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Volume 24 No. 177

Marketing and Sponsorship

Roush Fenway Racing yesterday announced that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards "will not return" for the '15 season, while also announcing a contract extension for driver Greg Biffle, according to Bob Pockrass of SPORTING NEWS. Edwards' departure is "no surprise," as he told team Owner Jack Roush more than a month ago that he was in "serious discussions with another team and did not tell him where he was going." Roush: "We wish it wouldn't happen, but there's curiosity (from him) about what another team's situation would look like." Edwards added, "This was the right time for Roush Fenway to talk about their plans for next year. For me, the right time to talk about exactly what I'm doing next year is the same scenario -- there are a lot of moving parts and we'll announce everything as soon as possible." Meanwhile, Pockrass noted Biffle now will be the "leader and most accomplished of the Roush Fenway stable, which will include Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne in Cup rides next season." Bayne has "full sponsorship from AdvoCare," and Stenhouse will have a "mix of sponsors with former Edwards sponsor Fastenal for the most races." Stenhouse will lose his Nationwide sponsorship to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in '15. Biffle, whose deal is for multiple years, does "not have a sponsor signed for next year," but has been primarily sponsored by 3M in the past. It is "believed Edwards can only take sponsor Subway with him to another team" (, 7/27).

LONG TIME COMING: In Jacksonville, Don Coble notes it has been "widely rumored for months that Edwards would drive a fourth car at Joe Gibbs Racing next season." But JGR Owner Joe Gibbs prior to yesterday's Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway said that there was "no deal and said getting Edwards on board would be 'tough for us'" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/28). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes "the future of RFR has now profoundly changed." Roush said that the team "made Edwards an offer but he didn't believe Edwards' decision was based strictly on monetary issues" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/28).'s John Oreovicz wrote of Bayne, "It's hard to imagine that swapping a proven race winner and championship contender for a still mostly unproven younger driver will help Roush Fenway Racing emerge from its current slump, but stranger things have happened." At the "same time, JGR and Toyota's attempt to win a championship would be strengthened by the expansion to include Edwards" (, 7/27). The CHARLOTTE OBSERVER's Utter writes he did not "quite understand the timing" of the announcement. The news "did not come as a surprise and it seems unusual the team would want to detract from one of NASCAR's biggest events" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/28).

FIFA's global partners and World Cup sponsors are unlikely to "pound their fists and demand reforms" from the governing body, as they "have a long history of enduring serial FIFA controversies in silence, and that is unlikely to change," according to Jack Ewing of the N.Y. TIMES. There "is just too much money at stake." But recent scandals "present sponsors with a dilemma." Any comments they make "only generate more negative publicity and risk souring their relationships with FIFA." But silence "looks like complacency." Spain-based IESE Business School assistant professor Jan Simon: "That is a great opportunity from a brand point of view to say, 'We are the company that wants change to happen.'" But Ewing writes it "is not clear that sponsors get much credit from fans for being principled." The tone of sponsor statements regarding alleged FIFA improprieties "has been several notches below outrage, raising questions about how aggressively they will push for change." If any sponsor "has the ear of FIFA grandees, it is Adidas," as the relationship "goes back decades and has been profitable for both." adidas Chief Corporate Communications Dir Jan Runau, regarding allegations that FIFA execs were bribed to award Qatar the '22 World Cup, said that the company was "concerned" about the accusations, but also "very happy" with its FIFA partnership. For now, sponsors "are awaiting the results of the investigation" into the Qatar bid (N.Y. TIMES, 7/28).

VEHICLE FOR GROWTH: Vehicle valuation firm Kelley Blue Book today released a study indicating that on its site, auto brands that advertised during the World Cup in Brazil experienced twice as much growth in consumer interest compared to those that did not advertise. The greatest traffic surge occurred during the second week of the group stage, when the U.S. played Portugal and Germany. Kia and Volkswagen both saw 18% increases in terms of searches during the World Cup, while Hyundai was up 14% and Nissan up 12% (KBB).

New York-based Cirrus Fitness has signed licensing deals with the NBA, MLB, MLS, NHL and WNBA that allow the exercise equipment-maker to use the leagues’ marks and logos on its equipment and in ads. Cirrus Fitness President & CEO Jay Sapovits said the company also intends to apply for a license with the NFL next year. It is thought to be unusual for a fitness brand to secure multiple licensing deals with sports leagues. Sapovits said, “We feel this gives our business the best chance to succeed. Cirrus Fitness, which sells products such as yoga mats, medicine balls and stability balls, was founded in '12 by Kenny Dichter, who founded Marquis Jet and sold it to NetJets in '10. Dichter is Cirrus Fitness Chair. The company is private and does not release sales figures. Cirrus started out in '12 with licenses with three universities -- Wisconsin, Syracuse and Georgia. Sapovits said the company expanded its college licenses to 110 schools and universities within its first year in business. Cirrus began securing licenses with the pro leagues late last year. In the licensing deals, Cirrus pays a fee and then splits revenue with the league. Sapovits declined to reveal specific financial details.

ALL ABOUT THE TEAM: The deals give Cirrus the right to use the logos of the leagues as well as all of the leagues’ teams. Sapovits noted the team element is important because it gives the company the opportunity to use longtime fan avidity to sell product, as well as capitalize on teams that quickly become hot sellers. Sapovits: “LeBron coming back to Cleveland is a perfect example.” He added that a lot of general sports fans have become Cavaliers fans since James decided to return to Cleveland. Sapovits: “That is why it really makes sense to go after multiple leagues concurrently. You can capture the pro opportunities within market regions.” Cirrus products will be available not only on, and fitness retail stores, but also at college bookstores. Sapovits said there are plans to expand the company’s retail distribution outlets this fall. Cirrus does not have any athlete endorsers now, but that, too, may change. Sapovits said, “That is the next generation of the business. The athletes are using the equipment already.”

Under Armour this week will "launch its second of three major marketing campaigns this year, and this one is all for the ladies," with American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Misty Copeland taking the "spotlight in the new campaign," according to Sarah Meehan of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. UA Founder, Chair & CEO Kevin Plank said that UA "grew sales of its women's line" 26% in Q2. The campaign will "communicate to women that Under Armour wants to 'grow up' with them." UA CFO Brad Dickerson said that the ad uses Copeland to "get the word out to female consumers" that UA is "relevant to women who describe themselves as both athletic and athletes." Dickerson: "At some point in years of playing sport there’s a transition where she goes from a female athlete to an athletic female." Plank said that the products that will hit UA shelves this fall reflect that transition and "cater to women who are wearing athletic products both inside and outside the gym" (, 7/25).