Marketing and Sponsorship
Panini America has signed a dozen likely first-round picks in tonight's NBA Draft. New to the fold for the league’s exclusive trading-card rightsholder are potential No. 1 overall pick, Kentucky C Nerlens Noel, along with fellow top prospects Kansas G Ben McLemore, Georgetown F Otto Porter Jr. and Maryland C Alex Len. Also signing were Indiana G Victor Oladipo, UNLV F Anthony Bennett, Syracuse G Michael Carter-Williams, Michigan G Trey Burke, UCLA G Shabazz Muhammad, Indiana F Cody Zeller, Lehigh G C.J. McCollum and German G Dennis Schröder. All of the deals are for exclusive autographed trading cards and grant rights for Panini to use the players' names and images in marketing and packaging. The first rookie cards and autographs for the '13-14 NBA Draft class will be Panini’s NBA Hoops product, which carries a $1.99 price and will be at retail in October.
Bally Technologies is “rolling out its NASCAR slot machines throughout the U.S. starting this week,” according to Howard Stutz of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The games were “unveiled last fall at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas and have been available only at casinos operated by Boyd Gaming Corp. through a brief exclusivity contract.” The slot machines have “authentic NASCAR videos and images and are adorned with photos of famous drivers and stock cars.” A surround-sound system “pipes in audio from famed NASCAR announcer Eli Gold into speakers embedded in the game’s chair.” The slot machines are the “first games ever licensed to a nationally recognized major sports league or attraction.” Boyd Gaming is the “longtime sponsor of the annual NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.” Kansas Speedway and Dover Int'l Raceway also have “casinos attached to their facilities.” The goal is creating the slot machine is to deliver “a more personalized way of reaching fans.” Bally Games Development Dir Bill Wadleigh “worked on creating some of the slot machine’s key attributes, such as the interactive Daytona Motor Speedway race and a customized feature in which the slot machine player can theme the game after a certain driver.” Wadleigh said that “bonus features were themed after NASCAR events, such as pit stops and burnouts.” NASCAR VP/Licensing & Consumer Products Blake Davidson said that NASCAR is “open to partnerships but also is protective of the brand.” But he added Bally “blew us away” with the authenticity of the slot machines. NASCAR drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick “appear on the slot machines” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 6/26).
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday turned down a motion from EA to have the full court hear its appeals of a recent adverse ruling in favor of former Rutgers QB Ryan Hart suing over the alleged improper use of his image. A three-judge panel last month overturned a lower court decision dismissing Hart’s case against EA. Hart alleges his image was used in the video game maker’s products without his permission and the case is set now to proceed in the lower court. EA earlier this month filed a petition to have the case heard before the whole circuit court, known as an en banc appeal. Several major media companies filed briefs supporting EA’s appeals, including Dow Jones, ESPN and Advance Publications. Advance is the corporate parent company of THE DAILY. The Third Circuit notice turning down the appeal noted two judges, Thomas Ambro and Julio Fuentes, supported the appeal. The motion did not say how many judges turned down the appeal. The court’s website lists 25 judges. EA, which contends the use of Hart’s and other collegians’ images in its videogames are protected by the First Amendment, could appeal to the Supreme Court. It also could await the outcome of two similar cases brought against it by Pro Football HOFer Jim Brown and former Arizona State QB Sam Keller, currently pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).
WHO HAS THE UPPER HAND? HBO's Bryant Gumbel said Judge Claudia Ann Wilken of the U.S. District Court for Northern California over the next month "may prove to be the most important person in all of sports." Wilken is "expected to rule whether former college player Ed O'Bannon's case against the NCAA can go forward as a class action suit. If it does, she'll also decide whether it can involve only past players or, as the NCAA fears most, current players as well." Gumbel added, "Since the case, at its core, involves the NCAA's right to make money off of athletes without paying them, the stakes are enormous. A trial alone would involve not just arguments over amateurism and education but also those of taxation and compensation, issues that are central to the multi-billion dollar industry that college sports has become. Ultimately Wilken's judgment, whatever it is, will not bring an end to big-time college athletics as we know it, but it could at last lead to partial compensation for those who have been enriching others, but sharing in none of the rewards. At the very least, Judge Wilken can send tremors through an exploitative system that’s badly in need of change and for fans of real fairness, that day can't come soon enough" ("Real Sports," HBO, 6/25).
PAY FOR PLAY: ESPN's Brock Huard said the issue of athlete compensation is a "slippery slope." He added, "Do I think the NCAA owes me one single penny for my years in school? I don't. This is not preaching with some silver spoon in my mouth and just ramming it down, this is just my opinion and the sentiment I feel for most student-athletes. When I travel around college football, athletes are not overly burdened. I don't get a sense of being exploited. ... This is such a massive undertaking for people to say, 'Just blow the NCAA up, it's crooked, it's bureaucratic, it's a mess.' I think that's way, way too naive." Huard: "When the model was built for the NCAA, they had no idea ... it would turn into the billion dollar enterprise it has become and I think because of that, it's got issues to deal with" ("College Football Live," ESPN2, 6/24).
The Outback Bowl yesterday announced that title sponsor Outback Steakhouse has agreed to renew its deal with the game for six additional years through '20. The new contract, which begins after the '14 game, will extend the Tampa-based company's sponsorship to a total of 25 years, the longest bowl game title sponsorship in history. The bowl also is in talks with ESPN and officials from the Big Ten and SEC about extending those relationships (Outback Bowl).
PLANNING AHEAD: In Miami, Barry Jackson reported Heat President Pat Riley has “trademarked the term three-peat.” Riley said he and his business partner “have made a considerable amount of money from that.” He added, “Most goes to charity. I’m not using this as a platform to become a brand and make money off it.” Riley said that he is “not sure the Heat will even use that term next year in its bid for a third title in a row” (MIAMIHERALD.com, 6/26).
THREE'S COMPANY: SPORTING NEWS’ Bob Pockrass noted NASCAR team Owner Richard Childress is “still mulling whether to bring Dale Earnhardt’s famous No. 3 back to Sprint Cup competition.” Childress yesterday “reiterated that only a member of his family or the Earnhardt family would race the number in Cup.” Childress' grandsons Austin and Ty Dillon “have raced the number" in the Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series in recent years, and Austin Dillon "could run a full-time Cup schedule in 2014.” Childress said, “We’re definitely in the process of discussing that” (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 6/26).
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