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Volume 24 No. 112
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Pitch Perfect: The Sports Business Year In Marketing

There is no shortage of marketing issues that left their mark on the industry this year. Below are some of the people, campaigns and ideas that made headlines in '12.

JUST LIN, BABY: Linsanity took over the globe in February when Jeremy Lin became one of the most unlikely sports celebs in recent memory. The Knicks and the NBA were caught off guard when demand for Lin jerseys surpassed that of every other player both in the U.S. and in China. Volvo swooped in to sign the Harvard grad to an endorsement deal, while the Knicks capitalized on their sudden popularity in Asia by seeing Coca-Cola put Mandarin ads up at MSG and signing a deal with Japanese tire maker Maxxis International.

SPIN CYCLE: Notorious for standing by its athlete endorsers through thick and thin, Nike reversed course on cyclist Lance Armstrong after the USADA upheld doping allegations, leading to the revocation of his seven Tour de France titles. The shoe giant’s move started a domino effect for Armstrong, with Anheuser-Busch, Trek, FRS and Honey Stinger all following suit. However, Nike stopped short of cutting ties with the Armstrong-founded Livestrong line of apparel and shoes.

Keselowski made waves in the media for his post-
championship celebration in Miami

MILLER’S CROSSING: Brad Keselowski was barely out of his car before he started celebrating his NASCAR Sprint Cup championship by downing a Miller Lite. The driver of the Blue Deuce made sure he gave the brewer as much exposure as possible, including drinking out of a huge Miller Lite beer mug. The immediate shoutout to his sponsor at Homestead-Miami Speedway marked one of motorsports’ most talked about moments of the year.

KISSED BY A ROSE: Longing to land a signature NBA player on which to hang its marketing efforts, adidas signed Bulls G Derrick Rose to a lifetime deal reportedly worth $25M annually. The deal immediately brought comparisons to the relationship a certain former Bulls player has had with Nike for three decades. Rose has yet to see the court this season after tearing his ACL in last season's playoffs, but adidas still pushed forward with a campaign focusing on Rose’s recovery. adidas also maximized its value with the release of a new shoe and apparel line.

NO BULL: Hailed as one of the most logical unions ever struck between a sports property and a brand, the PBR signed as its official beer … PBR. The three-year agreement included the Pabst Blue Ribbon Bull Award as well as in-arena activation at eight tour stops. The brewer drew the line at a media buy, citing company policy to not buy traditional, national TV advertising. Still, the brands synonymous in name finally became synchronized in business.

Sergio Tacchini dropped Djokovic eight years early, 
claiming the tennis star had outgrown the brand

SERVICE ERROR: Novak Djokovic once again spent the majority of the year as the world’s top-ranked tennis player, but his success actually caused him to lose a main sponsor. Apparel company Sergio Tacchini ended its deal with Djokovic eight years early, claiming he had outgrown the brand. Critics claimed both sides “hugely mishandled the deal by squandering a significant opportunity.” But don’t fret for the five-time major winner -- he signed a five-year deal with Japanese brand Uniqlo just one day later.

FIGHT CLUB: Jon “Bones” Jones became the first MMA fighter to sign a global sponsorship deal with Nike. While Nike previously had country-specific deals with fighters, including Anderson Silva in Brazil, the UFC hailed this agreement as a crossover moment for the sport. Nike later reaffirmed its commitment to the octagon by reaching a pact with UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos.

BIRDS OF A FEATHER: The ever growing realm of social media in sports took flight when the Eagles became the first pro sports team to be featured in Rovio Entertainment’s popular Angry Birds gaming app. The clever deal featured the Mighty Philadelphia Eagles mascot prominently with 16 free levels that unlocked one at a time each week during the NFL season.