Panini America today announced that it has signed Colts QB Andrew Luck to an exclusive multiyear autograph and memorabilia agreement through its Panini Authentic division. Luck becomes the first NFLer to join Panini. The company’s roster of athletes also includes Lakers G Kobe Bryant, Clippers F Blake Griffin and Thunder F Kevin Durant (Panini). Panini America CEO Mark Warsop said his company “is not trying to build a huge memorabilia business, like a Steiner Sports, but noted synergies with the core trading card business.” Warsop: “With our marquee athletes, this allows us to control the value of their autographs, since they won’t be diluted by other parties.” In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton notes Luck has “already signed a number of Stanford and Colts photos, balls, helmets and mini-helmets” that will go on sale this week. Panini “will eventually offer game-worn items from Luck, who had previously signed non-exclusive trading-card agreements with Topps and Panini.” Luck’s other endorsements “are with Nike; Pepsi for Gatorade, Quaker Oatmeal and granola bars; and EA’s 'FIFA 13' game” (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/15 issue).
Marketing and Sponsorship
Heat G Terrel Harris and C Dexter Pittman on Saturday during the team's participation in the '12 NBA China Games were "introduced as endorsers" of Chinese shoe and apparel company Peak, which is also a Heat team sponsor, according to Joseph Goodman of the MIAMI HERALD. A source said that G James Jones "has agreed to a contract with the shoe company ... and is set to sign a contract next month." Jones is currently "under contract with Nike." F Udonis Haslem is "currently in negotiations with Peak and could announce a deal soon" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 10/13).
FALLBACK PLAN? Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Managing Dir Paul Swangard said that there is a "fallback plan" for Heat G Dwyane Wade if his Li-Ning shoe does not catch on in the U.S. Swangard said, "The core of their business is still sales of shoes and apparel in domestic China. I would imagine that there was some conversation during the negotiations where someone said, 'Would you be willing to play in the (Chinese Basketball Association) for one or two years as a piece of that long-term puzzle?'" Ted Fishman, author of "China Inc.," said, "Li-Ning might seem like an obscure brand to Americans, but it's an almost omnipresent brand in China" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/15).
Insurance firm AIG and the New Zealand Rugby Union have agreed to a five-and-a-half-year deal for AIG to sponsor six NZRU rugby teams: the All Blacks, Maori All Blacks, All Blacks Sevens, New Zealand Black Ferns (women’s fifteens), New Zealand Women’s Sevens and New Zealand Under 20 (AIG). The APNZ reported the deal, which will run until May '18, is "believed to be the second-most valuable sponsorship agreement in world rugby -- trailing only the NZRU's current partnership with adidas" (APNZ, 10/13).
IRISH EYES ARE SMILING: Fanatics.com reported sales figures for Notre Dame merchandise since Sept. 1 are “second only to Alabama in total sales.” Fanatics data showed that sales through last week “are up 68 percent as compared to this time last year and up 109 percent compared to the 2010 season.” ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell noted fans have ordered Notre Dame gear “from the website from all 50 states, with 91 percent of fans ordering from outside the school's campus in Indiana” (ESPN.com, 10/12).
LOOKING AHEAD: ESPN.com’s Hywel Teague wrote UFC fighter Anderson Silva on Saturday “was an entertainer” during his UFC 153 match against Stephan Bonnar. The reason “is clear,” as at 37 years old he is “keen to retire and evolve from an athlete into something new.” The Brazilian native’s “growing media appearances” in his home country “mark him out as a star with the potential to transition into the mainstream.” In the fight with Bonnar, he “demonstrated abilities as both a fighter and a showman” (ESPN.com, 10/14).
GETTING HIS PRIORITIES RIGHT: Giants QB Eli Manning sat down with Fox’ Michael Strahan, his former teammate, and Strahan asked Manning about appearing in DirecTV commercials. Strahan said, “Who’s this comedian who snuck into Eli’s body? You’re an angel with wings and you’re throwing fireballs at the TV. Where was that hiding, Eli?” Manning: “Those first four years I was trying to win you a championship. That was really my goal. … I put all my humor, all my jokes, all my fun to the side and said, ‘I’m not going to have any fun until I win Strahan a Super Bowl.’ I accomplished that and then I kind of got to let my real personality come out” (“Fox NFL Sunday,” Fox, 10/14).
ROUNDUP: The Lions named Walgreens the team's official pharmacy (Lions)…. Kentucky Speedway on Friday announced that the Univ. of Northwestern Ohio extended its title sponsorship of the track’s June NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race through ’15 (Kentucky Speedway).