Samsung is close to returning to the NFL as a league sponsor in a deal that would put the manufacturer's brand on NFL coaches' headsets in an agreement worth more than $60M a year. The deal would also pave the way for tablets to appear on NFL sidelines for the first time. Chargers Owner Dean Spanos, who chairs the league's business ventures committee, acknowledged that the NFL is in talks with Samsung, along with current league sponsor Bose and Microsoft. Another source suggested the sideline technology rights could be split among several brands, though that seems unlikely since the league’s TV rights deals restrict the number of brands visible on the sidelines. NFL owners at the league’s annual meeting in Arizona this week voted to give league staff the authority to select a brand and close the deal. Speaking outside the meetings, Spanos said, "In the next 30 days, I would hope to have direction." He would not say if there was a leader to land the deal. Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, who is also on the business ventures committee, confirmed that talks were advanced but also declined to say if any company was a front runner. However, other sources close to the league said the deal was Samsung's to lose. The NFL was without a headset sponsor last season, when 13-year incumbent Motorola walked away from its NFL rights package after terms for a renewal that would have included tablet rights exceeded $50M per year. NFL Exec VP/Media Steve Bornstein is leading the talks for the league. Samsung CMO Todd Pendleton is driving the deal for Samsung. "NFL (coaches) headsets are some of the most valuable real estate in sports, because of the NFL’s attraction as a TV property," said Repucom CEO Paul Smith, adding that Motorola received $70M in TV exposure during its last season on NFL headsets in '11.
ABLE TO MARKET HDTV'S WITH NFL MARKS: The deal would also give Samsung the ability to market HDTVs using NFL marks -- rights it previously held from '05-10. An NFL sidelines deal for the company would give it a platform on which to attack Apple’s leading market share in smartphones, much in the way Samsung used NFL rights to close gaps in market share and brand perception among HDTV brands. Whether the new deal would permit Samsung tablets or its smartphones, which are essentially small tablets, was unclear. Through last season, the NFL forbid cell phones and tablets on its sidelines. Also uncertain was whether Samsung TVs would get branding during officials replays. Noting that product integration within the game is now an imperative for every large sports sponsorship, former AT&T Exec Dir of Sponsorships Tim McGhee said the deal will be a game changer on and off the field. “This will be the first time I can recall where a sponsor’s product can actually impact the way the game is played, or at least coached," said McGhee, who now heads the consultancy MSP Sports. “Much like when Sprint originally signed with NASCAR, it is going to increase the value of this category dramatically for every other league.”
LOOKING AT NFL FOR A WHILE: Samsung’s other large sports properties include a TOP IOC sponsorship and a FIFA World Cup deal. Samsung has been looking at a big NFL deal for some time. Aside from buying a spot in the last Super Bowl, Samsung was in talks over the past several years for naming rights at the home field of the Giants/Jets, the Cowboys, and more recently, the yet-to-completed new home field of the 49ers.
The big winner in college basketball-related merchandise sales during March Madness is Gonzaga, one of four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. The team since March 1 have seen sales of its logo merchandise on Fanatics.com jump an incredible 514% as the Bulldogs rolled to a 31-2 record and No. 1 ranking. Fanatics.com is one of the largest online retailers of officially licensed sports merchandise. Gonzaga also was the second most searched team on the retailer's website, just behind Duke. One interesting note for the season: 65% of Gonzaga merchandise was bought by people outside the state of Washington. Indiana also enjoyed huge gains with its sales up 159% over last year's numbers in March. For the season, Louisville, the tournament's overall top seed, leads all colleges on Fanatics.com in percentage increase for merchandise sales, with a 122% jump compared to the same dates last year (Michael Smith, Staff Writer).
HOUSE OF STYLE: The AP's Samantha Critchell reported adidas’ college basketball postseason uniform changes “happened to be in line with fashion runways and recreational athleticwear, where highlighter brights and creative camo have been bona fide trends.” Alternative uniforms have “become part of the college football and basketball landscape." GQ Senior Editor Will Welch said that the uniforms “could be a recruiting tool for next-gen talent.” Welch said, "There's something gimmicky about them, but outlandish choices like this can end up defining an era." Former Gap Creative Dir Patrick Robinson said, "It takes guts to make change. As a designer, I admire that Adidas is not being afraid, not testing it, not dipping the toe. They just went out there with this bold look. They changed the conversation" (AP, 3/20). ESPN.com’s Paul Lukas wrote there is “definitely a generation gap when it comes to uniform tastes, but it probably has as much to do with quantity as it does with quality.” The “Fruit Stripe uniforms” from adidas offer fans “something to ponder: What exactly is the point of wearing a new, ‘innovative’ design if a bunch of other teams are wearing essentially the same thing?” Lukas asked, “Wouldn't you rather wear something unique, something you can totally claim as your own?” (ESPN.com, 3/20).
Fidelity Investments has agreed to be the presenting sponsor for Golf Channel’s SwingFix, the online video training aid that the channel uses in many of its instructional programs. Included in the deal is a first-of-its-kind on-site activation that Golf Channel has arranged at three tournaments, including the PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational, which started today. A co-branded SwingFix/Fidelity chalet will be on the course through Sunday, giving visitors the chance to have their swings analyzed by the SwingFix technology as part of a free lesson. The deal with Golf Channel also gives Fidelity on-site activation at The Players Championship in May and last week’s Tampa Bay Championship. It also includes Fidelity branding on all of the SwingFix appearances at GolfChannel.com and on its other instructional TV shows, as well as the Golf Channel Academy mobile app. The Fidelity logo and the green line that it uses in its commercials will appear in all of the SwingFix on-air and online treatments. Fidelity also is working with Golf Channel to create a series of online vignettes featuring Fidelity endorser Brad Faxon. Golf Channel VP/Business Development Andrew Fleming described the deal as unique for the instructional space. This is the first time Golf Channel has sold a sponsorship for SwingFix.
Respect Your Universe recently has seen a "shift in the apparel brand's marketing, appointments of key company leaders, departures of others, opening of its first retail store and [the] establishment of Portland as the company's headquarters," according to Allan Brettman of the Portland OREGONIAN. RYU Chair & CEO David Campisi said that RYU now is "on course for growth starting in 2014." He said, "I hit the reset button on the strategy and positioning of the brand." Brettman noted the "marketing overhaul includes a separation from the company's roots." Since its founding in '08, RYU has been "linked closely with mixed martial arts." But Campisi said that the "direct association has ended." He added that endorsement deals with individual fighters and UFC "expired in December and will not be renewed." Campisi said that the company's rebranding will "include a new logo and emphasis on the full company name and phase-out of the sometimes used acronym RYU on clothing and collateral materials." The new branding will "likely emphasize the first word of the company name, Respect." Seattle-based branding agency Tether, "led by creative director and Nike alum Stanley Hainsworth, will assist." Campisi said that he "anticipated significant growth for the company" in '14, the result of reining back "product prices and the introduction of new products." He said, "As we continue in our sales effort, we've seen great interest among sporting good and department stores in both the U.S. and Canada, and hope to leverage the momentum we're generating to develop new retail avenues" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/21).
BRANDCHANNEL.com's Sheila Shayon reported Champs Sports and adidas launched the "latest adicolor Collection with a Tumblr-inspired ad campaign featuring a 30-second spot" with Trail Blazers G Damian Lillard, Knicks G Iman Shumpert and Broncos LB Von Miller. The spot premiered during TNT's March 14 Knicks-Blazers telecast. An embeddable photo hunt game called "Spot The Difference" featuring the three athletes "was created by Portland-based Kamp Grizzly to work -- foot in shoe -- with the ad campaign" (BRANDCHANNEL.com, 3/19).
SPANISH FLAIR: NBC Sports Network’s Michelle Beadle noted Lakers F Pau Gasol is trying to create his own logo and said, “What’s the logo for? You realize that people that have logos are like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan. Am I missing the part where Pau Gasol is on that same level?” NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs: “There’s no way that guy thinks he needs a logo” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 3/20).
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