HP has signed a three-year sponsorship deal with NASCAR and plans to "collaborate with the sanctioning body to develop business solutions it can sell globally," according to Tripp Mickle of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The agreement, which sources valued at $2-3M annually, makes HP Enterprise Services "the sport’s official technology partner." The company is NASCAR’s "first partner in that category and the first technology-related company it’s worked with since Ask.com exited its official deal" in '09. The deal "developed as a result of HP’s work with NASCAR creating the sport’s Fan & Media Engagement Center." The Charlotte-based center "uses HP software and hardware to track and analyze social media trends." HP began "pitching the Fan & Media Engagement services to clients," and last week brought NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps to Las Vegas to "speak about the center at HP Discover, an annual event showcasing the company’s products and business solutions." The company plans to use its sponsorship to "develop additional technology and business innovations that it can then pitch to clients." HP is "less interested in using its NASCAR sponsorship to reach the sport’s fans than using NASCAR as a high-profile, business partner it can showcase to companies in which it wants to sell innovations that integrate its computers, servers and software." The company "didn’t even make media or activation commitments to tracks, teams or drivers in its deal." NASCAR Chief Sales Officer Jim O'Connell said, "It’s a major step in technology and innovation for NASCAR" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/17 issue). Meanwhile, SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Mickle & Ourand note NASCAR next month "opens its exclusive negotiating windows with ESPN and Turner." Sources said that the nets will "open talks July 1 and have 45 to 60 days to negotiate exclusively for the rights to 23 Sprint Cup races" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/17 issue).
Marketing and Sponsorship
NCAA Exec VP & General Counsel Donald Remy said that if the NCAA "prevails in a lawsuit pertaining to the use of college athletes' names and likenesses, it could take what it says is an usual step in anti-trust cases: It may try to recover millions of dollars in legal expenses from the plaintiffs' lead law firm," according to Steve Berkowitz of USA TODAY. U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken on Wednesday is "scheduled to hold a key hearing" in the case, but there is "no sign that the litigation will be concluded anytime soon." A trial is set for June '14, but the NCAA and its co-defendants last Thursday "asked Wilken to reset the case schedule in a way that would move the trial date back at least three more months." The NCAA's lawyers in numerous court filings have said that the plaintiffs -- whose lead attorneys are from the DC office of Hausfeld LLP -- "have made improper and unfair changes in their legal strategy." The NCAA's lawyers have said that those changes have "forced it and the association to spend considerably more time -- and, by extension, the association's money and human resources -- on the case than they otherwise would have." Remy said that he "could not provide a precise figure for the NCAA legal costs to this point." He said that it is "safe to say that they are in the millions of dollars, although 'I don't actually think it's in the eight figures'" (USATODAY.com, 6/14). In Pittsburgh, J. Brady McCollough reported former Nike, adidas and Reebok exec Sonny Vaccaro "convinced [Ed O'Bannon] to be the plaintiff" in the suit against the NCAA. O'Bannon said, "I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for him. He's 100 percent engulfed in it. This is his baby. That's why I think this case will succeed. Because he's behind it" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 6/16).
Golfer Billy Horschel during yesterday's final round of the U.S. Open wore octopus-print pants from Raph Lauren that were "created specially for him," according to Caroline O'Halloran of the MAIN LINE TIMES. The shorts are "akin to the whales and sailboats prepsters have been parading around in for decades." Ralph Lauren during the event sold pairs of "big, bold navy-and-white" octopus-print shorts for $98. U.S. Open Senior Dir of Licensing & Merchandising Mary Lopuszynski said, "The octopus print is one of the bigger buying risks we took this year but we think it's a winner" (MAIN LINE TIMES, 6/14). The AP noted bad pants are "such a staple of the sport that a number of amateur tournaments are organized each year requiring participants to show up in stunningly loud slacks." Ian Poulter has "long been considered the front-runner in today's game, wearing everything from his native flag to something best described as an old TV test pattern." Rickie Fowler has "pushed the boundary in terms of color, but usually wears the same tone from head to toe." Just like "those two, Horschel has no problem making a 'look-at-me' statement" (AP, 6/16). NBC's Peter Jacobsen said after Horschel missed a short birdie putt, "Those octopus pants, they're not working. They could be calamari soon." NBC's Johnny Miller: "They won't be used much more on a Sunday, I don't think" ("U.S. Open," NBC, 6/16).
BIRDS' EYE VIEW: Reaction to Horschel's pants came in swiftly on Twitter. Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman wrote, "Today we've now seen an Horschel's octopus, Stricker's shankopotamus and Phil's flopodopolous. I am complete." Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins wrote, "Billy Horschel's octopus pants are trying to swim away." Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein: "OK, I will just come out and say it: I like the octopus pants. #seriously." The AP's Doug Ferguson wrote, "Heard from a top source that Stricker also had the octopus print pants ready to go today, but then changed his mind and went with off-white." ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor added, "Wonder if Ben Hogan would've WD'd at Merion in 1950 if his playing partner showed up in octopus pants."
FASHION FORWARD: In Trenton, L.A. Parker noted the U.S. Open players "put on a fashion exhibit worthy of Paris." And former Neiman Marcus Senior VP/Women's Accessories Marty Hackel has "found his niche as a fashion critic for Golf Digest." Hackel named Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald as "major fashion bon vivants with mass appeal." Hackel said, "Tiger’s probably No. 1, but those other guys enjoy a tremendous following. Luke Donald always looks good. He wears Ralph Lauren apparel from their RLX Division." Hackel noted "fabric as a game changer for golf." Hackel: "It’s mostly polyester now, technical fabric that doesn’t wrinkle or show any sweat, easy to pack and travel with. You’re going to see a move toward compression clothing, apparel that becomes almost a part of the player’s equipment" (TRENTONIAN, 6/15).
DRESS CODE: In Philadelphia, Joseph DiStefano noted software maker SAP had a "well-dressed hospitality tent at Merion for the U.S. Open." SAP VP/Global Sponsorships Chris Burton said, "Our founders believed very strongly in golf as a sport that brings people together." DiStefano noted SAP is "developing a golf-statistics smartphone app, similar to its new NBA and NFL apps, and it is putting together golf-improvement apps featuring" Ernie Els as the instructor (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/16).