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Volume 24 No. 137

Marketing and Sponsorship

Redskins QB Robert Griffin III yesterday "made public assurances he won’t rush his recovery from knee surgery" after the launch of an adidas ad campaign promoting Griffin's goal of recovering in time for the start of the '13 NFL season, according to Rich Campbell of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Griffin yesterday posted a link to adidas' new ad, writing "I'm #allinforweek1." He then wrote on his Twitter feed, "Feel like I need to say this..Although my goal is to start Week 1, that doesn’t mean I will compromise my career to do so." An adidas spokesperson did not comment as to "whether the commercial was recorded before or after Griffin had surgery on Jan. 9" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 2/20). In DC, Mike Jones noted shortly after Griffin tweeted the link to the ad, Twitter "erupted in a flurry as followers wondered why the sports apparel company would push for Griffin to make such a speedy recovery when there are significant risks involved" (, 2/19). BUSINESS INSIDER's Tony Manfred wrote the commercial "puts more pressure on RGIII to come back." Marketing Griffin as "a superhero has created a real-world incentive for him to come back from knee surgery as soon as possible, which might not be the best thing for him to do" (, 2/19). ESPN's J.A. Adande asked, "Why put that additional pressure on himself?” Griffin should come back on his timetable and take a “hint from his fellow adidas stablemate,” Bulls G Derrick Rose, who is rehabbing a knee injury and “is willing to sit out the entire season and come back when he’s good and ready” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/19).

WHO IS IN CHARGE? Columnist Kevin Blackistone wondered who is "running the program" concerning Griffin's recovery -- adidas or the Redskins? Blackistone: "All of a sudden this seems like this is something programmed for a commercial to sell more adidas paraphernalia wrapped in this campaign about whether he can get back.” This comes after adidas last fall launched a campaign around Rose "that was all about him getting back, and he hasn’t come back yet." ESPN’s Pablo Torre said it is a "good thing when an athlete can capitalize on a horrible event" like blowing out a knee. However, Torre added, "Using the term ‘blow it up’ when you did just blow out your right knee maybe not the best marketing synergy there” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/19).

Clippers F Blake Griffin and G Chris Paul's respective endorsement deals with Kia and State Farm Insurance make the team one of only two in the NBA with “more than one player featured in national television advertisements promoting something other than sports coverage or sneakers," according to Diane Pucin of the L.A. TIMES. Griffin and Paul's Q scores have "risen along with the Clippers' winning percentage.” Griffin last year “had an awareness rating of 55% and a positive likability rating, or Q rating, of 18.” Paul at the time had 58% awareness and "a 14 Q score.” But Griffin's Q score this year “rose to 19, Paul's to 18 -- better than most non-athlete celebrities, who average 16.” The Kia and State Farm campaigns “were designed after conversations between the athletes and advertising executives revealed potential approaches that might work.” Griffin said of his Kia campaign, "At the very beginning we sat down and talked my life story. I think from that came the idea of this series, 'Blake goes back to the future.'" Griffin's "connection with Kia" was on display at the '11 NBA All-Star Game, where he won the dunk contest by leaping over the hood of a Kia Optima. Meanwhile, Translation Associate Creative Dir Emily Sander, whose company conceived Paul's dual personalities for his State Farm campaign, said that her team “had its ‘aha’ moment when it pondered the ‘intersection point’ between State Farm and the NBA" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20).

The Steelers yesterday said that Pittsburgh-based company Little Earth Productions will "take over manufacturing and distribution for the team's best-known souvenir," the Terrible Towel, according to Kim Leonard of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Little Earth for the past six years has "turned out women's accessories" with NFL logos, ranging from "purses to cowgirl hats and dishwashing gloves." Steelers Merchandising Manager Tim Carey said that Wisconsin-based McArthur Towel made the towels starting in '98, and Minnesota-based WinCraft Inc. "inherited the business upon acquiring McArthur a few years ago." Per the new arrangement, towels will be "imported from producers worldwide, and Little Earth will add holograms and tags and box and ship them to retailers." Little Earth Owner Rob Brandegee said that he "should be making Terrible Towels within two months." About 20 varieties have been sold, "ranging from camouflage to holiday versions." But Brandegee said that the line "will grow further." The Steelers "hope Little Earth can raise the towel's popularity." Brandegee added, "Think collectible" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/20).

SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass reported Wrangler has produced an online video series featuring NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and team owner Richard Childress discussing memories of late driver Dale Earnhardt "as part of the company’s personal endorsement deal" with Earnhardt Jr. Wrangler VP/Marketing Craig Errington said Earnhardt Jr. will be in "national TV, national print, national radio and online marketing as well." Errington said of the online video series, "Having the relationship we’ve had with them and having the great opportunity to be tied in to a great part of racing history, we really wanted to try to bring that more to life to our current followers and fans, both Wrangler fans and NASCAR fans" (, 2/19).

HIT THE BRAKES: Virginia-based brake pad manufacturer FDP Friction Science signed a multiyear sponsorship agreement with NASCAR that makes its Duralast brand the official brakes of the sport. Duralast will join the NASCAR contingency program and provide the “Brake in the Race Award” on a weekly basis to the driver running out front at the time of the first caution of a race. A year-end award will be given to the driver who wins the most “Brake in the Race” awards during the season. FDP's other brands include MaxStop and EcoStop (Tripp Mickle, Staff Writer).

GET HOME SAFELY: In Daytona Beach, Skyler Swisher reports the Florida DOT has "paid $174,500 to sponsor" Joe Nemechek's No. 87 Toyota in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona Int'l Speedway as part of its Alert Today Alive Tomorrow campaign. The sponsorship is part of a "broader statewide public awareness campaign" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/20).

NAME GAME: In Charlotte, Jim Utter reported Walmart with its sponsorship of the June 9 NASCAR Sprint Cup Fan Driven 400 at Pocono Raceway has created a "socially driven program that gives fans a voice" in branding the race. Fans through May 27 can "submit ideas and vote via Walmart's local Facebook pages on details including the race name" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/16).

SPECIAL DELIVERY: UPS announced its entry into F1 racing with a multiyear sponsorship deal of Scuderia Ferrari. The UPS shield will be visible on the Ferrari F1 cars driven by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa. The company's logo also will appear on the driver's racing overalls and the team's fleet of transporters and trackside equipment. UPS will become the official logistics and shipping sponsor for Ferrari (UPS).

SMOKE SIGNALS: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has "signed blu eCigs to sponsor the IndyCar team this season." The electronic cigarette brand will be the "primary sponsor for Mike Conway at Long Beach in April, and will be an associate sponsor on Graham Rahal's car for the entire season." Blu eCigs will "take on a high-profile role with the team through strategic branding and personal services" (AP, 2/20).