Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said that he has “declined to appear on many national television shows” that are positioning the NRA’s sponsorship of the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at TMS “as though it is a political statement,” according to David Newton of ESPN.com. Gossage said, "I might as well go ahead and hit myself in the head with a hammer because they're not going to be very objective. This is a sports marketing proposition. It's not a political platform, and none of us intend for it to be. It's a sponsor. Everybody else is trying to make it a political statement or a lot more complicated than it is. We sell tickets and sponsorship opportunities. The teams sell sponsorship opportunities. That's the extent of it. Nothing more” (ESPN.com, 3/5). CNN's Rachel Nichols noted the NRA's deal with TMS includes a provision that “at least once an hour the broadcaster has to mention the name of the sponsor," despite the fact TV nets have "basically decided they’re not going to air ads from gun makers.” Nichols: "All of a sudden, this is in some ways an end around.” She added, “This really hasn’t happened before in this scenario because there’s never been this high-profile athletic event sponsored by the NRA.” CNN's Piers Morgan said the NRA is “going to get all this airtime and they only have one real modus operandi,” which is to “sell more guns” (“Piers Morgan Tonight,” CNN, 3/5).
JUST BUSINESS? ESPN.com conducted a debate among its motorsports writers with regard to the sponsorship deal. Terry Blount wrote the NRA “falls in line perfectly with this track, a place where they've always had a yee-haw, bang-bang, pistol shoot in Victory Lane.” Blount: “But I wouldn't suggest using this sponsor for the road course race in Sonoma.” Ed Hinton wrote a few fans “might be put off, maybe among those whose interest in NASCAR has been piqued by Danica Patrick's full-time Cup ride. But by and large, the relationship between hunting and NASCAR-watching is a long-established staple of marketing.” Ryan McGee wrote there is “no way NASCAR will be able to avoid playing into the hands of a well-worn stereotype at a poorly timed juncture.” McGee: “I’m not saying the negative reaction within the mainstream will be fair. I’m just saying that’s how it’s going to be.” Newton wrote, “This doesn’t send the message the sport needs at a time when it is trying to bring in new fans.” Marty Smith wrote, “The entire sport of NASCAR is placed in a certain position because of the sponsorship” (ESPN.com, 3/5). CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman said the sponsorship is a “really horrible mistake, particularly if you’re NASCAR and you’re trying to branch out and get more mainstream." The NRA “has said some really insensitive, crazy things in light of some real tragedies.” SI’s Jim Trotter said NASCAR “is tone deaf, but I don’t have a problem with it.” Trotter: “If you try to stop the NRA from being a sponsor of this, we’re getting awfully close to censorship based on political beliefs” (“Rome,” CBS Sports Network, 3/5).
BEING POLITICAL WITHOUT TRYING TO BE? SPORTS ON EARTH’s Patrick Hruby wrote, “In sticking the NRA's sponsorship money in the fridge and the organization's overwhelmingly political raison d'etre in the freezer ... Gossage is being naive at best. Disingenuous at worst. Making a distinction without a difference. Oddly enough, he sounds like a politician.” Gossage’s “insistence that an NRA sponsorship is the same as an auto parts or fast food sandwich sponsorship reflects a larger cultural desire. A collective habit of cognitive dissonance” (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 3/5).
The J.M. Smucker Company has signed a sponsorship with the USOC, giving it rights to use the five-ring logo to promote its Smucker’s, Folgers, Jif and Smucker’s Uncrustables Sandwiches. The deal runs through '16 and makes the company a sponsor-level partner, a category that typically costs approximately $10M over four years. The deal expands on Smucker’s support of U.S. Figure Skating, an NGB it has sponsored for more than a decade. Under terms of the deal, J.M. Smucker will have exclusivity in the packaged fruit and nut spreads, packaged ground or whole bean coffee, and packaged frozen hand-held sandwich categories. The company will support the USOC’s “Road to Sochi” marketing program, which includes editorial content on teamusa.org and a mobile marketing tour that will go to 15 to 20 markets. The company also will participate in the USOC’s “The Power Of” program that brings together consumer-packaged-good partners like Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, P&G and others for USOC-branded displays at retailers during the Olympic Games. The J.M. Smucker Company CEO Richard Smucker in a statement said, “Our purpose is to help bring families together for memorable moments, and these gifted athletes do exactly the same thing for the entire country with their hard work, determination and, ultimately, unforgettable performances on the world stage.” The deal was negotiated by USOC Senior Dir of Business Development Michael O’Conor. The companydoes not have an agency.
Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews moved to the top of the list of best-selling NHL player jerseys for the month of February, as the club was in the midst of its record-breaking point streak, according to data from Shop.NHL.com. Toews claims the top spot from Flyers RW Claude Giroux, who was No. 1 during the month of January. Giroux fell to No. 4 this past month. Other Blackhawks seeing big gains included RW Patrick Kane, who vaulted from No. 21 to No. 5, and RW Marian Hossa, who jumped from No. 25 to No. 11. Rangers RW Ryan Callahan jumped from No. 4 to the No. 2 spot, while Penguins C Sidney Crosby held firm at No. 3. Meanwhile, Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin dropped out of the top 10 (previously No. 9) to the No. 16 spot. The Bruins and Penguins were the most well-represented teams on the list, with each having four players cracking the top 20.
BEST-SELLING NHL PLAYER JERSEYS IN FEBRUARY ON SHOP.NHL.COM
Sales and use of "so-called cut-resistant hockey socks made of Kevlar and other protective materials have increased at all levels of the sport since" Penguins LW Matt Cooke's skate almost completely severed Senators D Erik Karlsson's left Achilles tendon Feb. 13, according to Bob Cohn of the PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Karlsson "underwent surgery and will miss the rest of the season." Montreal-based Tuff-N-Lite Hockey President David Nerman said that sales of the socks "have risen about 70 percent since Karlsson's injury, with orders coming in from as far away as Norway and Australia." Bauer Performance Apparel Category Manager Beth Crowell said that retailers "told her the socks were quickly moving after the injury." Cohn noted the socks are "designed to protect the area between the shin pad and the top of the skate." Penguins Equipment Manager Dana Heinze said that five players on the team "wear the socks." Cohn noted some of those "who don't are considering them" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/5).
Zubaz, the loose-fitting, zebra-print pants popular in the 90s, are “enjoying something of a rebirth" following the release of adidas' postseason college basketball jerseys for several teams, according to Scott Cacciola of the N.Y. TIMES. There is no official relationship between Zubaz and adidas, but Zubaz co-Founders Dan Stock and Bob Traux said that they were "enjoying the publicity, especially as they try to rebuild their brand." Truax said, “I know this is getting a lot of negative press, all these people saying, ‘Ah, these look stupid!’ But from what I’ve heard -- and this is the key -- the kids like it.” Cacciola reports Stock and Truax relaunched the brand in '08 after a 12-year hiatus and "trademarked their particular stripe pattern." Any design that "replicates theirs by more than 70 percent would be in violation of those rights." adidas avoided that as the jerseys' shorts "feature more of a zigzag pattern" than Zubaz do. Meanwhile, the NFL’s Gronkowski brothers -- Rob, Dan and Chris -- are “such huge Zubaz fans that they hawk Zubaz gear on their Web site, GronkNation.com.” An ad urges fans to “show your support for a Gronk” by ordering the same style of Zubaz that the brothers wear. Cacciola notes Stock and Truax “appear to have big plans.” Traux said that he “spent much of the last month on the road meeting with retailers” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/6).
COOL IS THE RULE: CBS Sports Network’s Allie La Force said of adidas’ new uniforms, "The only thing I think is cool is the sleeves and how it’s connected to the jersey. But they make it look like there’s a shirt under the jersey.” La Force added, “Hate the shorts and I hate the neon shoes. It makes me think 80s. It doesn’t make me think new and redone and 2012.” Gottlieb noted, “You have sports writers and bloggers and whatever. They're not the target audience. Sixteen, 17- and 18-year-old kids, that’s who they're trying to appeal to. That’s who teams are recruiting” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 3/5).
In L.A., Louis Brewster reported NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson on Monday “was part of a five-man crew that spent the morning surfing in Huntington Beach, racing at Fontana and skiing in Mammoth” for a cross-promotion “two years in the making.” The day included surfers Dave Kalama and Ian Walsh and skiers Eddie Wall and Chris Benchetler. The promotion was the product of a "brainstorm" between Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker and Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory. Visit California President & CEO Caroline Beteta said, "This projects the California experience" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 3/5).
ALL FOR A REASON: Oregon State on Monday unveiled new jerseys and an updated logo, and CBS Sports Network’s Jim Rome said they came about for three reasons: “No. 1: Recruiting. No. 2: Recruiting. No. 3: Recruiting." Rome: "I’ll add a few more. No. 4: Oregon. No. 5: Oregon. No. 6: Oregon.” There are “two great developments for Oregon State: Chip Kelly is gone and so are their old threads” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 3/5).
THE FIT THAT'S RIGHT FOR YOU: WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY's Gerald Flores noted WNBA Liberty G Cappie Pondexter in ’10 “co-founded 4 Season Style Management, a consulting firm that specializes in fashion styling, personal shopping and image management.” The company “boasts clients" from the WNBA and NFL. Pondexter said, “I knew how hard it is for athletes to find clothes that fit and still look stylish. We’re managing a lot more people now, and it’s bigger than we had imagined” (WWD.com, 3/4). LENDING A HELPING HAND: The Ducks yesterday announced a partnership with Dollar Loan Center that makes the short-term lender the game night presenting sponsor for Kings-Ducks on April 7. The company also will receive in-game promotion for select regular-season games, all-event appearances on Honda Center signage and mentions on Ducks TV and radio broadcasts (Ducks).