The NCAA “knew that Electronic Arts Sports made video games intending to match real-life characteristics of actual college athletes,” according to newly-released e-mails from the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit cited by Jon Solomon of the BIRMINGHAM NEWS. Lawyers for the plaintiffs, in an Aug. 31 motion unsealed yesterday in U.S. District Court in California, wrote the NCAA "knowingly tolerated this 'illegal' rigging." A July ‘03 internal e-mail shows NCAA Corporate Alliances Dir Peter Davis relaying this response he received on whether EA Sports uses current football players' names in video games: "We don't actually use player names but we do use all the attributes and jersey numbers of the players." Davis' e-mail “went on to raise the point that if Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning got injured, the video game roster would reflect that change.” Davis "expressed concern whether using Manning's number and attributes would be too close to his likeness and cause an eligibility issue.” The suit is “scheduled for a class-action certification hearing next March.” As part of a string of internal NCAA e-mails from ‘09, Davis wrote that the NCAA “reached an agreement for EA Sports to use enhanced graphics in its basketball video game.” In a separate series of e-mails between NCAA officials in ‘07, then-NCAA Senior VP/Basketball & Business Strategies Greg Shaheen “made a push for the NCAA to adopt legislation that would allow EA to use the names and likenesses of current athletes.” Shaheen argued that if the NCAA “polled athletes, they would overwhelmingly want their names used.” The O'Bannon lawsuit also "challenges the NCAA's requirement for athletes to sign forms that the plaintiffs allege relinquishes players' rights related to their names, images and likenesses even after their college career ends.” The NCAA “denies that's what those forms do” (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/13).
Marketing and Sponsorship
Time Warner Cable and Madison Square Garden today will announce that TWC has “signed a contract to be a long-term sponsor of the Garden,” according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. TWC “becomes an official partner of the Knicks and the Rangers and replaces Absolut as the naming partner of the arena’s concert series, an association that began Monday night with a Madonna concert.” TWC will also “extend its ‘Enjoy Better’ marketing campaign to the Garden by offering Knicks and Rangers fans seat upgrades and merchandise during games,” and will be the “presenting partner for one Knicks and one Rangers game each season.” MSG has been “loading up on sponsors, putting J. P. Morgan at the top, as its marquee sponsor, and establishing a corps of signature partners: Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, Kia Motors, Delta Air Lines and Lexus.” TWC’s deal is “below that level.” To make the deal, TWC and MSG “had to get past any negative feelings that lingered" after a carriage dispute earlier this year. Both sides said that there was “a temporary delay in negotiating the sponsorship while the dispute played out” (NYTIMES.com, 11/13).
Texas A&M Univ. is capitalizing on QB Johnny Manziel's “early greatness in a big way,” according to a front-page piece by Brent Zwerneman of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The school has “ordered a glut of ‘No. 2’ jerseys -- albeit without his last name to avoid any NCAA violations -- and the on-campus Barnes & Noble is scurrying to meet the demand.” Texas A&M's on-campus student store “quickly sold out of more than 500 No. 2 T-shirts recently ordered, and 50 No. 2 jerseys that Barnes & Noble received Friday are nearly sold out.” Student store manager Anna Cordero said, "We can't keep them around. We're hoping to get more soon, but we can't make any promises." Texas A&M Compliance Dir David Batson said that the athletic department “has sent about 10 cease-and-desist orders of late, primarily to T-shirt makers aiming to capitalize on Manziel's sudden exposure.” Batson: "One hundred percent of the people so far have been, 'Oh, we're sorry. We didn't realize that.' Then the next day another company tries the same thing. It's not something we're upset about, though. We're excited to have a player of this level that we need to send out these cease-and-desist orders." Texas A&M Associate AD/Media Relations Alan Cannon said that there “aren't any special plans as of now" to promote Manziel for the Heisman Trophy. A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said, "It's been my experience those things take care of themselves” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/13).
JOHNNY COME LATELY: Manziel's grandfather Paul Manziel said of efforts to trademark the Johnny Football nickname, "It's really just to protect Johnny. If Johnny does well, if anyone ought to profit from his ability, it ought to be Johnny." In Texas, Allen Reed in a front-page piece reports Paul Manziel along with other family members “hired Tyler attorney Bennett White to trademark the moniker.” The family “made the move about a month ago, after A&M officials introduced the idea to the family and warned them of unlicensed ‘Johnny Football’ gear.” White said that the trademark registration “can take about eight months, depending on how easy it is to register and if there's any opposition.” Paul Manziel said that “making money off the trademark is an afterthought,” but he added that Johnny Football merchandise "might eventually materialize." He said, "If he goes pro and if he does well in college they could market 'Johnny Football' video games or shirts or things of that nature" (Bryan-College Station EAGLE, 11/13).
Bulls G Derrick Rose is “trying to stay almost as visible as when he was on the basketball court,” according to Maureen Morrison of AD AGE. Rose is not only “playing off his injury in TV commercials for the D Rose collection shoe from Adidas, but he is featured in the latest ‘2K NBA’ video game alongside fellow young NBA stars” Thunder F Kevin Durant and Clippers F Blake Griffin. Rose is “also turning up in local spots for Chicago-based pizza chain Giordano's, which he recently bought a stake in.” Being sidelined potentially until next season “might seem like it could hurt his endorsement potential." However, SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said, "In some ways this has actually been beneficial to his endorsement persona.” Morrison notes Rose and adidas have “focused on his injury as a theme in the advertising for the shoe.” The spots, which “include the hashtag #thereturn, were created by agency 180LA and show fans frozen in disbelief when Mr. Rose gets injured, as well as snippets of him doing intense rehabilitation workouts.” IEG data shows that Rose “brought in about $18 million from endorsements this year.” That “makes him the third-highest endorsement earner in the NBA, trailing only LeBron James at $33 million and Kobe Bryant at $28 million.” In addition to adidas and 2K Sports, Rose's endorsements “include Powerade, Wilson and headphone company Skullcandy” (AD AGE, 11/12 issue).
The Arena Football League has signed a one-year title sponsorship deal with Net10 Wireless for the '13 season. The prepaid cell phone company last season sponsored national broadcasts of the AFL on NFL Network, but will become the league’s first title sponsorship for the upcoming season. Net10 Wireless did not use a sports marketing agency and handled the deal directly with the league. “Net10 Wireless is now integrated with the entire AFL,” said AFL Commissioner Jerry Kurz, adding that the league-wide deal includes in-arena and on-field branding for the company. Kurz also said that the AFL will field 14 teams for the '13 season, compared with 17 teams in '12. The league has contracted the Georgia Force and K.C. Command, and will shut down the Milwaukee Mustangs franchise in '13 to return for the '14 season. Kurz added that the AFL has renewed its league deals with Russell Athletic, Spalding and Riddell. The AFL said that it plans to play an undetermined number of exhibition games in China next year in addition to a future 10-game schedule in the country.
NEW TV HOME: CBS Sports Network signed a deal to carry AFL games for the next two years. The cable channel will have 19 regular-season games and two playoff games starting next season. The league's championship game, ArenaBowl, will air on the CBS broadcast network. Next year's championship game is scheduled for 1:00pm ET on Aug. 17. CBS Sports Network will carry the AFL games in primetime on Saturday nights. NFL Network had held AFL rights since '10 and carried the games on Friday nights.
USA Hockey has signed Toyota as its new automotive sponsor. The deal, which runs through the '14 Sochi Games, will see the automaker become title sponsor of the USA Hockey National Championships. Financial terms were not available. Toyota is USA Hockey's first auto sponsor since '04, when GM ended its relationship with the NGB. USA Hockey Senior Marketing Dir Lee Meyer said, "This is a category that's important for us to fill and it's important to our members because of the size of vehicles they need to haul a lot of equipment. Toyota felt like a good fit because of the way they approach their consumer and their market and the types of vehicles they have match our members' needs." Meyer and USA Hockey Assistant Exec Dir of Marketing & Communications Mike Bertsch worked on the deal with Toyota's ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. The deal is USA Hockey's first new deal this year. It recently renewed its agreements with Liberty Mutual, Reebok-CCM, and others.