Gatorade has apologized "for comments posted to the company's Twitter feed" after Heat F LeBron James was forced to leave the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals Thursday night due to cramps, according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. The company released a statement that read, "Our apologies for our response to fans' tweets during (Thursday) night's Heat vs. Spurs game. We got caught up in the heat of the battle. As a longtime partner of the Miami Heat, we support the entire team." James is an endorser of Powerade, but Gatorade has been an official sponsor of the NBA since '84. Reynolds notes video and photos taken of James during the second half of Thursday game "showed him holding what appeared to be a Gatorade bottle with the label removed, as has been the case on many other occasions" (AP, 6/6). The tweets have been deleted from Gatorade's official feed, but YAHOO SPORTS' Johnny Ludden writes the company "took great pride in pointing out" that James supports Powerade. Many people tweeted at the official Gatorade account Thursday night wondering why James did not consume the sports drink to relieve the cramps. The account responded with several pointed barbs, including, "The person cramping wasn't our client. Our athletes can take the heat. ... This is awkward....We don't sponsor him. ... We were waiting on the sidelines, but he prefers to drink something else." Gatorade is an official NBA sponsor and includes Heat G Dwyane Wade among its endorsers. Ludden notes Powerade's official Twitter account "saluted James earlier in the game" after he joined Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant with 4,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in their postseason careers (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/6).
GAME OF THRONES: In N.Y., Kaja Whitehouse notes James now is "in the odd position of pitching products from rival companies" Samsung and Beats by Dre. James "pitches the Galaxy Note, Samsung’s tablet line and Beats by Dre headsets -- which is being bought by Apple, a bitter rival of the Korean electronics giant." Brand consultancy Landor Associates Managing Dir Allen Adamson: "He’s going to have to pick which team he wants to play for. He can’t play both sides of the field." Whitehouse noted the potential for conflict "was crystallized on Thursday when Beats unleashed a video ad to promote its new line of Solo 2 headsets." The FIFA World Cup-focused video "features James and other athletes wearing Beats." By contrast, Samsung "recently touted its LeBron James app to draw attention to its Samsung phone" (N.Y. POST, 6/6).
San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B's ad campaign featuring Spurs players is "getting a lift -- and some national attention" -- thanks to the the club's run to the NBA Finals, according to Claudia Grisales of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The campaign features Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard in "humorous, offbeat situations involving H-E-B products." The commercials feature the players "talking about H-E-B branded salsas, steaks, laundry detergent and their MooTopia milk drink." The company has used Spurs players in its ads "for more than 10 years, but this year’s campaign ... has created national buzz through social media." McGarrah Jessee PR & Social Media Dir Eric Webber said that the ads "appeal to a wide audience, from the obsessed fan to the non-fan." Spurs Sports & Entertainment Dir of Corporate Partnerships Jeanne Garza: "It’s kind of a little peek behind the curtain. They have been able to get more and more creative and show more of the personality over the years." Grisales notes the ads "get a little help from the NBA," which "distributed copies to other teams as part of their 'best practices' guide on how to promote players" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 6/6). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay noted the ads are "campy and cute" and, "like the Spurs ... they aren't extravagant." There is "not a lot of razzle-dazzle or special effects." H-E-B Group VP/Marketing & Advertising Cory Basso said that the company "now puts out four Spurs spots a year, with the help of the Richards Group advertising agency and Sugar Film production company." Gay noted the commercials are "shot before the NBA season begins, at the team's training facility." In "an ingenious bit of production, four sets are constructed, and the players migrate from one set to the next." All of the ads "get knocked out in a day" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/5).
California Chrome enters the Belmont Stakes Saturday sporting sponsorship deals with Skechers and Breathe Right "worth $500,000 each," according to Richard Morgan of the N.Y. POST. A source said that the agreements "make the 3-year-old colt the first horse ever to get two such endorsements before a major race." Breathe Right signed a deal with the horse after becoming a sponsor of the race itself, where it will hand out 50,000 nasal strips to fans (N.Y. POST, 6/6). BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK's Kyle Stock notes the partnership between Skechers and California Chrome initially "makes little sense," but the shoe company has called the deal a "way to get the attention of older consumers." Front Row Marketing Services Senior VP Eric Smallwood said the agreement gets Skechers "into an environment that is not traditionally tied to athletic footwear." Smallwood expects the company to "realize a fourfold return on its horse-racing investment." Meanwhile, he said the partnership works because it is based on the "whole concept of speed." Stock notes Skechers made a "similar bid in backing Meb Keflezighi, a deal that paid off handsomely when he won the Boston Marathon in April" (BUSINESSWEEK.com, 6/6).
BNP Paribas, France’s largest bank, faces a potential $10B fine from the U.S. gov't for conducting business with Iran and other sanctioned nations, which "raises questions about whether BNP will cut back on dispensable expenses such as its sponsorships of sports," according to Rossingh & Benedetti-Valentini of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The bank "has been among the main sponsors" of the French Open for more than four decades, and the company is "banking on its support for the sporting event ... to recoup some lost reputation ground." London-based BrandRapport Dir of Sports Marketing PR Nigel Currie: "The brand will owe a lot of its recognition outside France to its sponsorship programs." Rossingh & Benedetti-Valentini report partnering with Roland Garros "has been an important part of branding efforts for BNP," which spends about $41M annually on tennis sponsorships. In addition to the French Open, BNP has sponsored both the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup. The bank also title-sponsors the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the WTA's year-end championships in Singapore. BNP's motto -- "We are tennis" -- is "visible on the t-shirts of the ball boys and girls at Roland Garros." Int'l Tennis Federation President and IOC member Francesco Ricci Bitti called BNP the "most important sponsor in tennis." French Open organizers said that they "need BNP to continue to back them" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 6/6). Former USTA President and ITF member Franklin Johnson said that BNP's looming sanctions have him "concerned for the sport, but feels the Indian Wells event should be fine throughout the terms of their title sponsorship agreement which runs" through '18. Johnson: "I just know how important they are with the ITF. Anything negative that happens to them is of great concern" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 6/6).
Several colleges have “decided not to sell football jerseys with star players' digits on them this upcoming season” because they are “worried about the ramifications of selling the numbers tied to student-athletes,” according to sources cited by Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. Sources said that the “only jersey available at retail" for Texas A&M "will be the No. 12 -- as in the ‘12th Man,’ a jersey the school has sold for years.” Northwestern will “limit sales to No. 51, which was used by current head coach Pat Fitzgerald during his heralded playing career," while Arizona will “only offer No. 14,” as in the year ‘14. Arizona AD Greg Byrne: "We've been thinking about doing this for a while." Sources have “expected a move like this designed to lessen the legal exposure of the schools and change the public perception of taking advantage of college athletes, as they fight harder for their commercial rights.” Rovell noted schools “typically make between $3 and $4 in royalties” from a jersey that sells for $60. However, going to more generic jerseys "is expected to come at a cost.” One source said that not having specific jerseys available could result in a 25% decrease in sales for “schools with marketable players” (ESPN.com, 6/5). AL.com's Mike Herndon noted the moves come as the NCAA "prepares for the Ed O'Bannon trial to begin next week -- a case that charges the NCAA with marketing players' likenesses without compensation" (AL.com, 6/5).
SIGN OF THE TIMES: ESPN’s BradEdwards said schools have "woken up to the fact that they can no longer pretend that they’re putting a jersey out there and it’s just a number." Edwards: "Everybody’s got the number of the starting quarterback in the bookstore and they recognize, now, that they can’t get away with it anymore. They are definitely making money off of using a player and it’s going to come back to bite them." ESPN’s Andre Ware: “It goes to show the day and age in which we are in college sports” ("College Football Live," ESPN2, 6/5).
Skechers Performance Division has signed a multiyear deal with golfer Matt Kuchar who will be its first brand ambassador and the face of the Skechers GOgolf line. Kuchar will be featured in a global campaign that covers TV, print, digital and outdoor mediums. Skechers Performance Division will also collaborate with Kuchar on a namesake signature shoe line (Skechers).
DARE BIGGER: MARKETING DAILY's Aaron Baar reported DuPont Protection Technologies is "launching a campaign to showcase the many ways Kevlar ... is used in both ordinary and extraordinary ways." The "Dare Bigger" campaign "kicks off this weekend with a sponsorship of the X Games on ESPN." DuPont VP/Kevlar William Weber said that the brand is "already being featured on the Games’ official website as a sponsor of past highlights and will be used to introduce highlights and recaps throughout the event" (MEDIAPOST.com, 6/3).
I CALL THAT A BARGAIN: Ollie's Bargain Outlet has signed on as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan Int'l Speedway on June 14. The race will be called the Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250. Ollie's entered the Michigan market in '12, with its 10th location in the state opening later this month. The company has ongoing relationship with drivers Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne, among others (Ollie's).
MORE ADDED TO THE LIST: United With Ukraine, a group trying to get the '18 FIFA World Cup moved out of Russia, added event sponsors Visa, Kia Motors and Sony to its "list of targets" for a boycott. The group, chaired by Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk, last week asked people "to boycott Anheuser Busch Inbev" (OTTAWA SUN, 6/6).