UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has signed a sponsorship deal with Gatorade, becoming the "first MMA fighter to represent the company in the Octagon," according to Andrew Potter of MMA WEEKLY. Jones' manager Malki Kawa said that Gatorade's logo now "will be prominently displayed on Jones' fight shorts." Jones goes up against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 Saturday night. Jones said, "It’s great that a company like Gatorade sees the value that their products bring to MMA athletes." Potter noted the deal is the "latest move that shows mixed martial arts has become a serious player in the sporting world" (MMAWEEKLY.com, 9/19). FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Chiappetta reports the Jones-Gatorade deal "was carefully orchestrated over time." Jones has said that he has "always made sure to have a Gatorade drink with him on the post-fight press conference podium in hopes of attracting the blue-chip sponsor." Kawa "started seriously pursuing a deal" in '11, right after Jones won the championship. Kawa for a time "couldn't seem to get to the proper decision-maker, but that all changed for two reasons" -- UFC's media-rights deal with Fox "gave the sport its widest mainstream exposure" and Jones signing with William Morris Endeavor "opened doors to them that were previously closed" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/20).
A BIG DEAL FOR JONES: MMATORCH.com's Jamie Penick noted UFC fighter Georges St-Pierre "had been with Gatorade Canada a couple of years ago, but that wasn't an international deal and he didn't have Gatorade as a sponsor in the cage." Penick: "This is another big deal for Jones, and with his endorsement/sponsorship deals, he's quite well on his way to becoming one of the highest paid fighters in the sport, if he's not there already. He doesn't quite make the same on pay-per-view as Georges St-Pierre yet, as he hasn't been that level of a draw to this point, but he's getting there, and this is an impressive and major acquisition by Kawa for the young Champ" (MMATORCH.com, 9/19). Kawa "refuses to accept credit for where the reigning champion is today." Kawa: "The props go out to Jon; he did everything he needed to do to get this deal and he's sponsored by Gatorade for this fight" (MMAJUNKIE.com, 9/19).
MAYWEATHER STATUS IS NEXT: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Iole wrote Jones is considered the "best pound-for-pound fighter in the world," and the "next big challenge for Jones will be duplicating Floyd Mayweather's path in boxing and becoming a transcendent, larger-than-life figure in the sport." Jones is the "best fighter but hardly the biggest star in his sport," as he "lags in recognition, acceptance and star power compared to Mayweather." Kawa "conceded that Jones isn't at Mayweather's level from a marketing and promotional standpoint yet, but he pleaded for time." Kawa: "A lot of it has to do with the fact the sport's not as old and as established like boxing; the sport itself isn't there yet, so it's hard for one athlete to do that. The Fox deal is helping tremendously. That's bringing MMA into the mainstream and it's going to help take this to the next level." Iole noted Jones' popularity in a way is "intertwined with the UFC's success, which is why Kawa is so bullish on its broadcast deal with Fox." The deal with Fox is "making it easier for fighters to land major sponsors and giving those potential sponsors a bit of peace of mind about what they're getting into." Meanwhile, Jones "will be featured soon in a spread in GQ" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/19). Jones said, "I aspire to be at the level of guys like LeBron James and some of these bigger-name athletes in the world" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 9/20).
Michael Waltrip Racing team owner Michael Waltrip is "willing to let driver Martin Truex Jr. leave for another team" if MWR is "unable to find sponsorship for the No. 56 car in 2014" following the loss of NAPA, according to Dan Gelston of the AP. Waltrip Friday morning said, "If he came to me tomorrow and said, 'I got a deal to go do something,' then obviously I would not hold him back. I owe him a lot for his loyalty and his passion for our team. I wouldn't hold him back from doing something he wanted to do, but I'd like him to hang around so we can attract a sponsor and keep him in our cars." Gelston reports Aaron's, the primary sponsor of Brian Vickers' No. 55, "remains dedicated to the organization." However, 5-Hour Energy on Thursday indicated that it was "still evaluating its relationship with MWR." The energy drink company is the primary sponsor of Clint Bowyer's No. 15. Waltrip on Friday said he ''fully expects'' 5-Hour Energy to remain with the team. He added that MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman "could help fund Truex" next season (AP, 9/20). ESPN's Ryan McGee said the "next question" for MWR is the status of 5-Hour Energy. McGee: "What are they going to say? Are they going to say, 'Alright, we're with NAPA. We're gone, we're embarrassed too.' Or can you convince them to stay on board? Losing one giant sponsor is bad enough. Losing two, I don't want to think about what that might to down the road" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 9/20).
A BAD SITUATION: USA TODAY's Nate Ryan notes Waltrip has "survived more withering adversity than virtually anyone in the Sprint Cup Series, but the impending loss of NAPA ... is easily the worst predicament." Ryan: "What's at stake for Waltrip? His career. His reputation. His team." Finding primary sponsorship for Truex "will be far from an easy sell," and there already "might be a need to prioritize damage control on the home front with MWR's other major backers" (USA TODAY, 9/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Nick Bromberg wrote to say the "future of the No. 56 car is in limbo would not be an overstatement." The future of "another car and driver combination could soon be solidified" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/19).
MAKING A STATEMENT: MRN Radio's Pete Pistone wrote NAPA made the "boldest statement of anyone involved" in the scandal. The company’s "message was clear: integrity and morals do matter even in the often-muddy waters of big-time stock car racing, and NAPA was not going to stand for being associated with it." NAPA has "been through a lot with MWR during the course of its relationship with the team, including the infamous jet fuel incident at Daytona in 2007." But what "transpired in Richmond went beyond a team trying to find an edge with an illegal fuel substance or struggling to be competitive on a regular basis." Pistone: "Pure and simple, MWR cheated up the rules and the spirit of competition so far that the very legitimacy of the entire sport was thrown into question" (MRN.com, 9/19). SPORTING NEWS' Bob Pockrass wrote, "Don’t blame NAPA. Don’t blame NASCAR. Don’t blame the media. Don’t blame Twitter. This one is on Michael Waltrip Racing." It is "just another unfortunate result when money and the drive to win cloud one's judgement." Even if NASCAR "didn’t penalize MWR, fans saw what happened." Pockrass: "No company wants to be associated with the idea that the end justifies the means" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/19).
A new promotional campaign from the NFL debuted during Thursday night’s Chiefs-Eagles game, and the "star of the show is a 10-year-old phenom named Samantha Gordon," according to Anthony Crupi of ADWEEK. Gordon last fall "became a cause célèbre after a YouTube video of her gridiron exploits went viral." She appeared in the league’s first "Together We Make Football" spot. The 30-second promo aired "twice during NFL Network’s Prekick Show and once in the first quarter of Thursday Night Football." The spot features "snippets from Gordon’s 2012 highlight reel and includes some of the many media appearances she made in the wake of her newfound fame." Other spots in the series "will feature testimonials" from Pro Football HOFer Joe Montana, and former Secretary of State "and diehard Cleveland Browns fan" Condoleezza Rice. NFL Films Supervising Producer Keith Cossrow said that Gordon’s experience "became the inspiration and the blueprint for the 'Together We Make Football' campaign." Fans who "navigate to the microsite can upload a video of up to five minutes in length or submit an essay no longer than 1,000 words." Approved submissions that appear on the site "subsequently will be available to share via social media." The "best entries submitted before Nov. 5 will be eligible for inclusion in an upcoming NFL Films documentary" (ADWEEK.com, 9/19).
YouTube and Fox Sports said that they have "agreed to jointly sell ads on the sports network's YouTube channel ... signing up Burger King as the initial sponsor," according to Tim Peterson of AD AGE. The program began early in September to "coincide with the start of the NFL season," and Burger King ads "appear on the fantasy football-themed section 'Inside Fantasy.'" Burger King is "running preroll ads against videos there along with banners promoting its Buffalo Chicken Strips." Fox Sports Senior VP/Digital Sales Marla Newman said that the QSR "made an upfront spending commitment in exchange for a guaranteed number of video views and ad impressions." She "declined to discuss specific terms." Fox Sports is "not currently bundling TV spots with these YouTube deals." But Newman said it is "definitely something we're exploring" (ADAGE.com, 9/20).
The companies endorsed by Colts QB Andrew Luck may "appear to have hit certain pay dirt," but he is "anything but a sure thing -- at least not yet," according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Schoettle: "Luck is not yet a household name. Not even close." Corporate interests are "often looking for larger-than-life figures that transcend the sport they play," and Davie-Brown Index data shows that Luck "ranks far behind the NFL’s biggest stars in almost every category measured." Only 36% of U.S. consumers "know who Luck is," compared with 45% who are aware of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and 83% who aware of Broncos QB Peyton Manning. Griffin rated No. 18 out of more than 3,000 celebrities "in terms of how much the American public aspires to be like him," while Luck ranked No. 126 in that category. That is "largely a function of exposure." Companies looking to boost the image of their products are willing, despite the risks, to "roll the dice on what Luck could become," as his "clean image, his Stanford degree and his articulate yet aw-shucks demeanor make him a good bet." Deals with Luck are a "much bigger gamble for companies, like Klipsch, who are not as directly involved in the sports world as some of Luck’s other corporate partners such as Nike and Body Armor" (IBJ.com, 9/18).
Yankees P Mariano Rivera’s “exit from the game is going to be a profitable one, as more than 20 licensees have signed up to make roughly 150 retirement items,” according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Licensees include Nike, New Era, Rawlings, Fathead and coin company Highland Mint. Steiner Sports Founder & CEO Brandon Steiner said that he also is “making a Rivera commemorative bat.” MLB and Rivera will “get a cut of the proceeds from the sale of the items.” Steiner said, “For minorities, he is like their Babe Ruth.” Steiner said that the Yankees “will start wearing special Mariano jerseys with his retirement logo patches Sunday and will play with balls with the logo on them.” The Yankees on Sunday also “will wear a special patch on their hats to commemorate Rivera's career.” Cap manufacturer New Era said that it will be the “first time an active player has been honored on a cap like this.” Steiner said that his company “will get some of the game-used items from Rivera from some of his final appearances, though he notes that Rivera will keep his uniform from his final on-field appearance” (ESPN.com, 9/19).
Under Armour on Thursday unveiled the "next iteration of its 'Maryland Pride' uniforms, featuring a Maryland-flag-inspired red jersey it says will be impossible for opposing players to grab onto," according to Jeff Barker of the Baltimore SUN. The "no grab" technology was "the highlight of the 'Maryland Pride 2.0' uniform." UA Creative Dir for Team Sports Adam Clement said, "It took us three years to develop. It's a proprietary fabric, so it's exclusive to our company. What's unique about this fabric from a football standpoint is it does not stretch. It's impossible to grab." Maryland will "wear the uniforms for the first time" Saturday against West Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium. The helmets, which "also evoke the state flag's Calvert and Crossland coats of arms, are hand-painted and airbrushed to create a sense of motion." The word "MARYLAND" appears in "gold lettering on the backs of the helmets." There are "200 helmets, each identified individually by a barely visible number on the back" (Baltimore SUN, 9/20). COMPLEX.com's Nick Schonberger noted the uniform was inspired by the Maryland flag and "celebrates its four quadrants." A "game-changing individually artist numbered helmet pushes the whole design forward." The helmet is "the big statement." The idea is to "go in a completely different direction than the chrome trend" (COMPLEX.com, 9/19).
In Milwaukee, Bill Glauber cites a Public Policy Polling survey as stating that Brewers LF Ryan Braun's "favorability plummeted to 15% in September" among Wisconsin voters, compared to 39% who "viewed him unfavorably." Braun in February '12 "was viewed favorably by 59% and unfavorably by 7%." Former NFLer Brett Favre "is now viewed favorably by 50% of those polled and unfavorably by 28%," nearly the "reverse of what a December 2010 poll found." Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has a favorability rating of 75%, though that is "down from when the Packers were riding high in Nov. 2011 and Rodgers' favorability reached 89%." The poll of 1,180 Wisconsin voters was conducted Sept. 13-16 and the margin of error was plus or minus 2.9% (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/20).
I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE: Biotech firm Amgen on Thursday announced that it has renewed its title sponsorship of the Tour of California pro cycling event, a designation it has held since the race's inception in '06. The renewed deal will build on Breakaway from Cancer, a national initiative aiming to increase awareness of certain resources available to those affected by cancer. Other returning partners for the event are Champion System, 10 Speed Coffee, Bissell, Carmichael Training Systems, Crunchies Natural Snacks, Michelob Ultra, SRAM and ZD Wines (THE DAILY).
THE IDEAL PITCHMAN? In N.Y., Bob Raissman writes Mets P Matt Harvey's "rate of compensation could not possibly be commensurate with the recognition he provided" for Qualcomm during his interview on "The Dan Patrick Show" on Wednesday, as the company "wasn’t exactly on the tip of anyone’s tongue." Harvey was "just following industry standards." In his role as a "paid spokesman, he was putting Qualcomm’s best interests ahead of Patrick’s radio agenda" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/20). Harvey on Thursday called back to "The Dan Patrick Show" to apologize for his initial interview and said that he "didn’t mean to make Qualcomm sound bad." Harvey: "That wasn't me at all. The interview I gave you was completely awkward and it's not the person that I am" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 9/19).
RUNNER'S WORLD: In Baltimore, Alexander Pyles wrote although Under Armour will no longer be the title sponsor of the Baltimore Marathon going forward, the company "has signed a multi-year deal with Corrigan Sports Enterprises Inc., which organizes the running festival, to be the official race-themed apparel and footwear provider." Race participants "have received Under Armour shirts" since '03 (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/19).