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Volume 24 No. 159

Marketing and Sponsorship

adidas' adiZero uniforms that several teams are wearing during conference tournaments this week are drawing a large response from fans, and if adidas "wanted a reaction, they got one," according to ESPN's Digger Phelps. The jerseys are being worn during the postseason by Baylor, Cincinnati, Kansas, Louisville, Notre Dame and UCLA, and Phelps said, "Positive and negative, they got a reaction. They wanted this done. They got what they needed, and it’s only the beginning." Some teams, including Indiana, “said no to adidas," but the participating schools are wearing the new uniforms because “money talks" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/15). In K.C., Rustin Dodd reports the jerseys Kansas wore during their Big 12 quarterfinal game against Texas Tech "joined the annals of suspect uniforms." The jerseys “could certainly hold their own against an infamous list" that includes the '70s Astros, '94 U.S. men’s soccer team and "really anything from the ill-fated XFL.” However, by the end of Thursday, there was “some question whether the jerseys were even the worst Kansas had worn this year.” Kansas G Christian Garrett said, “It’s cool to wear something different. But it was kind of mixed … we didn’t know what it’s gonna look like. But we actually liked them overall. I know there’s a lot of mixed emotions from the KU faithful” (K.C. STAR, 3/15).

GREEN GOBLINS: Notre Dame for Thursday's Big East quarterfinal game against Marquette wore the green versions of the adiZero jerseys after wearing white uniforms Wednesday. ESPN's Jay Bilas noted Notre Dame F Jack Cooley was sick the last time the team played Marquette and said, “He’s not going to feel well after looking at these uniforms for 40 minutes.” ESPN’s Sean McDonough said if Cooley is “physically sick tonight, no one would notice, one of the benefits of these uniforms.” Bilas said he was not “crazy” about the uniforms, but was okay with them “as long as the kids like them.” However, he did manage to get another shot in, saying the Notre Dame uniforms “would look better with a blindfold on.” McDonough: “The good news is, if like the Super Bowl, we have a power outage, we could follow the Fighting Irish out of the building” (ESPN, 3/14). ESPN’s Kevin Negandhi said to Phelps, “I'm watching that Notre Dame-Marquette game and I’m actually thinking your green highlighter got stuck in the wash with all the whites before the game” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/15). YAHOO SPORTS’ Max Thompson wrote the “white look” of Notre Dame’s uniforms “isn't nearly as bad as it could have been, with accents in multiple shades of green that look pretty sharp.” Thompson: “But the all green? Whew. Still, does it even compare to the famous neon explosion Baylor broke out last season” (, 3/14). SPORTING NEWS’ Ryan Fagan wrote the “garish neon lime-green uniforms sported by Notre Dame on Thursday night surely made pub dwellers across Ireland spit up their Guinness” (, 3/14).

STAY AWAY FROM THE FASHION BOUTIQUES: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes the Big East Tournament, as “a fashion statement, has been seized by adidas to renew war on Nike to determine which can do the most dirt to college sports -- and everything else they touch -- by buying the rights to do their worst.” Cincinnati on Wednesday, perhaps “with area recruits in mind, wore its latest in adidas-mandated menace-wear -- black-and-white shorts in a camouflage/combat pattern” (N.Y. POST, 3/15). ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said Cincinnati’s uniforms are “ghastly” and “horrifying.” Kornheiser: “They belong in a clown college. I can’t believe really how terrible they are. The only one worse than Cincinnati’s … is the possibility of Notre Dame breaking out the mint green uniforms.” He added, “I think at Under Armour and at Nike, they’re laughing at these things.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the uniforms are “pukey, yes throw-up” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/14). But Bilas said Louisville’s uniforms are "far less egregious than some of the others we’ve seen” (“Villanova-Louisville,” ESPN, 3/14).

WEST COAST SHOCKERS: In L.A., Bill Plaschke writes UCLA players in their adiZero uniforms “looked like Care Bears” in their Pac-12 quarterfinal game against Arizona State. They wore “fluffy white shorts adorned with little gray squigglies,” and the jerseys “contained shirt sleeves covered in the same finger-painted mess.” Plaschke writes late UCLA coach John Wooden “would have immediately ordered them back into the locker room to put on something decent.” Other adidas-sponsored schools “have allowed the shoe company to splatter similar designs over their uniforms.” But Plaschke asks, “Since when is UCLA's blue-and-gold basketball history for sale, particularly during the postseason?” (L.A. TIMES, 3/15).

JPMorgan Chase has signed on to sponsor the Tampa Bay Times Forum in a multiyear deal that also makes the company the official bank, credit card, financial services partner, ATM provider and community partner of the Lightning and AFL Storm. The partnership began with Thursday’s home game against the Islanders, as the arena was lit up in "Chase blue" during a pregame ceremony. Other activations include naming rights to the Chase Club premium seating area, plus on-ice and dasherboard signage (Tampa Bay Times Forum). In Tampa, Jeff Harrington noted Chase “iced a sports marketing deal to cement its local commitment” after opening “nearly 60 branches in Tampa Bay and even picking Tampa as the site of last year's annual meeting.” The bank signed “a broad, five-year agreement." The sponsorship makes Chase “one of the top corporate sponsors in the downtown arena.” The bank will have “eight ATMs throughout the sports complex.” The venue's “most exclusive seating area, now called the Channelside Club, is being renamed the Chase Club.” Financial terms were not disclosed, but Chase officials “described it as one of the Lightning's top sponsorship deals, second only in scope to the naming rights deal with the Tampa Bay Times.” The deal “fills a void after PNC Financial ended its role as the Lightning's bank sponsor two years ago.” Chase established a “foothold in Florida through buying Washington Mutual's branch network in the wake of the 2008 financial shakeup.” Chase also recently “became a sponsor" of the Magic at Amway Center (, 3/14).

Fast casual QSR Chipotle Mexican Grill has long been a popular spot among consumers, and the company's celebrity card program now has assembled an array of unofficial endorsers, including several prominent athletes. The strategy, known in the marketing industry as celebrity seeding, is neither secret nor new, but Chipotle’s program is unpublicized and has only recently gained notoriety when it was mentioned on social media. The concept is a sort of reverse engineering of the typical endorsement process. Chipotle waits for well-known people to express an affinity for the company's food either privately or publicly, and then sends them a card that gives them a free burrito a day. The company asks for nothing in return for the favor, but many high-profile athletes have taken to social media to sing the company’s praises after receiving one. The Marketing Arm Managing Dir Matt Delzell, whose company is unaffiliated with the program, said, “Everyone knows with a television commercial, a company paid for that endorsement. With Chipotle, the consumer can make the connection, ‘Hey I don’t ever see this celebrity doing TV commercials for Chipotle, and I don’t see them doing press events for Chipotle, so it feels real.’” The company declined to formally discuss participants in the program, but athletes who have publically indicated they have a card range from U.S. women's national soccer team F Abby Wambach to Heat G Mario Chalmers to iconic skateboarder Tony Hawk. “The average Chipotle consumer, at least publicly, would not think they’re affected by a celebrity endorsement, or influenced in any way by that,” Delzell said. “But I think subliminally, they probably are.”

GOODEN & PLENTY: Bucks F Drew Gooden about a year ago went into a local franchise in Milwaukee and, after finding out from an employee about the celebrity card, expressed interest in getting one. Gooden did not hear about it until earlier this year when he unexpectedly received a package from the company with one in it. He immediately went on Twitter and wrote, "Good looking Chipotle!! Free Burrito's for life!!! Thanks a lot!" Gooden said, "For them to send out a card for me to go and eat on the house, I'm going do my best to give them play for that and to help them in their marketing as much as possible." The unofficial status between the two parties has turned into a positive for some athletes. Pro lacrosse player Paul Rabil said, "Fans know when you're being truthful, when you're being honest, when you're just plugging a company and a lot of times that (mention of Chipotle) just comes from the sincerity of the moment you're in." He added, "Sometimes for me … it alleviates the pressure that may come from me supporting one of my actual sponsors, because it kind of creates an open conversation with my fan base."

GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN: The celebrity card program was born out of Chipotle's unique marketing philosophy of eschewing TV ads in favor of a word-of-mouth approach that relies on the power of personal recommendation. Chipotle Social Media Manager Joe Stupp said, "We don't really feel like TV is the way for us to go. It's an incredible expenditure, and while it may bring sales, at least kind of, you have to keep doing it. If you stop, it just drops off." He added, "Word of mouth is something that builds a lot stronger and it's not as artificial. We think our food sells itself, and that's one of the things that enables our word-of-mouth marketing."

USA Triathlon and Lagardère Unlimited have agreed to a partnership that makes Finland-based fitness training system Omegawave the title sponsor of next month's event in San Diego. The Omegawave World Triathlon San Diego will be held April 18-20. Lagardère brokered the deal for the event, which is one of eight in the Int'l Triathlon Union’s World Triathlon Series. The event is being co-produced by USA Triathlon and Germany-based UpSolut Sports AG and Lagardère. Financial terms of the deal were not available, but it is the first title sponsorship for the second-year event. Athletes in training can wear the Omegawave sensor belt -- similar to a heart rate monitor -- and get instantaneous feedback through a smart phone app. Teams from the NFL, MLS and NHL have used the technology. Omegawave will not distribute the training belts to participants, and activation plans for the sponsorship are still being developed. Lagardère Senior VP/Corporate Partnerships Jamey Sunshine said, “I just think we see it as a perfect fit for this event. We saw the event as an excellent platform to introduce the product and help them generate global exposure and really reach, in this case, the world’s best athlete.” He added of Omegawave, “This provides them with a large platform to introduce the product. We just saw it as an excellent training tool, a good fit in what they could offer the athletes in San Diego. We found the product to be incredibly innovative.” USA Triathlon Communications & Media Relations Manager John Martin said the San Diego event last year attracted more than 2,100 amateur athletes.

Former MLBer Pedro Martinez was in Boston on Wednesday for a commercial shoot with Jordan's Furniture President Eliot Tatelman. The shoot with Cramer Productions was to produce TV and radio spots that will feature Pedro and Tatelman. The new series of Jordan's commercials will air in the Boston and Providence markets during baseball season (Jordan's Furniture).

TAKING A PLUNGE: In Boston, Callum Borchers notes following WR Wes Welker's signing with the Broncos on Wednesday, prices for his No. 83 Patriots jersey at Gillette Stadium were "slashed" 70%. Replica jerseys that "cost $85 were marked down to $25." Boston-based retailer All Stars manager Gina Cotrone said that Welker's departure "instantly devalued his jersey, which was a best-seller, 'right up there'" with Patriots QB Tom Brady (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/15).

CAR & DRIVER: In Detroit, Melissa Burden noted GM and its Chevrolet brand "had no involvement" in Pepsi's "Test Drive" ad featuring NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. GM Communications Manager for Corvette & Camaro Monte Doran said that the automaker "first saw it earlier this week when it popped up online" (, 3/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg noted filling in for Gordon was a "stunt driver behind the wheel for the debauchery" of the commercial (, 3/14).

I'M PICKIN' UP GOOD VIBRATIONS: In San Antonio, Mike Haag noted the Int'l Hot Rod Association Nitro Jam series "has landed" Good Vibrations Motorsports as the main sponsor for the upcoming event at San Antonio Raceway on April 5-6. The Good Vibrations team will "not only partner with the IHRA event in San Antonio, but will also sponsor races in Arizona and Edmonton" (, 3/14).