Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn yesterday confirmed the rumors that they are dating and released several pictures of them together. ABC's Paula Faris said the best way to "dictate the story is to get in front of it," which is what Woods and Vonn did, and PR experts "say it may have been one of their best moves yet.” The relationship "comes at a career crossroads for both athletes,” as Woods is on the cusp of once again becoming the world's No. 1-ranked golfer and Vonn is sidelined with a knee injury. What was "not lost in their announcement ... is the endorsement potential." In the pictures, both are "prominently wearing gear of their respective sponsors” -- Woods wearing a white Nike polo and Vonn sporting Under Armour (“GMA,” ABC, 3/19). E! Network's Jason Kennedy said the couple made the announcement “because there are a lot of rumors out there, so do you want to be on the National Enquirer and these other magazines that may not get it accurate?” NBC's Natalie Morales said you can "control your message” this way. Kennedy: "They become their own publicists in a sense” (“Today,” NBC, 3/19). In N.Y., Bill Pennington writes Woods and Vonn "not only vault to the top of the list of sports couples in terms of lifetime professional achievements, but their relationship will also be a magnet for ceaseless news media attention just for its sizzle and startling inimitability." They "immediately stole the title of Golf's First Couple from top-ranked Rory McIlroy and his tennis star girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki." It is a "match made for 'SportsCenter'" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/19). But CBS’ Norah O'Donnell wondered whether this was a “PR campaign right before The Masters” (“CBS This Morning,” CBS, 3/19).
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: In Baltimore, Ryan Sharrow noted in the four pictures released of the couple, Woods is "sporting a Nike golf shirt and the company's iconic swoosh is much more visible than the hard to notice Under Armour logo on a zip-up jacket Vonn is wearing." It will be "interesting to see if ...Under Armour's marketing machine can get the interlocking 'UA' logo to be more recognizable in future photos" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 3/18). Syndicated radio host Dan Patrick said it was “no accident” that Woods' Nike swoosh was visible but Vonn’s UA logo was obscured. Patrick: “I’m going to say she’ll soon have Nike on her apparel. I think Tiger is probably doing what he did with Rory: Recruiting.” Patrick said the announcement from Woods “sounded like marketing love because he’s got his Nike swoosh prominently displayed." Vonn has Under Armour "on her shirt, but it’s not prominently displayed.” Patrick said Woods “already hand-delivered Rory McIlroy to Nike." Patrick: "I don’t know if he’s hand-delivering Lindsey Vonn to Nike as well, but all of a sudden the Under Armour logo is covered up by her hair” (“The Dan Patrick Show,” 3/19).
Panini America has signed Nationals P Stephen Strasburg to a multiyear autograph trading card deal, making Strasburg autographs only available in its trading cards. The agreement includes rights to use Strasburg's name and image on packaging. Panini's first Strasburg autograph cards will appear in the company's Prizm cards in April, in which he will appear in his USA Baseball uniform. Strasburg originally had a trading-card exclusive deal with Topps, but that has expired. The announcement of the Strasburg signing comes during the annual trading-card Industry Summit in Las Vegas. MLB rights are the only meaningful U.S. league IP not held by Panini (Terry Lefton, Editor-at-Large).
HOPING FOR UPPER HAND:BECKETT.com’s Chris Olds reported the MLBPA has granted Upper Deck a license that “puts the company, which lost its MLB Properties license in 2010, back into the baseball fold” with three products set to arrive in the coming months. It is unclear “when Upper Deck and the MLBPA may have severed ties, but in 2010 the PA publicly advised its players to stop signing for the company, which had not made due payments.” Now, with “all of its books apparently in order, the MLBPA is allowing Upper Deck to proceed making union-approved cardboard.” That allows it “to use current players (non-prospects) in bulk in its products, but not with MLB-owned logos and names on the cards.” Panini America was “granted the same license" in September '11. Like Panini, Upper Deck’s licensing limitations with MLB “will force some different approaches with photography and design.” Upper Deck Spokesperson Chris Carlin said, “(We're) doing a lot of photo shoots with the actual players that are playing today. Trying to get some unique imagery. Images are going to be important to what fans see. We want to make sure we are doing something that is meaningful for fans” (BECKETT.com, 3/18).
LET'S MAKE A DEAL:MLB Properties and Topps yesterday announced that they have extended their exclusive multiyear licensing deal through '20, in which Topps will remain the official baseball card of MLB. Topps will retain exclusivity on MLB, Jewel Event and club trademarks, logos and other intellectual property, for use on cards, stickers and other product categories. Topps signed its first deal with MLB in '69 (Topps).
ADWEEK’s Tim Nudd reported Miller Lite's new ads from Saatchi & Saatchi feature former UFC fighter Chuck Liddell, musician Questlove and actor Ken Jeong. For the agency, the celebrity “approach is a way to ramp up the novelty and energy level of its 'Miller Time' campaign." Instead of “pricey A-listers, the agency wanted celebrities who seemed more like everyday guys, ones the young male viewer could see himself hanging out with.” Liddell “gets his way merely by glancing at potential adversaries.” Liddell as depicted in his ad “really did play with dolphins at a zoo” (ADWEEK.com, 3/18). Other Miller Lite ads in the campaign include "commercials in Spanish targeted toward Hispanics and others promoting responsible drinking, which feature NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski" (MILWAUKEE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 3/15 issue).
ROLE PLAYER: The MOTLEY FOOL’s Arturo Cuevas reported Lakers G Kobe Bryant is “cast only as a co-star with barely three seconds exposure in a video commercial” for Nike’s recent ad titled “Give Me The Ball.” The ad stars “an unknown sandlot player trying to win China’s young consumers” and is part of Nike’s marketing campaign “to assert leadership in China.” The “apparent rationale” of the ad is to “latch on the desire of the youth in the potent emerging city markets of China to be identified as having the individuality uniquely their own.” Bryant’s image “thus comes only as a second-stringer.” It is “this marketing nuance that Adidas appears to have missed as it still has been relying largely on local celebrity endorsers to promote its products in China” (FOOL.com, 3/18).
HIS AIRISM: WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY's Julia Neel reported Novak Djokovic “will appear in his first campaign for Uniqlo since being named brand ambassador” in May ‘12. He will “front the campaign” for Airism, an underwear line “made from a high-tech fabric that is being positioned as the summer equivalent to the brand’s Heat Tech range.” Djokovic “wears Uniqlo Airism under his kit” on court. The underwear “comes in collections for women and children too.” The campaign “breaks in Japan” tomorrow and will “appear globally later in the spring in both outdoor and print media” (WWD.com, 3/15).
THE HEIGHT OF FASHION: WSJ Magazine's Adrienne Gaffney reported Knicks F Carmelo Anthony, who appears on the cover of the April issue, has “become more and more attuned to matters of style, attending fashion shows and advocating for out-of-the-box designers like Simon Spurr and Rag & Bone.” Anthony's “leap to a glossy magazine cover was helped along by Khalilah Williams-Webb, his personal stylist, who now considers finding designer looks for a 6-foot-8-inch frame second nature.” Williams-Webb said, “I love fashion shoots, because it gives us a chance to express editorially what we can’t on a daily basis. It shakes things up a bit” (WSJ Magazine, 4/'13issue).
In Lincoln, Brian Christopherson reported the Univ. of Nebraska Board of Regents on Friday unanimously approved a "five-year extension to the deal between Husker athletics and adidas." The new deal is worth $15.53M, with $8.03M paid from adidas to NU. The remaining $7.5M "comes in athletic apparel and equipment." The extension "replaces an eight-year agreement that was about to run out in June." NU has been an adidas schoolsince '95 (LINCOLN JOURNAL-STAR, 3/16).
FINDING FAULT: Coke Zero during the NCAA Tournament will introduce its new marketing campaign titled “It’s Not Your Fault,” the next stage in its "Enjoy Everything" campaign. The campaign debuts with a 30-second TV ad titled “Bracket,” followed by another 30-second TV ad titled “Video Game.” Digital content will be the focus of a seven-part video series. The campaign will continue throughout the year and also will be used in connection with football and NASCAR (Coca-Cola).
SEED MONEY: In Portland, Allan Brettman reports Nike, which has “dabbled for years in digital gadgets, took another step into the genre” yesterday, naming 10 “fledgling companies to develop or refine an array of digital games, smartphone applications and websites.” The company’s Nike+ Accelerator program “gives the 10 companies access to Nike resources, mentor expertise as well as $20,000 apiece for the three months they will be based in a Portland office.” The companies will “develop products and services that use the Nike+ platform and NikeFuel -- the activity measurement in the Nike FuelBand that was introduced last year -- to serve athletes” (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/19).
'BACK PAIN: The D’Backs yesterday announced a partnership with AZ Pain Centers featuring former MLBer Luis Gonzalez as spokesperson. The AZ Pain Centers graphic for the campaign shows Gonzalez along with former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken and former NFLer Danny White. The static super graphic is displayed on the Phoenix Convention Center Parking Garage across from Chase Field. AZ Pain Centers also will be displayed on digital LED signage throughout the Legends District Network (D’Backs).