Las Vegas last week" at the Global Gaming Expo (ESPN.com, 10/9).
In Charlotte, Caroline McMillan reports NASCAR debuted its first “Business Series” last night in an effort to “connect small-business owners with some of the sport’s official partners.” Official NASCAR partners, such as “Bank of America, Office Depot, Nationwide Insurance, Sprint and UPS, attended the inaugural event, held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and presented by Bank of America.” Each partner “offered a session on what services and products they can offer to small businesses.” Speakers included former team owner and current ESPN NASCAR analyst Ray Evernham; Small Business Network President Jim Blasingame and Bank of America Merrill Lynch Credit Products Exec for Global Commercial Banking John Daniels (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/11).
MADE IN THE USA: SPORTING NEWS’ Bob Pockrass noted Charlotte Motor Speedway “hopes that a new emphasis on selling merchandise made in the United States will prove worthwhile in a business where most products come from overseas and most of its customers are known for their patriotism.” SMI President & COO Marcus Smith, whose company owns CMS, said that he “directed his staff to order as much SMI Properties merchandise as possible that is made in the United States.” The CMS gift shop has a “Made in the USA” section. Smith started the project “two years ago and began selling the merchandise earlier this year at CMS.” The program has “expanded to other SMI tracks” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 10/10).
DANICAR: SEGA of America, Mattel and Hot Wheels announced a cross-platform partnership for the upcoming release of “Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed” featuring NASCAR driver Danica Patrick. Video game players who choose to race as Patrick will be able to drive a custom transforming electric green Hot Wheels vehicle called the “Danicar,” which also will be available as a diecast vehicle this holiday season with purchase of "Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed" at select retailers (SEGA/Hot Wheels/Mattel).