Chinese Basketball Association players are “continuing to complain about the mandatory call” to wear league partner Li-Ning’s sneakers and “being fined for violations,” according to Sun Xiaocheng of CHINA DAILY. Li-Ning, which has spent US$321M in a five-year endorsement with the CBA, "requires all local players to wear its sneakers in games although foreigners can wear other brands, with the logos covered.” Li-Ning has “allowed other brands on court if they pay a fee of $80,200 per player,” which is “five times the price" former CBA sponsor Anta asked for last season. Players have been “complaining about the league's over protection of the sponsor's rights.” Beijing Ducks G Stephon Marbury said, "Every player has his right to wear what shoes are right for his feet to protect his body and well being while playing on the court." Xiaocheng noted Marbury despite his complaints “followed the league's order and covered his 361 Degree sneaker's brand with tape" (CHINA DAILY, 12/4). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Fiona Law reported Li-Ning has “struggled in the face of competition from foreign rivals such as Nike and Adidas, as well as lower-cost local brands.” The company’s shares have “tumbled 86% in Hong Kong from their peak in 2010, and are down more than a third since January.” Li-Ning CEO Jin-Goon Kim said, “Five years ago, sportswear brands in China were wholesalers, not retailers. The focus was on growth, as opposed to merchandising and brand DNA and understanding customers. Chinese retailers need to be more focused on brand. Before, you had to be good at opening stores and taking care of channels. Now, it's a different game.” Kim added the company's endorsement deal with Heat G Dwyane Wade "speaks to the most important sports segment for China's younger generation” (WSJ.com, 12/2).
Marketing and Sponsorship
Reebok has laid off 65 employees in Canton, Mass., "as part of a restructuring affecting 150 positions globally," according to Donna Goodison of the BOSTON HERALD. The staff cuts represent "about 6.5 percent of its headquarters workforce." Reebok is now "eliminating its European office in Amsterdam and its Asia-Pacific office in Hong Kong, shifting the duties to Canton." Reebok COO Matt O'Toole in a statement said that the "new 'global-direct' operating model and streamlining are designed to improve Reebok’s speed to market and efficiency." Reebok, which "saw 25 percent and 26 percent revenue declines in the past two quarters, has been hurt by lower toning shoe sales, fraud at its India unit, the loss of a major NFL contract and the NHL lockout." The 150 cuts "account for 2 percent of its global headcount of 8,000" (BOSTON HERALD, 12/5). Reebok Corporate Communications Manager Dan Sarro said that the layoffs "are not related to Reebok's relationship" with either the NFL or NHL. In Boston, Abelson & Borchers note while none of yesterday's layoffs were in Reebok's licensed apparel division, the company's "overall financial health has suffered since Nike supplanted Reebok as the NFL’s supplier of onfield uniforms and maker of official NFL gear for fans." Meanwhile, in an announcement made separately from its layoff notice yesterday, Reebok "opened a contest in which fitness buffs can post their workout photos on Twitter, using the hashtag #getafterit." The top vote-getter in online balloting "will win a $500 Reebok gift certificate, and nine runners-up will get T-shirts" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/5).
Swan Racing was announced yesterday as a new NASCAR team that will compete in the Sprint Cup Series in '13. The team, owned by Swan Energy CEO Brandon Davis, will compete full-time in NASCAR's top series fielding the No. 30 Toyota driven by David Stremme. Swan Energy will be the primary sponsor on the car. Discussions with additional sponsors are underway and further sponsor announcements are expected early in '13 (Swan Racing). The AP’s Jenna Fryer reported Davis has “hired veteran Steve Hmiel as director of competition.” Davis also has “expanded the team roster from seven employees to 13 and said more hires will be made before the season begins in February.” Davis said, "Since coming on I've been learning as much as I can. What's needed, what we have, what are the weaknesses and what are the strengths. The weaknesses are we need more people and more money. Steve Hmiel will take care of the personnel and I'll take care of the money” (AP, 12/4).
MEDIA POST’s David Goetzl reported SodaStream, which “markets a device that turns tap water into carbonated beverages, is taking its efforts to sell itself as an eco-friendly, feel-good alternative to conventional soft drinks to advertising’s biggest stage.” The company said that it has “purchased a spot in CBS’s February coverage of the Super Bowl.” The ad “promises a new twist on a compelling spot in a current campaign, which shows people starting their SodaStreams, followed by explosions of plastic soft-drink bottles.” SodaStream indicated that it will “go right at the Cokes and Pepsis.” Its ad is being created by "legendary adman" Alex Bogusky. SodaStream said that its ad is “scheduled for the fourth quarter.” CBS has “already approved the SodaStream spot” (MEDIAPOST.com, 12/4).
WARM & FUZZY: Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka will be the major sponsor for the '13 Izod IndyCar Series "Triple Crown," which will feature the Indianapolis 500, Pocono IndyCar 400 and MavTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. The "Fuzzy's Triple Crown" will award a $1M payout to any driver who can win all three events, or a $250,000 bonus to a driver who wins two of the three races. Fuzzy's is IndyCar's official vodka as well as the primary sponsor for Ed Carpenter Racing (IndyCar). The Triple Crown was “part of IndyCar’s schedule most years from 1971 through 1989" (INDYSTAR.com, 12/4).
TIME TRIALS: Rolex today announced that it will be F1’s “official timekeeper and timepiece" starting next season after agreeing to a global partnership. As part of the deal, the Rolex logo “will be positioned around grand prix circuits and at certain corners during races with the Swiss company saying its presence would develop over coming seasons.” South Korean electronics group LG, which “signed a five-year deal in 2008 to be the official data processor, have had their branding on timekeeping systems in recent seasons.” Swiss brand Hublot has been F1's official watchmaker since '10 (REUTERS, 12/5).
YOU'RE UNBELIEVABLE: In DC, Sarah Kogod reported Redskins QB Robert Griffin III on Monday “debuted his new adidas cleats, dubbed ‘crazyquick,’ during pregame warmups.” The shoe “features the two words he made famous” while accepting the Heisman Trophy last year -- “unbelievably believable.” Griffin trademarked that phrase “shortly after the ceremony, so it was only a matter of time before we saw it on some gear” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 12/4).