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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

Nike "withdrew its offer to sponsor" U.S. pole vaulter Brad Walker last week after he "placed tape over the company’s swoosh logo on his shoes during a recent competition," according to Mary Pilon of the N.Y. TIMES. Walker said that he "was not taking a swipe at Nike but was making sure that a Velcro strap stayed tight, an adjustment he said he had frequently made in the past." Walker wrote on his Facebook page, "Big no no. I am no longer a Nike athlete because while trying to use one of their products, I had to use tape to hold together a shoe that shouldn’t break down within 6 months." Walker had been "negotiating a sponsorship contract with Nike for some time, but he said he was not satisfied with the size of the offer." Walker: "There’s no money in the sport anymore, and the shoe company deals reflect that. Basically, it’s getting to the point where it’s hard to make a living in the sport, and unfortunately the sport is dying a slow death. ... I’m the best vaulter in the U.S., and if I can’t get a contract that allows me to live and pay for my training, who in the U.S. can?" Nike "declined to specify why it withdrew its offer." But the company said, "We can confirm an offer was made and the athlete did not take up this option in a timely manner. We wish Brad all the best and continued success" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/17).

The Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 are "set to kick off football season with an unprecedented public service announcement blitz, a campaign involving more than 50 PSAs focused on player safety," according to Christopher Heine of ADWEEK. The 30-second spots "promote establishing safe tackling and blocking techniques in youth-league athletes to protect players from head injuries and other bodily harm throughout their football days." The conferences and the NFL "have teamed up with nonprofit USA Football’s 'Heads Up' initiative on the project." Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said, "This is a national health issue. We are trying to take the right, prudent steps to make the game safer." ESPN, Fox and nets carrying Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 games have "slotted inventory for the PSAs." Every coach across the three conferences "will appear in the commercials, which will run through the Thanksgiving holiday." The Big 12 has "produced a separate, special effects-heavy PSA focused on football-related health and directing viewers to a dedicated website." Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac-12 reps "dismissed the notion that the PSAs are, in part, designed to convince fans to accept" new, stricter tackling rules in college football (, 8/18).

Texas Tech football coach Kliff Kingsbury has asked local retailers "to phase out merchandise specifically referencing him," according to R.S. Douglas of the LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL. The school's athletic department has "sent a letter to all retailers on behalf of the coach," asking them to "stop selling such merchandise." Products with Kingsbury's image "or the words Kliff, king, hero, legend and any similar reference will no longer be approved by Tech to be sold alongside the school's trademark." Any previously approved designs "containing these provisions can no longer be produced." Texas Tech Associate AD Blayne Beal said of Kingsbury, "It's very simple: He wants the focus to be on Texas Tech and not himself." Lubbock-based Cardinal's Sports Center Retail Manager Bradley Whitworth said that products "ranging from T-shirts to mouse pads featuring references to Kingsbury became popular in December" after the former Texas Tech QB was named coach. Douglas noted despite the "boost in sales, most stores seem to be more than willing to comply with the request." Red Raider Outfitter VP Stephen Spiegelberg said that the change "will not drastically affect sales because Kingsbury has already created a greater demand for Tech gear just since he was named head coach than the past few years" (LUBBOCK AVALANCHE-JOURNAL, 8/17).

Drop-in ads in sports have "proliferated in recent years as radio stations have tried to offset the rising costs of broadcast rights," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The baseball radio broadcast now is "laden with paid advertisements for everything from the umpire lineup to the postgame wrap-up." TV games have "similarly been infiltrated, but not all of their drop-ins are read aloud." The phenomenon is "most pronounced in Yankees broadcasts." The first Yankees walk of the game prompts the line, "Just walk into any of CityMD’s six convenient locations." The announcement of the game’s umpires is "brought to you by Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, a law firm specializing in asbestos exposure cases." Law firm Cellino & Barnes "gets a plug when the announcers explain the broadcast’s copyright violation policy." A call to the bullpen "comes with a nod to one of three sponsors: Aamco Car Care, Hyundai and the Tri-State Ford Dealers." The postgame show is "brought to you, naturally, by Reynolds Wrap." Dodgers announcer Charley Steiner said, "They’re not tough to do, but does it feel like it slows the pace of the game? Of course it does." Phillies broadcaster Scott Franzke said, "You realize that they’re there to pay for the broadcast. So I’m certainly not begrudging that. But you still want some integrity in the broadcast." CBS Radio "has been using drop-ins on Yankee games for at least a decade," and a few years ago the company "capped their use at current levels." Former CBS Radio Chair & CEO Joel Hollander, who also ran WFAN-AM, said that the "quantity of WCBS’s in-game advertising on Yankee games was directly related to the rights fee it paid" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/19).

In L.A., Ronald White writes Skechers is "cautiously rolling out a new apparel line," as the company has joined with Hong Kong-based supply-chain management company Li & Fung "to design and manufacture the garments." But Skechers has started "selling clothes in only a few locations." Skechers COO & CFO David Weinberg said, "We're not in a rush to do it. That one we are playing very close to the vest before we really push it out onto a broad spectrum" (L.A. TIMES, 8/19).

LIMITED TIME ONLY: In Minnesota, Mike Creger noted outdoor gear maker Duluth Pack is "about to introduce a duffel and shell bag made out of material once used in the roof of the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome." The company had "planned to launch the limited line" on Thursday, but Twins PA announcer Jim Cunningham "got talking about the bags this week with a sportswriter at Target Field and soon word got around." Duluth Pack President Tom Sega said that the company "plans to use the entire store of roof material." Cunningham will "get a percentage of sales." The duffel bag is "listed at $485 and the shell bag at $160" (DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE, 8/17).

HERE IN CINCINNATI: Ohio-based Midwest Sports President Greg Wolf said that the ATP/WTA Western & Southern Open "gives the firm international exposure" as the official retail partner for the event at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason. He said that the 27-year-old company "plans to boost its sponsorship of the tournament next year" (, 8/17).

A GOOD CAUSE: In Ohio, Rob McCurdy noted race teams at the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course "donated a collective $650,000 of marketing real estate on 13 cars this weekend to showcase the names, likenesses and in some cases the paint schemes" of 10 patients from the hospital (MANSFIELD NEWS JOURNAL, 8/18).