EA Sports last night said it is parting ways with Tiger Woods for its golf videogame, ending one of the gaming industry’s most prominent athlete endorsements after more than 15 years. The company said it is instead developing a golf game for the forthcoming Xbox One and PlayStation 4 without Woods, but did not disclose further details regarding potential licensed intellectual property beyond its existing, exclusive deal with the PGA Tour. The golf title also has been buttressed in recent years by the use of marks and imagery from Augusta National Golf Club. EA Sports had been one of Woods’ staunchest corporate supporters during his sex scandal-related troubles of ’09-10, and Woods’ connection to “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” in some ways resembled what the company and Pro Football HOFer John Madden have for the “Madden NFL” franchise. Since then, though, he has been on multiple shared covers, including ones with Rory McIlroy and Arnold Palmer. The company branded its parting with Woods as a “mutual decision.” EA Sports VP & GM of Golf Daryl Holt said, "We’ve always been big fans of Tiger and we wish him continued success in all his future endeavors.” The company declined to provide more detail into its reasoning. The discontinuing of “Tiger Woods PGA Tour” follows EA Sports’ announcement last month to shut down "NCAA Football" amid continued legal uncertainties surrounding the collegiate licensing landscape. Only Nike and NetJets remain as sponsors of Woods that were with him prior to his scandal. Meanwhile, EA Sports yesterday publicly released a screenshot of its work-in-progress golf game, which does not have a projected release date. Woods is now in licensing talks with another, undisclosed videogame company (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted the title has sold $771M worth of games "over the course of its lifetime." Woods' agent Mark Steinberg said, "We had an incredible run. ... But times are changing and EA had to re-evaluate the partnership and frankly so did we" (ESPN.com, 10/28).
Marketing and Sponsorship
MLB and Chevrolet last night abruptly cancelled a planned placard promotion for the Chevy Silverado intended for Game 5 of the World Series. The league and automaker distributed colored placards throughout the Busch Stadium seating bowl that spelled out “Silverado Strong.” The original plan called for Baseball HOFer Ozzie Smith to lead a raising of the placards at the start of the 3rd inning, to be aired on Fox. But the similarity of the truck’s slogan to “Boston Strong” -- the city's mantra following the Boston Marathon bombings -- prompted MLB and Chevrolet to make a late switch and abort the promotion. “Following today’s rehearsal, we realized there was the possibility that we may offend some of the very fans we were trying to honor. For that reason Chevrolet and MLB decided to cancel the promotion,” the company said in a statement. Chevrolet debuted “Silverado Strong” as a tagline for its ’14 Silverado in July with a specially written song. Last night’s promo had been intended in part to spotlight Chevrolet’s efforts promoting youth baseball participation. The placards themselves included an ad for the Silverado on one side, and on the other read, “You are part of a nationally televised card stunt! Silverado Strong” (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). In Boston, Mark Shanahan notes MLB deemed the ad to be "in questionable taste," and decided that it was a "weak idea" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/29). Also in Boston, Gayle Fee notes Chevy "has been using the slogan in commercials for months." Fee: "But were they totally clueless about how it would be perceived in light of the Boston Strong marathon movement?" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/29).
TWITTER REAX: Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan wrote cancelling the promo was a “very good move from both sides.” The N.Y. Times’ Tyler Kepner wrote it was a “smart move” to cancel the promo. The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham wrote, “Wiser heads prevailed so as not to offend anybody.” Baseball writer Jen Royle wrote, “Can't believe Chevy even thought of ‘Silverado Strong’ signs. Good move pulling them. What professional human thought that was appropriate?” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Joe Strauss wrote, “Props to whomever convinced MLB trained seal act involving fans and auto Rightsholder was in bad taste, causing its abrupt cancellation.” Sports On Earth’s Howard Megdal sarcastically wrote, “Shame on MLB for failing to honor the brave Chevy Silverado, after all it's been through.”
NBC is positioned to sell out its first Olympics in more than a decade. NBC Sports Exec VP/Ad Sales Seth Winter said the net's ad inventory is more than 90% sold for the Sochi Games. Winter added, "If inventory paces like it has been, we could sell out. The demand has escalated beyond anything I've experienced." The sales success is a major reversal from the last Winter Olympics. The net still had 30-35% of inventory available leading into the '10 Vancouver Games. The last time it sold 90% of its advertising for a Winter Olympics was for the '06 Turin Games. It sold more than 98% of its inventory for the '02 Salt Lake City Games. Winter said he is concerned NBC Sports may not have "enough inventory to meet the demand in the marketplace" for Sochi and added that selling key categories like beer and technology, which are still unsold, could allow the company to sell out of inventory. He added, "I've never walked into a Games feeling we're this well sold." Winter made similar sell-out predictions before the '08 Beijing Games and '12 London Games, but neither of those events sold out. Winter attributed the sales success for Sochi to demand among ad buyers for the strong ratings that the Olympics deliver over 18 days. He also said NBC's move to divide categories into more refined segments helped sales. He pointed to banking as an example. NBC sold retail, online trading, consumer banking and other categories. It landed deals with TD Ameritrade and Citi. Winter said, "As we see how advertisers are communicating their brand, we try to turn a mirror on that. We're a reflection of how they're seeing the marketplace." He said the USOC's success in adding new partners helped, as well. He pointed to Smucker's, a new partner and a Sochi advertiser, as an example.
HUNGRY FOR MORE: Kellogg's unveiled its Olympic campaign, and the '14 Team Kellogg's Team USA Athletes include snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler; paralympic skier Heath Calhoun; figure skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White; ski jumper Sarah Hendrickson; skier Ted Ligety; skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace; paralympic snowboarder Amy Purdy; and freeskier Torin Yater-Wallace. Team Kellogg's Legends include former hockey player Jim Craig and former figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi. Elsewhere, Chobani released the names of the six U.S. athletes it has signed up for Sochi deals, including snowboarder Lindsey Jacobellis, paralympic skier Allison Jones, skier Hannah Kearney, Wild LW Zach Parise, sled hockey player Rico Roman and para-snowboarder Evan Strong. Smucker's Team USA athlete roster includes speedskater J.R. Celski, snowboarders Kelly Clark and Louie Vito, freeskier Nick Goepper, figure skaters Gracie Gold and Lysacek, alpine skier Julia Mancuso, and Yamaguchi. Participating athletes will be featured in advertising, digital marketing and cross-promotional activities leading up to the Games in support of the company's four leading brands -- Smucker's, Folgers, Jiff and Smucker's Uncrustables (THE DAILY).
TRUE NORTH: Canadian retailer Sport Chek is launching a new ad campaign called "What it Takes," which will highlight what athletes sacrifice to become the best in the world. Its ads feature Canadian Olympic hopefuls such as Penguins C Sidney Crosby, women's ice hockey player Meaghan Mikkelson, skiers Christopher Del Bosco and Erik Guay, skeleton racer Jon Montgomery, bobsledder Kaillie Humphries and snowboarders Maelle Ricker and Mark McMorris (THE DAILY).