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Volume 24 No. 117

Marketing and Sponsorship

Thunder F Carmelo Anthony "won't have a new Jordan signature sneaker to wear" this season, as Jordan Brand is "halting the Melo shoe series after 13 models," according to sources cited by Nick DePaula of ESPN.com. Though he has "continued wearing" the Melo M13 during Thunder preseason games, it is "expected that Anthony will wear a combination of shoes from the brand this upcoming year." Anthony's signature line is the "fifth-longest in NBA history." DePaula noted Anthony "agreed to a new long-term endorsement deal with Jordan Brand in January." Sources said that he will "remain a key featured athlete for the company." Anthony in '03 became the "first rookie signed to Jordan Brand with his own signature shoe in the works" (ESPN.com, 10/10). Anthony last night said that he "hadn't been informed" that his shoe line was being discontinued. Anthony said of the report, "What? No, no. He just told me that just now. I just signed an extension with them. I don’t read into false news." He added, "It's false. False. Let's not even discuss that" (OKLAHOMAN, 10/11).

LeBron James stars in a new Intel commercial in which he shows off the company's self-driving-car technology, marking the "first big ad push for driverless vehicles," according to Danielle Muoio of BUSINESS INSIDER. In the ad, an "apprehensive James crawls into the back seat of an autonomous vehicle, watching the car guide itself on its own." James eventually "acclimates to the car, saying he wants to keep it." It is the "first advertisement to be shown to a general public audience for a fully driverless car." Airing a commercial with James is a "sure way to get the word out" that Intel is "working on self-driving-car tech" (BUSINESSINSIDER.com, 10/9). THE VERGE's Andrew Hawkins noted the broadcast and digital ad campaign will "lead up to the NBA season opener" between James' Cavaliers and the Celtics next Tuesday. Intel "thinks it is best positioned to overcome consumer apprehension toward driverless cars, and what better way to do that than to make" James the "smiling, bearded face of its public effort" (THEVERGE.com, 10/9). FORTUNE's Kirsten Korosec wrote the car featured in the spot "looks a lot like a Kia Cadenza -- although all branding of the vehicle is blocked in the ad." Intel would neither "confirm nor provide details on the make and model of the vehicle, but James and Kia have been linked before." Kia featured James in a series of ads for the '16 Kia K900 (FORTUNE.com, 10/9).

Turner Sports has "locked in a new multi-year, multi-million-dollar marketing deal with American Express" ahead of the beginning of the NBA season next week, according to Anthony Crupi of AD AGE. AmEx is "returning as the halftime sponsor for each matchup in TNT's expanded 67-game regular-season NBA coverage, marking the third year the financial services company will back up Turner's pro hoops showcase." As it has since '15, AmEx will also "continue to sponsor the halftime shows in TNT's telecast of the NBA All-Star Game and each of its playoff games." AmEx will "serve as the presenting sponsor of the NBA on TNT Road Show, a series of on-site events that includes interactive fan experiences, food trucks, pop-up stores and a musical performance by Snoop Dogg." The first TNT Road Show is in S.F. on Tuesday to preview the opening night Celtics-Cavaliers and Rockets-Warriors games. The various facets of "casting talent, developing creative and placing the resulting executions will be centralized under the recently-formed Turner Sports Ignite marketing unit." The first Ignite work for AmEx "will feature" TNT's Shaquille O'Neal in an "extension of AmEx's long-running 'Small Business Saturday' campaign." An official NBA sponsor in a separate deal, AmEx also "backs halftime on NBA TV's slate of 106 games" (ADAGE.com, 10/10).

Warriors CMO Chip Bowers during the team's preseason trip to China last week "held meetings with seven different Chinese companies to pursue various sponsorship opportunities," according to Mark Medina of the EAST BAY TIMES. Included were companies that "specialize in everything from e-commerce (Alibaba), to digital media (TenCent), smart phones (ZTE), liquor (Moutai), energy (Jinko Solar) and electronic gaming (Logitech)." Bowers even "squeezed in a visit with Moët Hennessy, a French-based luxury goods company that is seeking more mutual partners in China." Bowers said, "Because we’ve got really marketable players and a really marketable brand, I think it gives us an advantage if we’re strategic about it. It’s to get out in front of that to create more international partnerships and not just worry about some local relationships that we have." Bowers also "met with some of those local companies about collaboration, including United Airlines and JP Morgan Chase." Bowers said that it is "'too early to say' whether those meetings will expand their Chinese business portfolio." But he "sensed that 'there are a couple' opportunities." Bowers: "We’re looking at Asia holistically. How do we approach China? How do we approach Japan. How do we approach the Philippines? Those are three markets that have significant NBA fanbases. We see an opportunity with the big three" (EAST BAY TIMES, 10/10).

QUIET RIOT: The Warriors are under consideration for a spot in Riot Games’ reconstituted North American League Championship Series in “League of Legends,” a team source confirmed. Riot says that in November, it will announce the 10 organizations that will compete in '18, though multiple sources say the remaining applicants expect to be privately informed this week. Newcomers to the game would have to pay Riot $13M if accepted. Most esports experts believe that only two or three spots will be awarded to applicants that do not currently compete in the league (Ben Fischer, Staff Writer).

Muhammad Ali Enterprises is suing Fox Broadcasting for $30M because of the "unauthorized use of the legendary boxer's identity in a video that aired" before the net's broadcast of Super Bowl LI in February, according to Jon Lafayette of BROADCASTING & CABLE. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, charges that Fox used "actual video of Ali, along with his slogans, including The Greatest and the Louisville Lip to say that like the fighter, the Super Bowl winner can claim to be the greatest." The suit "seeks punitive damages, attorney's fees and costs, a permanent injunction requiring Fox to refrain from any use of Ali's identity without prior authorization from Muhammad Ali Enterprises, and an order requiring Fox to delete all copies of the video" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 10/10). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Eriq Gardner noted in suing over publicity rights in Illinois, the plaintiff is "looking to score a similar success as Michael Jordan," who a couple years ago won $8.9M in damages after now-defunct Chicago-based grocery store Dominick's "took out an advertisement in Sports Illustrated congratulating him" on his Basketball HOF induction. Frederick Sperling, who handled Jordan's case, is the "lead attorney representing Muhammad Ali Enterprises." Fox' potential defenses include "nominative fair use" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/10).

ELeague has signed Cheez-It as an official marketing partner in the snack food category. The Kellogg’s-owned brand gets ad time on linear TBS broadcasts and Twitch streams, as well as a brand presence on social feeds, in-arena signage and at other live events. Cheez-It will also be the inaugural sponsor of the ELeague Players’ Lounge, where competitors practice prior to competition. Turner did not disclose terms of the deal. Cheez-It is the first new official marketing partner to sign on with the esports tournament brand since February, joining Geico, Dell/Alienware, HyperX and G Fuel. Coverage of the ELeague "Counter Strike: Global Offensive" Premier 2017 continues on Fridays through Thanksgiving, with the "Injustice 2" World Championships starting later this month.