IMG has been hired to run the nascent licensing agency for NFL retirees created by the preliminary settlement of a four-year-old lawsuit brought by former players against NFL Films. An announcement is expected soon. IMG will have a dedicated staff for the new agency, but anticipates heavily using other areas of the company like its events and college businesses, said IMG Senior VP/Licensing Wesley Haynes, who runs North American licensing for the agency. The NFL and a new retirees board agreed to settle the case in March. The case alleged NFL Films uses images of former players without their permission. The NFL agreed to pay $50M, $8M of which is for lawyers fees, and to help start the new licensing agency. The rest of the money is directed to charities that aid former players. Not all former players are on board, including the six original plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They contend the licensing agency is, in their words, a "red herring" designed to distract former players from the fact no direct payments are going to them as part of the settlement. “The group licensing thing is a huge part of selling the settlement, players are told there is a big rainbow at the end, and there is not,” said Fred Dryer, who brought the case against the NFL. The original plaintiffs believe group licensing of former players is mainly valuable to NFL Films, which will still be able to use former player images without a fee as part of the settlement. Notwithstanding Dryer’s objection, the judge in March scorned those opposed to the settlement. The court has scheduled a final settlement hearing on Oct. 17.
FORMER PLAYERS URGED NOT TO OPT OUT: Haynes said he believes based on IMG’s experience with colleges and representing retired players such as Pro Football HOFer Joe Montana for marketing that there is a strong business for group licensing former players. He urged former players not to opt out of the settlement, which would remove them from the new agency. “We hope the players stay as part of the class because we think there is value in having players in, and hope that opt outs are at a minimum,” Haynes said. Players have until Aug. 30 to opt out. The retirees’ board, created by the preliminary settlement, chose IMG over two other parties, including Insignia, sources said. 16W Marketing informally advised IMG on its bid, and may be retained in the future as consultant. Right now, the former retirees are known as the Pro Football Retired Players Association, though Haynes said the agency could have a different name. IMG receives a fee as dictated by the court. It should take two to three years, Haynes added, to build up the agency into a viable business.
Michael Waltrip Racing today announced that Aaron's has signed a two-year deal to sponsor the No. 55 Toyota driven by Brian Vickers for all 36 Sprint Cup races in '14-15, making Vickers "one of the rare drivers in NASCAR's premier series with a full-time sponsor," according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Aaron's, which has "partnered with Michael Waltrip Racing for the past 14 years, will be increasing its commitment from 30 races this season." Aaron's CEO Ron Allen said, "This really solidifies our relationship because it's certainly more recognition for our brand if we can get in the Chase. This gives us a better chance by sponsoring a full 36 races." Ryan reports Aaron's "re-examined its NASCAR sponsorship while overhauling its executive team over the past 18 months." But Aaron's VP/Marketing Andrea Freeman said that the "research justified its investment." Allen said, "We're constantly evaluating our marketing dollar spend, and we feel this certainly continues to make a lot of sense for us. This is really a sport that's put Aaron's on the map nationwide, and we're proud of that fact. We think by going to the full 36 races, it gives us that much more clout." Ryan notes Vickers' "comeback story also helped sell Aaron's on the deal." Vickers missed the final 25 Cup races in '10 "while recovering from blood clots and heart surgery," then lost his ride in '11 "after Red Bull Racing closed." Vickers won the Cup race July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, something that Aaron's Dir of Sports Marketing Rich Lamprey said "certainly helped" in finalizing the new deal. Lamprey did not specify "whether Aaron's would be increasing its financial commitment to NASCAR" (USATODAY.com, 8/13).
The Pac-12 Networks yesterday rolled out an advertising campaign against DirecTV with the hopes that it will pressure the satellite company to sign a carriage deal for the suite of channels. The campaign will be tailored to each Pac-12 university with messages that document what DirecTV subscribers are missing. The Colorado message features a picture of an animal, with the words: "Buffaloes on DirecTV" alongside a picture of a CU football player with the words: "Buffaloes on Pac-12 Networks." The campaign will run on TV, digital, print and outdoor. S.F.-based ad agency BarrettSF produced the creative (John Ourand, Staff Writer). In Seattle, Bud Withers wrote, "It's the most organized salvo yet by the league against DirecTV, coming some 17 days after commissioner Larry Scott made the impasse a prominent part of a short state-of-the-conference address at the Pac-12 football media day in Los Angeles." DirecTV "has been dug in now since the Pac-12 Networks inception." Pac-12 schools "will be joining the campaign shortly, with statements from their athletic directors and coaches advising a switch from DirecTV to the 50-plus carriers who have Pac-12 Networks" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 8/12). In San Jose, Jon Wilner writes if DirecTV "wasn't willing to deal with the Pac12Nets last summer, when USC -- the biggest brand in the league's biggest market, which happens to be DTV's home market -- was the preseason No. 1 and had the Heisman Trophy favorite ... then DTV is not going to budge this summer." But the Pac-12 "has no choice but to ramp up the pressure." DirecTV is "taking a ridiculous stance in claiming the Pac12Nets are too expensive for customers while it charges a reported $3.40 for the Lakers Channel, but the folks who run DTV aren't stupid." DirecTV is "a very, very well-run business" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/13). Watch the TV spots for the conference's 12 schools.
Fox Sports 1 has hired Pereira & O'Dell, N.Y., as its lead creative agency and the firm, beyond advertising for FS1 and a campaign around Super Bowl XLVIII, will "create ads for shows such as 'Fox Sports Live,' 'Crowd Goes Wild,' 'Fox Football Daily' and 'The Ultimate Fighter,'" according to Andrew McMains of ADWEEK. Pereira & O'Dell "first started handling projects for Fox Sports 1 back in the spring" (ADWEEK.com, 8/12). MULTICHANNEL NEWS' Mike Reynolds noted Ford, Geico and Yum! Brands have "signed ground-floor ad pacts" with FS1. Samsung and "several movie studios have also secured schedules." In addition to Fox Sports, FS1 and FS2, the ad agreements "include placement on other Fox Sports channels and platforms, including Fox Deportes and FoxSports.com" (MULTICHANNEL.com, 8/12).
I, ROBOT: ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi noted FS1's marketing and promotions team has "brought the animated Fox NFL Sunday robot to life," and is midway through "a 3,800-mile barnstorming tour" of 11 MLB markets with its Cleatus character. Fox Sports Media Group Senior VP Chris Hannan said, "Because you see him and immediately think, 'Oh, hey: Fox Sports,' we wanted Cleatus to be at the center of this campaign from the beginning. And because baseball is our biggest summer platform, it just makes sense to have him appear at the ballparks and be integrated into our regional sports networks' coverage" (ADWEEK.com, 8/9).
ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel reports Penn State over the last two years has "dropped from 10th to 19th in royalty earnings on logoed merchandise among FBS schools who work with the Collegiate Licensing Company." It "seemed like all Penn State fans fell in love with the fight in last year’s 8-4 football team," but the drop in royalties "gives voice to the silent." A portion of PSU fans are "keeping their wallets closed" (ESPN.com, 8/13).
CAT-LIKE REFLEX: MARKETING WEEK's Sebastian Joseph reported Puma is "launching a global football hub where fans can interact with players" including FC Barcelona MF Cesc Fabregas and Manchester City MF Yaya Toure "as it sets in motion plans to rival Nike and Adidas during next year’s World Cup." The portal "invites fans to complete a series of monthly challenges to win prizes." Visitors also can "submit suggestions for match-day gestures such as a new pre-match ritual or a goal celebration with the winning proposals being performed by one of Puma’s football ambassadors." In addition, the portal will "give fans the chance to preview Puma’s upcoming boot and kit launches" (MARKETINGWEEK.co.uk, 8/12).
FLY BY NIGHT: In San Diego, Jonathan Horn reported Chargers RB Ryan Mathews is "teaming up with friends to launch the BodyFly, a 24-inch wide, 5-inch thick octagon that is essentially a portable fly machine." The group has "a prototype that cost $30,000, and plans to begin a Kickstarter campaign." Mathews said that the machine "would be rolled out in San Diego before it goes to other parts of the country" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 8/12).
MERGERS & ACQUISITIONS: In Toronto, Francine Kopun writes Canadian Tire's purchase of Pro Hockey Life Sporting Goods adds "more expertise to its sports equipment and clothing banners." Pro Hockey Life "operates 23 stores in five provinces under three banners, including Sports Gilbert Rousseau and L’Entrepôt du Hockey." The stores "specialize in providing expert advice to customers and top-notch hockey equipment in a big box 18,000-square-foot format" (TORONTO STAR, 8/13).