Visa "has partnered" with NFL Draft prospect Michael Sam, who "could become the first active openly gay NFL player," according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Sam in his first spot "urges the viewer to judge him for his play on the field, not off it." Visa CMO Kevin Burke: "We felt that Michael's story was a perfect fit for our 'everywhere' campaign, which is meant to inspire people to reach their own personal goals and aspirations" (ESPN.com, 5/8). In K.C., Tod Palmer notes a voiceover by Sam in the 43-second spot "asks viewers to judge him 'for running a 4.91 at the Combine,' or 'a blown tackle on the outside rush,' or 'holding fourth and goal with your team’s wild-card berth on the line.'" Sam: "Judge me for what I do on the field." Palmer notes the campaign "will be used in Visa's online marketing" (K.C. STAR, 5/9).
MAMA, THERE GOES THAT MANZIEL: FOXSPORTS.com's Jimmy Traina noted Nike, which signed Browns QB Johnny Manziel to a deal in early March, "put out its own message on Thursday regarding the pre-draft talk surrounding" him. The message is "aimed at people who like to bring up Manziel's supposed shortcomings" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/8). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson wrote Nike with the creative tried to "remind you that there are 'no sure things' in the NFL Draft" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/8).
GOLDEN GLOVE: Wilson Sporting Goods yesterday announced that it has signed Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney to an endorsement deal. Clowney will promote the company's new line of GST football gloves and protective gear, as well as other products such as footballs and mouth guards. He will be featured on marketing materials including digital, in-store and product packaging. Wilson in conjunction with the NFL Draft is launching a microsite, WilsonMoreWork.com, through which they will give away a pair of gloves autographed by Clowney (Wilson). The Wilson deal comes on the heels of Clowney signing with Puma. See the agency contacts and endorsement portfolios for Clowney and Manziel (THE DAILY).
PERSONAL TOUCH: In N.Y., Ken Belson went behind the scenes last night and reports NFL Senior VP/Consumer Products Leo Kane and Nike two years ago "decided to personalize" the jerseys players received when they walked on stage after being drafted so that they could "admire their last names on them." However, the decision to do so "created a logistical challenge: how to personalize a jersey moments after a player is drafted and before he walked on stage." The answer "was a mix of preparation, practice and sleight of hand, helped by the wonders of television." Behind the curtains "stage right, Nike has a work space about the size of a kitchen in a Manhattan apartment." It "takes about two minutes to personalize each jersey." Each player also "receives a New Era cap when he exits the green room on the other end of the stage" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/9).
Microsoft's "opted not to renew its sponsorship" with the WNBA Storm, so the team's nickname is now "on the front of the jerseys" where the company's search engine Bing had been the past four seasons. The deal signed in '10 "was believed to be worth" $1M annually. In addition to Bing "being visible on the jersey, the online search engine received premium marketing space around KeyArena." Storm co-Owner Lisa Brummel, who is a Microsoft exec, said that the team is "actively looking for a replacement 'marquee' sponsor, but it isn't essential to the overall financial stability of the franchise" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/8).
WNBA JERSEY SPONSOR DEALS
Los Angeles Sparks
San Antonio Stars
Inova Health System
NOTE: The Dream, Sky, Sun, Liberty and Storm do no have jersey deals.
Italy-based footwear brand Vibram's FiveFingers shoe that "had weekend warriors ditching sneakers to jog with little or nothing on their feet ... is falling out of favor," as sales of "so-called minimalist shoes with ultra-thin soles have plunged 47% so far this year, even as total running-shoe sales have risen slightly," according to SportsOneSource data cited by Sara Germano of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Data shows that minimalist footwear last year "was the only major category to shrink," dropping by a third to $220M, while the running-shoe market as a whole "grew slightly" to $7B. Mainstream brands that "got into" the minimalist footwear game include adidas, New Balance and Fila. Experts said that one reason for the downturn is the concept was "pitched as a panacea for common injuries from knee pain to shin splints," but the results "didn't meet expectations." Not all minimalist models "are expiring, especially the ones that are evolving." SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said that the Nike Free is "excluded from the minimalist sales totals compiled by SportsOneSource, because the shoe ... appeals as much to the fashionable as the athletic" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/9).
EARNING ITS STRIPES: THE FADER's Matthew Schnipper writes a "shift in style that coincided" with the '10 hiring of Creative Dir Dirk Schönberger has made adidas "not only one of the most popular brands on the planet, but one of the coolest." Schönberger has brought adidas "a wealth of diversity, often in the form of high profile collaborations ... that are as pretty as they are profitable." He said adidas "broke all the rules by working with fashion designers on sneakers." Schönberger: "I’m thinking about our collaborators as a virus injected into our company that mutates the company into something else" (THE FADER magazine, April/May '14 issue).
USA Basketball on Thursday announced that its partnership with Jeep will feature Cavaliers G Kyrie Irving and will introduce for the first time, "Love Never Felt So Good", a just-released song from Michael Jackson's upcoming album "XSCAPE" through Epic Records. The campaign introduces Jeep's new Altitude Edition lineup for the summer selling season. The campaign will include four new 30-second ads, which began running on Thursday during NBA playoff games (USA Basketball).
THREADING THE NEEDLE: In Pittsburgh, Chris Togneri noted locally based Pro Knitwear "handles jersey work for every major professional sports team in town." The company has about 35 employees, and about a quarter of its business "is from" pro sports team. Employees "stitch logos, names and numbers for teams including the Steelers, Pens, Pirates" and AFL Power. Teams "provide blank jerseys made by national giants such as Nike and Reebok" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 5/9).
EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY: In Oklahoma City, Brianna Bailey profiles Stadium Cribs, which "makes NCAA-licensed pet beds designed to look like college sporting venues, ranging from the company’s top seller," the Univ. of Kansas’ basketball arena, to Boston Univ.'s hockey arena (OKLAHOMAN, 5/9).