The Redskins' corporate sponsors "largely remained on the sidelines" of the debate regarding the team's name in the wake of a federal ruling that it is "disparaging to Native Americans," according to Josh Peter in a special to USA TODAY. Only grocery store chain Harris Teeter "took a stance -- supporting team owner Daniel Snyder and his vow to keep the Redskins' nickname." FedEx, which owns the Redskins' stadium naming rights, "distanced themselves from the legal proceedings rather than the team's use of the nickname." Bank of America, Sprint and Coca-Cola "were among the major sponsors that did not respond to requests for comment." Sponsorship consulting firm IEG Senior VP/Content Strategy Jim Andrews said, "I think the sponsors have just said let's see which way the wind blows, and when it starts really changing direction will be the time when we will have to take some course of action." But those outside the Native American community on Thursday "tried to apply pressure against the Redskins' corporate sponsors." A group of investors "filed a shareholder proposal with FedEx asking for the company to 'respond to reputational damage from its association' with the team." FedEx Senior VP/Integrated Marketing & Communications Patrick Fitzgerald said that the company had no comment about the proposal but added, "FedEx Field sponsorship is beneficial to our company's shareholders, team members and the local community." Univ. of Oregon Warsaw Sports Marketing Center Dir Paul Swangard said that the "relative silence among corporate sponsors ... may be misleading." Swangard: "It would be naive to think that they're not monitoring this situation closely and just waiting to see what the general reaction is" (USA TODAY, 6/20).
MORE THAN FOOTBALL: FedEx Chair & CEO Fred Smith, who also has a personal stake in the Redskins, acknowledged while his company has naming rights to FedExField, "there are many other events there," including sporting events and concerts. Smith: "So that's our sponsorship and we really don’t have any dog in this issue." Smith said his personal stance on the Redskins name is "going to remain personal" and added "FedEx's contract is with Washington Football for the stadium ... so our sponsorship is a good one for FedExField and the Redskins need to speak on the Redskins name" ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 6/18). Fitzgerald: "It's not our place to have a position on the name" (AP, 6/19).
Geico has bought a presenting apron sponsorship for Wizards home games at Verizon Center over the next three seasons. The Wizards with the deal became one of a handful of NBA teams that have sold a sponsorship for the floor in front of the home team's bench. Monumental Sports & Entertainment made the announcement Thursday at its first "Partner Summit" in DC for companies that do business with the Capitals, WNBA Mystics and Wizards. Geico is a longtime sponsor of the Wizards and was the presenting partner of the team's home playoff games last month.
Dynamo's Garcia gets superhero treatment
in MLS campaign
MLS has brought the idea that athletes "are heroic" to life in a "new lo-fi, high-tech digital campaign" for the FIFA World Cup, according to Matt Van Hoven of DIGIDAY. The league "asked its 'young, tech-savvy fans' last month to choose the superpowers of seven pro players." The league then "employed old-school illustrators, Vine and Snapchat influencers to transform the seven players into superheroes with attributes like super speed and the ability to turn into a brick wall." Featured players included Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Boniek Garcia, Kyle Beckerman, Omar Gonzalez, Graham Zusi and Tim Cahill. Four illustrators, five Vine influencers and one Snapchat whiz "brought the heroes to life in the campaign, which launched June 10." The Vine and Snapchat artists "all work with GrapeStory, the marketing agency and production house" founded by brothers Gary and AJ Vaynerchuk and Jerome Jarre. MLS said that the campaign "has already reached 40 million people." MLS Digital VP Chris Schlosser added that this reach "has led to 'record engagement' for the brand, which is finding its audience through an MLS Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, mlssoccer.com and KICKTV, a RebelMouse page that aggregates MLS content" (DIGIDAY.com, 6/20).
BATTLE OF THE BRANDS: Following a goal by England F Wayne Rooney against Uruguay yesterday, which was his first at a World Cup, Nike on its official Twitter feed sent out a Vine video with the hashtag #riskeverything. That vine engaged with over 500 fans in less than two minutes, according to an analysis by Atlanta-based CSE. Just moments later, Uruguay F Luis Suarez scored his second goal of the game and following the game, adidas on its official feed tweeted out, “Two good. Luis Suarez #allin or nothing.” Two minutes after that adidas tweet, team Uruguay’s sponsor Puma tweeted out an image of the team celebrating with the hashtag #GarraCharrua. The Charrua are an indigenous people in Uruguay and “Garra” means to have moxie (CSE).
Texans DE J.J. Watt and "a guy playing a ukulele" last week filmed four new H-E-B commercials that will "be ready for football season," according to Ken Hoffman of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Watt last year was "the butt of the joke in H-E-B commercials," but this year, it is H-E-B Houston President Scott McClelland's turn. McClelland"began starring in H-E-B commercials five years ago," first working with former NFLer David Carr and former MLBers Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. McClelland last year brought Watt "into the campaign" because he "moves product." McClelland said, "Last year, we did a spot with J.J. and his mother for our Texans Tackle Crackle ice cream. It was our best-selling flavor of ice cream for 16 straight weeks." But Watt still "struggles to make his personality larger for TV commercials." The H-E-B spots are produced and written by Dallas-based Richards Group (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/20).
REUTERS' Esteban Israel noted FIFA's licensing agreement with global partner Sony means players have to take Beats by Dre headphones off "when they are in World Cup stadiums for official matches and media events." Marketing experts said that this "probably only amplifies their appeal." Strategist and former Apple and Google exec Ellen Petry Leanse: "When fans see World Cup athletes wearing Beats in their downtime, by choice, it has as much impact as seeing them lace their Adidas (boots) or sip a sponsored beverage. Maybe more, actually -- Beats isn't a sponsor, so the message is more authentic and credible." Officials at Beats "were not available for comment on their strategy at the Olympics and this World Cup" (REUTERS, 6/17).
BELTWAY BOYS: In DC, Scott Allen noted Redskins QB Robert Griffin III on Wednesday "unveiled a burgundy and gold cleat" made by adidas. The company on Saturday "posted a video of Griffin describing the shoe ... but Griffin didn't tweet about it" until Wednesday afternoon. Griffin in the video says, "I feel like the city of D.C. itself is a city of business, but it’s also a city of fun. So, when you see the burgundy in the middle, that’s the business part. But then the outside? That’s all fun. So this shoe is to you guys" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 6/19).
KD'S NEW LINE: The OKLAHOMAN noted the latest edition of Thunder F Kevin Durant's shoe line "will be unveiled next week." Nike Basketball on Wednesday released a YouTube teaser to "get the hype going about the KD7" (NEWSOK.com, 6/18).
MLBPA'S FRESH PITCH: The MLBPA has set up its first-ever dedicated shop at online retailer Zazzle. The site allows shoppers to create their own customized products using licensed intellectual property, such as player names and images. The union had been working for more than two years on various licensing initiatives with Zazzle prior to the creation of this shop (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer).
STRIKING THE RIGHT BALANCE: COMPETITOR.com's David Monti noted former Dartmouth runner Abbey D'Agostino, the "first Ivy League athlete ever to win an overall NCAA cross-country title, wore a New Balance kit and shoes" throughout her collegiate career, and she "will continue to wear that brand for years to come thanks to a multi-year sponsorship agreement she signed recently" with the company (COMPETITOR.com, 6/18).