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Volume 25 No. 27

Marketing and Sponsorship

Gatorade yesterday "released a new Serena Williams ad that appears to show the tennis star cradling her nearly three-month-old baby," according to E.J. Schultz of AD AGE. The ad was created by TBWA\Chiat\Day, L.A. The brand used women's style and lifestyle site Refinery29 "for research." In the spot, Williams is "portrayed as addressing her newborn," but the brand "had to arrange for a baby body double at the last minute." She says, "I won't mind if you play tennis badly. I won't mind if you never choose to pick up a racquet. But I beg you in this game of life please keep playing." Schultz noted the ad is "part of a new campaign called 'Sisters in Sweat' that encourages girls to keep playing sports, even if they don't have professional ambitions." The spot "closes with photos of successful women from their sports-playing days," including actress Allison Williams, Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief Elaine Welteroth, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and Refinery29 co-founder Piera Gelardi (, 11/20).

Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch is "backing the upstart" bikeshare company LimeBike, according to Erin Baldassari of the EAST BAY TIMES. Riders can "search for the GPS-enabled bikes on their phones and unlock them through the LimeBike app, meaning the bikes can be left on sidewalks or at city bike racks." Lynch has "agreed to promote the new service and will participate in a series of launch events with the company." New Beast Mode-branded bikes will hit Alameda, Calif., streets in the "third week of December, and though they aren’t for sale, there will also be a couple Beast Mode-branded bikes at Lynch’s flagship stores in Oakland and Seattle next month." Lynch is "hoping the partnership will get more young people interested in bicycling." To help with that, he is "allocating free ride credits to kids through his Fam1st Family Foundation, which creates opportunities to empower and educate young people" (EAST BAY TIMES, 11/21).

USL Nashville SC announced today that Nissan "will be the club's first jersey sponsor," according to David Ammenheuser of the Nashville TENNESSEAN. The blue and gold primary jersey "will make its debut" when the club "plays its first USL game in March at First Tennessee Park." Neither Nissan nor Nashville SC "would divulge the length of the 'multi-year' [partnership] or the amount that the company is paying" for its name to be "stitched on the front of the jerseys." Nissan "holds naming rights" to the Titans' home stadium and are "major sponsors at Bridgestone Arena." There are "more than 12,000 Nissan employees in Middle Tennessee, including at its North American headquarters in Franklin" (, 11/21). In Nashville, Eric Snyder notes a news release "makes no mention of the potential MLS team, or whether Nissan would be interested in a similar relationship with that squad." However, sponsoring an MLS team "would provide an even bigger platform for the automaker." The MLS2Nashville committee that has "helped generate interest" in an MLS team includes Nissan North America Chair José Muñoz (, 11/21).

Apparel companies have "traditionally been poorly positioned to meet the accompanying fan demand as it surges," but Fanatics is "changing that and, in the process, carving out a lucrative niche in a fiercely competitive online-retail industry," according to Zach Schonbrun of the N.Y. TIMES. Fanatics "has licensing rights" with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, more than 500 colleges, NASCAR, MLS and PGA Tour. The company is "integrating design and manufacturing with distribution to fulfill orders within hours." As a result, Fanatics has "more than doubled its revenue in just a few years." It "expects to take in" $2B in '17 and to "ship more than 10 million items from Nov. 27, Cyber Monday, to Christmas." The strategy "has attracted" a $1B investment from Japanese firm SoftBank. Alibaba "has also taken a stake." Fanatics Founder & Chair Michael Rubin said that his company’s licensing deals, which "run from 13 to 17 years long with each of the four major professional sports leagues, are exclusive enough that 'somebody can’t be a significant player without the rights that we possess.'" Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said, "The industry needed to be disrupted. [Rubin]’s brought tech, innovation and a vertical on-demand model that’s brought agility to an industry that hadn’t changed much in decades.” Among the micro-moments that highlighted the new need for speed was Jeremy Lin’s "emergence as a sudden star" for the Knicks in '12. Rubin: "When Linsanity happened, within 12 hours to 24 hours, there were no jerseys to get. So you had this huge demand, and there’s no jerseys available. Then you order them like crazy, and by the time they get in, the moment’s over." NBA President of Global Partnerships Sal LaRocca said the episode "was a large catalyst in moving to where we ultimately moved to with Fanatics" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/21).

STAYING ON THE ICE: In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton notes Fanatics has "extended its omnibus NHL rights deal" to '34, "adding even broader rights to a deal that already included replica jerseys and championship apparel." Under the new deal, Fanatics "gets additional broad exclusives, including worldwide e-commerce rights, excluding China." It also has "rights to manufacture, market and sell all of the NHL’s top-shelf 'Center Ice' collection, including name and number apparel, with the exception of authentic (on-ice) NHL jerseys." The new agreement also "grants Fanatics headwear exclusivity within the sporting goods retail channel" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/20 issue).

The Univ. of North Dakota yesterday signed its "first-ever department-wide apparel deal" with Adidas, which will run for "seven years from next season" through '24-25. In North Dakota, Tom Miller notes UND previously "allowed individual programs to make deals on their own to purchase gear." The contract calls for UND to receive $1.345M from Adidas in "free product over the seven-year span." The UND men's hockey program has a "one-year exception in that the team's deal with Reebok/CCM has one year remaining" (GRAND FORKS HERALD, 11/21).

PROBLEM SOLVING: Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said that the company -- a long-standing sponsor of FIFA -- "'would have a problem' with the global soccer body if it was found to have broken the law by a U.S. investigation into bribery." Rorsted: "We expect from our partners that they abide by the laws. If a partner is convicted we have a problem with that. We then have to solve that." Adidas' current contract with FIFA runs until '30 (REUTERS, 11/19).

MAKING A CASE: The INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL reported a group representing the unsecured creditors of HHGregg has "filed suit against Andretti Autosport in an attempt to claw back" nearly $1.5M in sponsorship money the "now-defunct retailer paid the racing team in the months leading up to its bankruptcy." Andretti Autosport "entered into a pair of sponsorship agreements with HHGregg" in early '16. The second agreement "called for HHGregg to sponsor driver Marco Andretti’s car" in the '17 and '18 IndyCar Series at a cost of $2.75M annually (, 11/20).