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Volume 24 No. 132

Marketing and Sponsorship

NASCAR driver Danica Patrick is "likely at the end of her driving career after a sponsorship shake-up left her without a ride at Stewart-Haas Racing," according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Patrick in a statement yesterday said that her time with SHR "'had come to an end' due to a new sponsorship arrangement for the team next season." The statement came shortly after Smithfield Foods said that it will "leave Richard Petty Motorsports to become a primary sponsor" at SHR next year. The addition of Smithfield "forced changes" at SHR, which has "struggled with sponsorship for three of its four cars, including the No. 10 Ford driven by Patrick." SHR "didn't reveal where Smithfield will be in the organization" in '18. That means Smithfield "could end up on the car Patrick has driven." Drivers Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch "both need sponsorship on their cars, too." Fryer noted Patrick's contract with SHR ran through '18, but the team has "been searching for sponsorship since Nature's Bakery abruptly ended its three-year deal after one season" (AP, 9/12).'s Bob Pockrass noted SHR found it "difficult to get sponsors after GoDaddy ended its team sponsorship" in '15. SHR "landed Nature's Bakery to sponsor Patrick" from '16-18, but the company "terminated the deal" after just one year. While SHR got Aspen Dental to "increase its number of races with Patrick, the team found itself this summer trying to sell races" for Patrick for just '18 because it "appeared there was little chance of Patrick and SHR wanting to continue racing together beyond next season" (, 9/12). Patrick has "struggled this season," as she currently is in 28th place on the points list. That is "tied for the worst season in her six-year career" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/13).

WHAT'S NEXT? NBCSN's Nate Ryan reported Patrick wants to continue driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but "only if it's a competitive ride." Looking at the "landscape of the Cup Series right now, there certainly aren't a lot" open. She has made it clear she "doesn't want to drive in the Xfinity Series" ("NASCAR America," NBCSN, 9/12). Meanwhile, in Indianapolis, Jim Ayello writes Patrick returning to the Verizon IndyCar Series, "while unlikely, would be great for the series." IndyCar would be "wise to explore a reunion," as Patrick's return would be "invigorating to a series." Fans would "tune in to watch 'The Return' in order to, A) Root her on in proving her doubters wrong; or B) Cheer against her and proudly say, 'I told you so,' if she fails." Either way, it would be a "win for the series, which could use one right now as it negotiates new TV and title sponsorship deals" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/13).

: USA TODAY's Mike Hembree writes Patrick recently has "traveled other avenues," perhaps "anticipating her departure from driving. Early this year, she "began an athletic clothing line called Warrior by Danica Patrick, and she has written a book -- scheduled for release next year -- on health and fitness." An exercise and nutrition devotee, Patrick has "blogged about lifestyle issues, and she has been active in social media circles." Hembree notes many of her Instagram posts are "yoga poses of the day or shout-outs to other yogis" (USA TODAY, 9/13). NBCSN's Ryan said, “She’s got a lot of other things going on outside the car right now. She’s got a winery, an athleisure brand, a book that’s coming out soon. She says all of those things aren't an escape plan, but she also has said she doesn't have a timeline for finding something for 2018. She told me she’s going to go with the flow, so I think it’s fair to say right now that there is a chance she couldn’t be racing after this season” ("NASCAR America," NBCSN, 9/12).

: In Orlando, George Diaz writes if Patrick is done racing, she will "leave a conflicted legacy in the sport." She was "never competitive in her five full seasons as a Cup driver." She does "not have a win or a Top 5 finish in 180 races and has never finished higher than 24th in points." But her "marketing reach was long, and she drew eyeballs to a sport that is struggling for relevance these days." Fox NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip said, "She has done a tremendous job marketing her brand and has developed a great reputation. Even if she never drives again, Danica has changed the face of NASCAR and been great for the sport" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/13). Driver Regan Smith said, “Danica is an A-lister, a Dale Jr.-type figure, when you look at the sport of NASCAR and what she means to people who don't know anything about NASCAR. She's opened up the door for so many different females and more importantly, young girls that are out there racing. ... They look up to Danica Patrick, and that is the reason that they feel like they can make it in this sport. I hope she's around." Richard Petty Motorsports crew chief Drew Blickensderfer: “Not only do they want to become drivers, but they are paying attention to the sport. It's a fan base that NASCAR couldn't tap into before, and she's brought them into the sport" (“NASCAR Race Hub,” FS1, 9/12).

Richard Petty said that Smithfield Foods' decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports for Stewart-Haas Racing made him feel as though he was "stabbed in the back," according to Ed Hardin of the Greensboro NEWS & RECORD. Petty in a statement said, "Over the past few months, Smithfield had continually told me they wanted to be with us, and I recently shook hands on a deal to extend our relationship. I come from a time when we did major deals with sponsors like STP on a handshake." He added the team is "extremely disappointed in this late and abrupt change of direction." Petty vowed the team he co-owns with Medallion Financial Founder & President Andrew Murstein "will be back" in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in '18 (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 9/13). Smithfield yesterday "fired back" with its own statement, "denying the handshake deal, chastising Petty for what the company termed 'false statements,' and blistering RPM for its failure to perform at a high level on the track" (USA TODAY, 9/13). RPM crew chief Drew Blickensderfer said, "We had assumed Smithfield was coming back and had every indication they were coming back, so we were excited about our future. Both performance and sponsorship, they were looking great." He said the team plans to have Bubba Wallace replace Aric Almirola in the No. 43 car next year, though Smithfield's departure will make it a "little harder road than we initially expected." Blickensderfer noted the team is "going to have to find some sponsorship" for Wallace ("NASCAR Race Hub," FS1, 9/12). 

: Racing reporter Jeff Gluck tweeted Smithfield's statement "came off poorly. ... They could have made their point without blasting back so heavily. Why do that? Unnecessary. Take the high road." Fox Sports' Alan Cavanna: "Damn ... coming at The King." Athlon Sports' Geoffrey Miller: "What a fun day to work Smithfield PR." Yahoo Sports' Nick Bromberg: "NASCAR fans siding with a corporate behemoth over the most legendary driver in the sport — and the underdog in this scenario — is baffling." MRN Radio's Alex Hayden: "One positive from today people are overlooking: @SmithfieldFoods is choosing to STAY in the sport."

LOOKING FOR MORE ROI: USA TODAY's Mike Hembree notes Almirola produced just one win while racing with Smithfield sponsorship, and it is "no surprise that the company would consider moving to a team with more promising prospects." Although "linking its brand to Petty, the sport’s No. 1 ambassador and a certified American sports icon, was a plus for Smithfield, it clearly wants to be in a position to have its name in brighter lights -- specifically those of victory lane" (USA TODAY, 9/13). It is unclear what SHR team Smithfield will be associated with. But Almirola also is moving to SHR next year, and NASCAR driver Regan Smith said, "We know how tight Aric has been with Smithfield, and his relationship’s been very close with all the people that make the decisions there” (“NASCAR Race Hub,” FS1, 9/12).

Thunder G Russell Westbrook has signed a "10-year extension with Nike's Jordan Brand that will be the most lucrative total endorsement deal for a Jordan athlete to date," according to sources cited by Nick DePaula of After first signing a five-year endorsement deal in '13, Westbrook has been "positioned as the face of the brand and the annual Air Jordan model each subsequent season." The shoe deal extension, negotiated by Wasserman and Westbrook's longtime agent, Thad Foucher, is "in advance of the initial deal's expiration next fall." Sources said that the "increased pay rate will retroactively apply" to his '16-17 MVP season. The long-term extension will "link the 28-year-old Westbrook with Jordan Brand" through as long as the '25-26 season. The deal will "include both on- and off-court signature sneakers, new territory for Westbrook." The brand "launched two off-court-geared silhouettes, dubbed the Westbrook 0.1 and 0.2, but held off on designing him a performance signature shoe for the hardwood." With the extension "locked in, the process is underway to begin developing an on-court Westbrook signature shoe." A source said that the shoe is "expected to highlight his flashy and unpredictable fashion lens -- 'unlike anything that Jordan Brand has done before.'" Rather than "invest resources into designing, developing and marketing another possibly short-lived signature line, Jordan Brand wanted to first ensure that Westbrook would be with the company for the long haul." Just after agreeing to the extension, Westbrook and Jordan Brand "embarked on a multicity, rapid-fire tour of China." As part of the new deal, Jordan Brand will "contribute an annual donation to Westbrook's "Why Not?" Foundation. The deal also "includes a rare 'ambassador clause,' providing Westbrook with appearance opportunities and additional Jordan Brand legacy potential even after he retires from the NBA" (, 9/12).

POTENTIAL IMPACT: In Oklahoma City, Brett Dawson notes Westbrook is "entering what can be the final year of his contract" with the Thunder. He is "eligible for a five-year maximum contract extension that, when combined with the upcoming season, would make for a six-year contract" worth more than $235M. That would be the "richest deal in NBA history." It is "unclear how the new Jordan Brand deal might impact that decision." A point "in favor of Westbrook signing the five-year extension now is that it locks in financial stability for six years at age 28." But the shoe contract money could "take away some of the incentive to lock in with one team, even at such a high salary" (OKLAHOMAN, 9/13).

The Warriors yesterday signed a jersey patch deal with Japanese tech firm Rakuten, and they "deserve credit for drastically re-setting another NBA market," according to Dieter Kurtenbach of the San Jose MERCURY NEWS. Most jersey sponsorship deals have been worth between $5M-7M per year, but the reported deal will be "twice as lucrative than the next-largest jersey sponsorship deal to date" in the NBA. Other teams could "surpass the Warriors’ deal in the coming days," but the Warriors "pulled double the next-best deal, and Rakuten wasn’t even the team’s largest offer." Meanwhile, the Rakuten deal "makes sense" for both parties. Rakuten interests the Warriors because they "want to further entrench their brand in the growing Asian marketplace" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/13). NBC Sports Bay Area's Grant Liffmann noted Japan is "untouched right now in the NBA brand." Liffmann: "There’s just no one there. China is the next place everyone is going, so maybe the Warriors saw an opportunity and they said, ‘Maybe we take over Japan.’ Right now, the Warriors are the hottest team in the world, so maybe they can take over Japan and everyone will be wearing little Curry jerseys.” NBC Sports Bay Area’s Ray Ratto: “These guys laid out a ton of money in a market that appeals to Joe Lacob's Silicon Valley sensibilities" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 9/12). Apex Marketing Group President Eric Smallwood said that Rakuten’s logo is "expected to generate" $32-37M in "equivalent advertising this season from TV, social media, video games and jersey sales" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/13).

HELP WITH LUXURY TAX: ESPN's Rachel Nichols reports it is believed that the extra revenue from the Rakuten deal will help the Warriors "offset their luxury tax penalties, which will be significant, and help them just sign more guys for more money” ("The Jump," ESPN, 9/12). In San Jose, Mark Medina writes the Warriors "benefitted by securing more financial means of absorbing luxury tax penalties because of business deals, including their latest one with Rakuten" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/13). Warriors GM & President of Basketball Operations Bob Myers said, "I don’t look at it as far as helping us build our team -- indirectly, it does. Resources that are put into revenue stream, our ownership group pushes it back in the direction of the front office" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/13). 

Amazon is promoting its NFL "Thursday Night Football" coverage with a "funny spot that puts a literal spin on its streaming" of the Sept. 28 Bears-Packers game, according to Alexandra Jardine of CREATIVITY-ONLINE. The 30-second spot, directed by Andreas Nilsson for CP+B, L.A., "sees real (or at least CGI-created) bears, playing ball with real 'packers,' and a real stream in the Amazon." The action is "narrated in wildlife documentary style." Amazon is also "planning future spots with more literal visualizations of scenarios" (, 9/12).

A NEW ERA: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, John Ourand noted the Bears-Packers game "marks the first of 11 NFL games Amazon will stream this season." Amazon will "stream four different feeds of the game." It will "carry the regular U.S. feed produced by CBS," but it also will have "three different sets of announcers -- play-by-play and analysts -- call the game in different languages over the CBS-produced video." Games will be "available in Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and a secondary English feed." Amazon Head of Sports Jim DeLorenzo said, "This is a global deal for us. That really dovetails well with some of the NFL’s goals to try and increase the popularity of the NFL globally. All U.S. leagues are trying to increase their international footprint. We have the same incentives on our side, trying to make sure that we’re presenting this in the best way possible for our customers." Amazon "would not say where their announcers will call the games, but they are not likely to be on-site at the host stadiums." More likely, they will "use a video feed in a central city to call the games." Amazon execs would also "not say who the announcers will be." The secondary English feed is set up for "extremely casual fans or people who live in English-speaking countries and don’t follow the NFL." The feed will be "elementary, essentially for people who don’t know what a first down is." While many TV execs are "wary of Amazon’s overall sports ambitious, they do not expect Amazon’s audience to be much higher than the relatively small numbers Twitter delivered last season." Twitter "averaged 265,000 viewers on an average minute basis last season" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/11 issue).

The Univ. of Hawaii stands to earn at least $27.7M over the 10-year life of its " new multimedia rights licensing agreement" with IMG College, according to Ferd Lewis of the HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER. The contract runs until June 30, 2027. UH will receive a $1M signing bonus with "payments split over" '18 and ’19. Annual royalties begin at $2.2M this year and escalate to $3M in the contract’s final year. UH AD David Matlin said the overall $27.7M "compares very favorably" to the $21M that the university "would have been able to achieve on its own during the same period." Lewis noted UH had "handled multimedia marketing in-house" since '03-04 after severing a two-year relationship with sports agent Leigh Steinberg. In the new deal with IMG, UH can "earn additional funds if specified revenue targets," which escalate from $4.4M this year to $6M in the final year, are exceeded. IMG also is "expected to retain" at least 50% of the non-cash trade UH receives. IMG’s role will "include UH publications, signage at UH facilities and areas open to UH at other facilities, and internet and digital opportunities." It may also have a role in "future broadcast contracts." As part of the agreement, IMG will be able to sell sponsorships "touting businesses exclusively as the 'official (fill in the blank) of UH'" (HONOLULU STAR-ADVERTISER, 9/12).

HAIL STORM: IMG College yesterday announced a deal with Mississippi State to become the school's exclusive trademark licensing rep, effective Jan. 1. MSU joins 11 other SEC schools that are repped by IMG, as well as the conference itself. MSU previously had a deal with Learfield Licensing Partners (THE DAILY).

In Dallas, Karen Robinson-Jacobs reported 7-Eleven has recruited Cowboys QB Dak Prescott to "create radio spots which will run on digital stations" to promote the company's "15 new 'locally made, chef-inspired, heat-and-eat meals' in 'select markets.'" The selection "includes Italian, homestyle, Asian, and Mexican recipes" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/12). Also in Dallas, Jon Machota notes Prescott had the NFL's "top-selling jersey over the last week" at Dick's Sporting Goods. Four Cowboys "landed in the top 30 with Prescott in the top spot" and RB Ezekiel Elliott at No. 3. Patriots QB Tom Brady was No. 2, followed by Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. at No. 4 and Broncos LB Von Miller at No. 5 (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/13).

: In Boston, Greg Ryan noted former MLBer David Ortiz partnered with locally based Eastern Bank and will "appear in advertisements for the bank, use his considerable social media reach on its behalf, and make public appearances." Ortiz will "be part of the bank’s 'Join Us For Good' campaign, launched this spring with advertisements highlighting its embrace of social justice issues such as gay and immigrant rights." Eastern Bank "long had a similar relationship" with former NFLer Doug Flutie. Eastern Bank Chair & CEO Robert Rivers said that Ortiz and Flutie "may occasionally appear together on the bank’s behalf" (, 9/12).

MILLER'S TIME: In Denver, Nicki Jhabvala writes the Broncos' Miller "is a brand" who even has his "own logo." Miller's life has "morphed into a music video, whose meals are crafted by master chefs" and whose "default mode of transportation is a private jet." Miller's logo is "splashed across his professionally made videos on social media." Miller said, "I really wanted to create a commercial type feel with my Instagram platform. You get an entire minute. If I can create my own commercials, put them on my Instagram, a million and one people are going to see that. I don’t really need any big companies to do a commercial for me, I can just do it through social media" (DENVER POST, 9/11).