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Volume 24 No. 114

Marketing and Sponsorship

Nike Golf had Rory McIlroy "in its sights” long before he signed a multiyear sponsorship deal with the company yesterday, according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. Nike Golf President Cindy Davis said, "We've known Rory for many, many years. We have a staff of people that travel around on all the key tours. We've been mutual fans." Nike Golf recorded $726M in revenue "in the last fiscal year, 10 percent higher than the previous year,” but Davis declined to comment on what McIlroy's “addition might mean to future revenue.” She also “chuckled at golf analysts' suggestions McIlroy's game might suffer by switching from one brand of equipment -- Titleist -- to another.” Davis said that the move “won't be a problem,” and noted that McIlroy “was asked about the switch Monday.” Davis: "He called it a seamless transition" (Portland OREGONIAN, 1/15). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Blitz & Smyth noted McIlroy’s “clean-cut image and youth will help Nike sell golf apparel, and is a welcome addition for the company that ended its sponsorship of Lance Armstrong last year following doping allegations.” brandRapport Sports Marketing Dir Nigel Currie said that McIlroy’s “prime asset was his ability.” Currie said, “It is not that he is ‘safe,’ but that he is likely to be the best golfer in the world for the next few years. The key thing is he is recognised around the world.” Currie said McIlroy “has the same potential to achieve” what fellow Nike endorser Tiger Woods has done (, 1/14). ESPN’s Darren Rovell said Davis called McIlroy's signing an "aggressive move” by the company. However, Rovell said, “It also could be looked at as a defensive move, because with Tiger not winning the majors, they needed to make a move in order to stay relevant in golf.” Rovell said McIlroy is “genuine” and being “young is very important.” But something to not “forget is how popular he is overseas” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 1/14).

: ESPN’s Bob Ley said to McIlroy on "OTL" yesterday, “You’re not just a golfer, certainly, with your accomplishments. You ascend from golfer to brand. How would you describe the Rory McIlroy brand?” McIlroy said his brand is “very authentic, what you see is what you get, down to earth, young, energetic.” McIlroy added, “I can relate to a lot of people, especially the younger generation” ("OTL," ESPN, 1/14). The GLOBE & MAIL’s Lorne Rubenstein wrote Nike has signed the “most popular golfer in the world to a gigantic contract, and obviously has big hopes for what McIlroy can do for its golf division.” The focus on McIlroy “will be intense.” He has been under the spotlight “for some time now, but he has ensured the glare will only get more intense from the first swing he makes this week in Abu Dhabi with Nike clubs” (, 1/14).

DYNAMIC DUO: CNBC’s Brian Shactman said McIlroy and Woods are now “the faces of Nike Golf,” though McIlroy “represents a new generation.” Shactman: “It’s not like Tiger Woods is old … but Nike is hedging its bets if he doesn’t make it all the way back to No. 1, so they signed Rory” (“Power Lunch,” CNBC, 1/14). In London, Kevin Garside wrote the McIlroy-Woods dynamic is "golf's dream ticket" in '13, a "nascent rivalry that is essentially waiting for Woods to catch up with the Ulsterman" (, 1/14).’s Rex Hoggard wrote it is “clear Nike, as it does in other sports, plans to capitalize on having the game’s alpha and omega under a single roof.” Hoggard: “Seamlessly weaving two divergent personalities, and not roughing up any egos in the process, will be Nike’s biggest challenge, but there is an army of marketing types to climb that mountain” (, 1/14). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS’ Shane Bacon wrote the new 60-second ad Nike released yesterday featuring McIlroy and Woods trying to one-up each other is “exactly what you'd expect from Nike, who continually puts out the best commercials in the game and now has a brand new star to play with” (, 1/14).

NO RECRUITING PITCH:’s Bob Harig noted Woods and McIlroy “got to be friendly over the past year.” But McIlroy said that Woods “never tried to recruit him to the company, nor did McIlroy reach out for any advice.” McIlroy said, "I didn't speak about it to Tiger. I didn't say anything, and I don't think he wanted to influence me, either. We didn't talk about it at all -- not until after it was all done” (, 1/14). But Golf Channel’s Charlie Rymer said, “I just can’t imagine that Nike Golf would go out and sign Rory McIlroy without having a conversation with Tiger Woods” ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 1/14).

: YAHOO SPORTS' Bacon in a separate piece wrote if ’11 was “the year of TaylorMade, and last season was a pretty darn good one for Ping, it seemed that '13 would be that one for Nike.” Woods is “obviously the biggest name on any staff, but the additions of Nick Watney and Kyle Stanley helped.” Nike then “quietly added Seung Yul Noh, one of the sneaky best pick-ups from any company in the offseason, and on Monday announced the ‘breaking’ news” that McIlroy would be “covered head to toe, putter to driver in Nike.” This announcement “happened to come the day after Russell Henley won the Sony Open as a rookie and a Nike ambassador, and if you're talking about having a pretty solid start to the 2013 season, I'd say this is about as good as it gets” (, 1/14).

U.S. Justice Department officials have "recommended joining a federal whistleblower lawsuit aimed at clawing back sponsorship money" from Lance Armstrong, according to sources cited by Albergotti & O'Connell of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Former cyclist Floyd Landis in the suit alleges that Armstrong and team managers "defrauded the U.S. government when they accepted money from the U.S. Postal Service." The "deadline for the Justice Department to join the suit is Thursday" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/15). In N.Y., Thompson & O'Keeffe report Armstrong is "in talks to return some of the millions of taxpayer dollars he received" from the USPS, which sponsored his team from '98-'04. The negotiations "may be an attempt to avoid criminal prosecution or prevent the government from joining the whistleblower suit filed" by Landis, who was stripped of his '06 Tour de France victory because of doping. Armstrong yesterday taped an interview with Oprah Winfrey where he reportedly confessed to doping, but not everyone in a group of close friends and advisers "thought the sit-down was a good idea." Sources said that some of his advisers "believe it will increase his liability in civil litigation beyond the whistleblower case" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/15).

TALKING THE TALK...: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Albergotti & O'Connell in a separate piece wrote under the header, "Behind Lance Armstrong's Decision To Talk." Armstrong's legal team had been "divided about a possible confession, with some expressing concern about its potential effect on continuing litigation." His team includes Robert Luskin and Patrick Slevin at Patton Boggs, John Keker and Elliot Peters at Keker & Van Nest, and lawyers from Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton. Armstrong also had been "regularly consulting Tim Herman." Currently, it is "unclear what kind of financial effect his problems are having" on Armstrong (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/15). CBS’ Jack Ford said, “You have to believe that there were some significant battles going on inside of his camp. Public relations people probably saying, ‘Look, you need to take control of this story, move forward. We’re a forgiving nation. If you want to be able do things and resurrect your image you have to apologize and get out there.’ But I got to believe that his lawyers were saying, ‘That’s a terrible idea,’ because legally you’re now going to be exposing yourself to all kinds of civil suits” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 1/15).

...WALKING THE WALK: Winfrey this morning said she would “choose not to characterize” whether she thought Armstrong was genuinely “contrite” during the interview, which will air Thursday and Friday on OWN. She said, “I would rather people make their own decisions about whether he was contrite or not. I felt that he was thoughtful. I thought that he was serious. I thought that he certainly had prepared himself for this moment. I would say that he met the moment" ("CBS This Morning," 1/15). In L.A., Bill Dwyre writes how people "do something is often as revealing as what you do," and Armstrong took a "deadly serious moment, an international news story, and made it into Hollywood." Dwyre: "The immediate reaction: Could this guy possibly handle things any worse? Is there not one person in his collection of advisors, lawyers and public relations people who could have made him understand what a mistake it was to take his story to Oprah's confessional?" Most people will "see through this, will understand that, at a time when transparency was needed, Armstrong's method was totally transparent" (L.A. TIMES, 1/15).'s Greg Couch cited reports as saying that the confession was an "emotional moment." Couch: "I’m sure it was, with Armstrong and his handlers figuring out beforehand exactly when was the best moment for tears" (, 1/15). In Austin, Cedric Golden wrote Armstrong "still craves the spotlight and will do what is best for Lance." And for those who "think he’s doing this for a higher purpose, pardon me while I giggle" (, 1/14). SPORTING NEWS' David Whitley wrote the confession was "a win-win." Winfrey's network will "get a ratings bump," while Armstrong will "look sympathetic enough to win back millions of admirers he duped all those years" (, 1/14).

IT COULD BE WORSE: In N.Y., Claire Atkinson writes the "disgraced cyclist has been on a serious downhill run in the public’s opinion based on his latest Q Score." After his seventh Tour de France win in '05, just "11 percent of people viewed Armstrong negatively." That figure has "risen to 27 percent since he was accused of a sophisticated doping scheme, according to his September Q Score." The average sports star "has a negative score of 24 percent." Marketing Evaluations Exec VP Henry Schafer, whose company produces Q Scores, said, "He's going to have to do some heavy-duty mea culpas." Still, Atkinson notes Armstrong is viewed "less negatively than Tiger Woods, who has a negative score of 43 percent after his philandering" (N.Y. POST, 1/15). In Charlotte, Peter St. Onge writes, "The point of the whole Oprah confessional is that Armstrong needs something from us in return -- sympathy, support, or at least some form of public acceptance to rebuild on." But that "won't happen unless we think he's actually sorry" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/15). USA TODAY's Brent Schrotenboer writes it is the "public's reaction to Armstrong's apology that is critical to the cyclist" (USA TODAY, 1/15).

SAYING SORRY TO LIVESTRONG: In Austin, Suzanne Halliburton notes before he met with Winfrey, Armstrong "offered an apology, but few details, to about 100 Livestrong employees" during a 15-minute meeting at foundation HQs in East Austin (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 1/15).

Victoria Azarenka’s team at Lagardère Unlimited yesterday announced a multiyear endorsement deal with Red Bull, making the No. 1 ranked player in the world the "first tennis player signed by the beverage giant,” according to Kristi Dosh of Lagardère Unlimited Tennis Division Talent Marketing Dir Drew LeMesurier said, “She has a certain swagger about her consistent with the Red Bull culture.” Azarenka joins Red Bull’s “growing stable of athletes outside of the action sports world.” Other Red Bull athletes in U.S. pro sports include Clippers F Blake Griffin, Celtics G Rajon Rondo, Nets G Deron Williams, Giants P Tim Lincecum and Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware. Dosh noted the Red Bull deal “adds to Azarenka’s growing stable of corporate partners.” She started last year “with a new Wilson racket deal, worth more than $2 million over four years.” She also re-signed with Nike “in a deal estimated to bring in approximately $4 million annually if she stays ranked in the top five.” Other sponsors include Citizen Watch, AmEx and Six Star Nutrition. LeMesurier said that Citizen “wants to use Azarenka more in the style and fashion landscape and points out she’s already in their ads in InStyle magazine” (, 1/14).

49ers QB Colin Kaepernick’s “star is growing” as he has led his team to the NFC Championship game, but off the field he has remained low key, and that "will not be changing any time soon,” according to Darren Heitner of XAM Sports Marketing & Media Relations Dir Shawn Smith, Kaepernick’s agent, said, “With Colin, in particular, we have purposefully laid low.” Kaepernick and Smith “decided to take the long-term approach and not jump into any partnerships that may include short-term gains at the potential expense of building a worthwhile long-term portfolio.” Kaepernick has a deal with Nike “to wear product on the field,” but he and Smith remain “committed to only associating Kaepernick with companies, goods and services that meet specific requirements.” Smith said, “If it’s not directly related to what he’s doing, he’s not super ambitious to be a part of it -- he has no interest in doing a big campaign or being on a big billboard.” Kaepernick and Smith will be in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII regardless of whether the 49ers make the game. Smith said that she will “wait until then to establish many relationships with corporate executives.” Kaepernick set an NFL record with 181 rushing yards for a QB in Saturday's 45-31 win of the Packers, and Smith said, “If I am counting memorabilia offers, appearances and product endorsement opportunities, I have received close to 20 offers since the Green Bay game. None have been accepted at this point.” Smith does “envision Kaepernick eventually associating with companies in particular categories, including a headphone manufacturer, men’s grooming company and an apparel entity.” Meanwhile, the website is “currently under construction.” Smith “attempted to acquire, but the domain owner was asking for $17,000” (, 1/14).

The NHL has unveiled a season-opening promotional spot, titled "Hockey Is Back," which comes on the heels of the '13 season schedule announcement. The TV spot was written by Emmy-award winner Aaron Cohen, whose past sports credits include HBO's documentary series “24/7” and "Derek Jeter 3K." Actor Liev Schreiber provides narration. The spot, which in its longest form is two full minutes, focuses on fans' connection to the sport and the meaning it has in their lives (THE DAILY).

Oregon-based Reser’s Fine Foods signed a one-year agreement with Joe Gibbs Racing, making it an associate sponsor of the team’s No. 18 Nationwide Series entry driven by Matt Kenseth. The deal, which was announced today, also makes Reser’s the primary sponsor for five Nationwide Series races (Phoenix, Texas, Charlotte, Richmond and Kansas). The company’s execs hope the deal helps them expand distribution of its prepared potato salad and raise its brand awareness across the Southeast and Midwest, where it is less well known. Reser’s Exec VP/Sales & Marketing Peter Sirgy said, “Looking at the sport as a platform for creating additional brand awareness for our brand, there couldn’t be a more perfect fit. There are 100,000-plus fans at a race. They’re barbecuing. They’re grilling. Our prepared salad is a great complement to that.” The company plans to promote the sponsorship by putting Kenseth cut-outs in stores and placing show cars at certain outlets. Sirgy said that Reser’s opted to sign a one-year deal and concentrate on the Nationwide Series because the sport is new to the company. He anticipates extending the deal after the company has had a chance to evaluate its results. JGR President J.D. Gibbs said the team will be working to help Reser’s sell more potato salad at retail during the year in hopes of convincing the company to return in '14. Gibbs added, “You have to show everybody. They’re not going to (sponsor the team) because they like to see cars race. There has to be a business reason. You have to say, ‘Here’s the value of NASCAR.’ That’s nothing new. What is new, is you have to show definitive results of their investment. When you can do that, it sure makes it easy to make future decisions. For us, that’s our job.”

USA TODAY’s Bruce Horovitz cites a 10-year study by research firm Kantar Media as showing that the cost of 30-second Super Bowl spots is “growing at three to five times the rate it did a decade ago.” Kantar Media Senior VP/Research Jon Swallen said that if the “trend continues, the first $5 million Super Bowl commercial could emerge by 2016.” The price of slots has "jumped $30,000 to $500,000 annually in recent years compared with the $100,000 annual increase that was more common a decade ago" (USA TODAY, 1/15).

BEER BACKER: MARKETING magazine’s John Reynolds reports Carlsberg and the EPL have “agreed a three-year deal for Carlsberg to be the ‘Official Beer Partner’" of the league. The deal will run from the ’13-14 season through the end of the ’15-16 season. The EPL has been “without an official beer partner” since ’10, when its three-year deal with Budweiser ended. Carlsberg has a “long-standing relationship” with soccer “through international sponsorships of national teams and international tournaments” (, 1/15).

FOREIGN RELATIONS: EPL club Manchester United announced a pair of three-year sponsorship deals with companies based in China: Wahaha, a soft drink manufacturer, and China Construction Bank (CCB). The deals are ManU's first-ever in the soft drink and financial services categories. Wahaha, the largest beverage producer in China over the last 11 years, will be designated as the club’s official soft drinks partner in China. CCB received exclusive rights to produce the club’s branded credit card in Mainland China, where it will be offered to the bank’s 102 million customers (Christopher Botta, SportsBusiness Journal).

DUNKIN' 'NUTS: Wonderful Pistachios and the Harlem Globetrotters announced that they have signed a three-year, seven-figure sponsorship deal. The team will help promote the snack brand as part of its "Get Crackin'" campaign. Wonderful Pistachios receives in-game brand integration, advertising and product sampling. The team will wear the "Get Crackin'" logo on its jersey front and appear in a "Get Crackin'" commercial that will begin airing on Monday (Harlem Globetrotters). Wonderful Pistachios will "put millions behind a media buy for TV ads" featuring Globetrotter players (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 1/14 issue).

BETWEEN THE MONSTER AND THE SAINT: Saints QB Drew Brees and the Brees Dream Foundation yesterday announced a partnership with headphone company Monster. As part of the deal, Monster will support the foundation, which was established in ’03 to improve quality of life and provide care for cancer patients. Monster will join in sponsoring Brees' Hurricane Sandy Relief Concerts at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans, and will collaborate with Brees to support other foundation programs including Seg4Vets, an initiative providing Segways for disabled military veterans that Monster has previously supported (Brees Dream Foundation).