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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

Former Ohio State LB Chris Spielman is the plaintiff in a class-action suit "filed in federal court in Columbus" against OSU on behalf of all former and current football players, according to Rabinowitz, King & Oller of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. Spielman: "I feel sick about it. But I believe in doing the right thing. ... Players have a right. If somebody wanted to endorse you, don’t you think you have a right to say yes or no, or to negotiate? That’s a common-sense thing. We want to be partners. We don’t want to be adversaries." Spielman said that his attorney, Brian Duncan, "tried for eight months to resolve the issue with Ohio State." In the suit, Spielman "asks for more than $75,000, but that’s simply an amount typical in such complaints." Regardless, Spielman said that he would "donate any money he might get back to the Ohio State athletic department." The lawsuit "takes issue with 64 banners hung in Ohio Stadium featuring players’ likenesses and a corporate logo for Honda on them, but it also mentions jerseys, photographs, signatures and more." The lawsuit also names companies including IMG College, WME, DBA Int'l Management, Honda and Nike. Duncan said that Spielman’s "main issue" is with IMG College, which reps OSU in multimedia rights negotiations. Duncan said, "They all knew better than to do this, and they can’t do this again in the future." Nike is "targeted for its 'Legends of the Scarlet and Gray' vintage jersey-licensing program and other apparel contracts with Ohio State" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/15).  

LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIP: The DISPATCH's Rob Oller wrote negotiations between OSU and Duncan "dragged over the past eight months without any compensatory agreement being reached." Oller: "My hunch? Ohio State attorneys never thought Spielman would follow through with a suit and he called their bluff." A source said that OSU "eventually made an offer that was about $230,000 -- spread over the 64 players featured on the banners." Oller: "I see coming to a head the culmination of bad blood that has been brewing for more than a decade between old-school Buckeyes and new-school administrators, who take a business-first approach to everything." Spielman’s suit is the "drop of oil on the garage floor that signals more serious issues, in this case university exploitation and arrogance" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 7/16). In Cincinnati, Paul Daugherty writes Spielman has "been in business with a Columbus-area Mazda dealer for two decades." Spielman: "It makes me look hypocritical. Anything I put my name on, I believe in." Spielman "isn’t some out-there crusader, tilting at windmills." Daugherty: "He loves Ohio State. Enough, as it turns out, to sue it." Spielman "doesn’t want to harm" the school. He wants to "educate it." Spielman: "Let’s be on the forefront of doing it the right way. Change is coming. It’s inevitable" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/17).

JUST THE FIRST DOMINO? The Cleveland PLAIN DEALER writes the lawsuit "could be a step in a battle that changes how college sports function." At the very least, it is a "public battle that's hard to fathom." Spielman and Archie Griffin on one side, the university they "stand for in so many ways on the other side." This is "much more personal" than the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit against the NCAA, and having Griffin on board "is enormous." There is an expectation that more former OSU football players will "join in and seek damages," but the case is "not about money." It is about "control -- of money" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 7/17).'s Michael McCann wrote the lawsuit is "significant on at least five levels." Spielman's lawsuit is a "direct effort to compel a university to follow the O'Bannon ruling." Additionally, the lawsuit could be the "first of many like it," and more lawsuits like this one means a greater chance the Supreme Court "will decide to weigh in." Spielman's lawsuit is "not yet a federal class action," and OSU might be "more poised to settle with Spielman than the NCAA was with O'Bannon" (, 7/16).

LaVar Ball said there is still a chance for a big shoe brand to sign his son, Lakers G Lonzo Ball, "if the price is right," according to Darren Rovell of LaVar Ball: "Quite frankly we are officially in the shoe game, and are a billion dollar brand either way." After wearing his Big Baller Brand signature ZO2 shoes in the Lakers' first two Summer League games and Nike for the third, Lonzo Ball wore Adidas "for the fourth" and on Saturday night wore Warriors G Stephen Curry's "yet-to-be-released Under Armour shoes." Lonzo Ball said he decides which shoes to wear "when he wakes up." Asked if his shoe choices are part of a master plan, Lonzo said, "You could say that" (, 7/15). ESPN’s Adnan Virk said, "Wearing the different shoe brands is weak. Stick with Big Baller Brand." ESPN’s Bomani Jones said of the Ball family, "They figured out that it doesn't make any sense to try to do this off the top with their own money. They might as well go get some Nike money or whoever they wind up signing a deal with. I think that’s what they’re doing, I think they're trying to get a deal" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 7/17).

BREADTH OF A SALESMAN: ESPN’s Shelley Smith said of Lonzo Ball wearing different brands of shoes, “LaVar Ball is proving to be a very smart marketer, and I say that with a lot of hesitation, but nobody has been talking about shoes like they have with Lonzo Ball. He's got Nike, he’s got Adidas, now he’s got ... the black low-side Steph Curry 4’s that haven't even been released to the public and he's already wearing them so he’s a very shrewd marketing guy. ... They're setting themselves up for a big payday with someone" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/16). ESPN’s Amin Elhassan said, "They’re trying to show (brands), ‘Look at the buzz when he just put your shoes on, everyone goes nuts.’ The other theory which I think sounds a little bit more closer to home -- the ZO2’s probably weren't as good a performance shoe as he originally thought and so now he’s trying out different shoes to go back to the designers.” But Elhassan said it “feels like they just abandoned the whole brand." ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk said, "It’s adding to Big Baller Brand, in a weird way. It’s just creating a buzz so that when they do get Big Baller Brand right and correct (the brand awareness will be high)" ("The Jump," ESPN, 7/14). ESPN’s David Jacoby said "now we’re paying too much attention" to Ball's shoes ("SportsNation," ESPN, 7/14).

EVERYTHING TO GAINES: Ball Sports Group's Harrison Gaines, who reps Lonzo, said that he was hand-picked by LaVar Ball to represent his sons, as he had a "genuine relationship" with the family. Gaines: "When I met them, I was still in law school. There were no expectations. I enjoyed watching the boys play. I built a great relationship with LaVar and Tina and it just grew from there." Asked if the boys' father comes across as controlling, Gaines said LaVar "empowers" him in his role as an agent. Gaines: "He trusts my business acumen on the NBA side, he trusts my knowledge of the game." Gaines noted that he still has his own firm, Slash Sports, where he represents "all other clients," like former NBAer Jamaal Franklin. Gaines: "I'm looking to build from there and grow the business with the right guys, implementing the mentorship aspects, the life-after-basketball aspect. Everything of that nature" (, 7/11).

Nearly one third of NHL fans correctly identified Visa as one of the league's official credit card partners, the highest such rate in the 11-year history of the league’s sponsor loyalty study, fielded annually for SBJ/SBD by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment. Visa has been the league’s Canadian partner since '08. Discover, the NHL's U.S. credit card partner since '10, also enjoyed its highest awareness level ever. However, although Discover and Visa both enjoyed an increase in their awareness levels over the past few seasons, both partners are less recognized than other major league credit card partnerships.

See more on NHL sponsor loyalty in this week's SportsBusiness Journal.

Capital One ('10)
Visa ('95)
MasterCard ('97)
Visa** ('08)
American Express ('10)
Discover** ('10)
Credit One ('16)

NOTES: * = Surveys are conducted during each property's postseason. ** = Visa has held the Canadian rights since '08; Discover has been the U.S. rightsholder since '10.

In San Antonio, Ryan Salchert reported locally based grocer H-E-B "signed a 10-year sponsorship agreement for the Alamodome." The partnership will include "prominent signage on the North Plaza, now 'H-E-B Plaza' and within the North Entrance, now 'H-E-B Gate,' as well as throughout the concourses and within the inner bowl of the venue." H-E-B currently has partnerships with the UTSA and Valero Alamo Bowl, the Alamodome’s "two largest tenants" (, 7/14).

HOMETOWN HYDRATION: In Jacksonville, Junior Skepple reported Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette has partnered with New Orleans-based electrolyte alkaline water brand Life10. Life10 is now "planning on expanding in to Florida thanks to its partnership with Fournette." Life10 water has operations in Louisiana, Houston and Brooklyn, with Jacksonville "up next." Life10 Founder Lester Ziegler said, "When Leonard's takes his first snap in the NFL, Life10 intends to be in Jacksonville" (, 7/14).

:'s Jenna Laine noted Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston is showing his creativity off the field through fashion by "designing a custom backpack that hit shelves" last week. He collaborated with the company Sprayground to "produce the 'Jameis Winston Pirate Shark'" (, 7/14).