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Volume 24 No. 217

Marketing and Sponsorship

Polo Ralph Lauren's Team USA Olympic and Paralympic uniforms for the Opening Ceremony at the Pyeongchang Games will be "embedded with wearable heating technology," according to Maria Puente of USA TODAY. The "red-white-and-blue down parkas" are equipped with a "button on a slender battery pack inside that the athletes can push to get an instant and long-lasting jolt of toasty warmth." Ralph Lauren Chief Innovation Officer David Lauren said, "It's the most technologically advanced jacket ever produced. ... This is a fabric with ink that heats up -- it's weightless, it's conductive and it's immediate." Puente notes the electronic-printed inks, "printed in the shape of an American flag in carbon and silver and bonded to the interior of the jackets, are flexible and stretchable." The parkas are "water-repellent." The athletes can "set the temperature (there are three settings) via their cellphones." The heat can "last up to five hours on the high setting and 11 hours on the low setting, fully charged." And the heat button is "big enough to be used with gloves, which is crucial because the Opening Ceremony uniform includes large brown suede explorer gloves with fringe and hand beading." Additionally, the Opening Ceremony uniform includes a "slim jean with moto-inspired seaming, a patriotic intarsia-knit wool sweater, a navy wool ski hat, a USA-themed classic navy bandanna, a leather belt and brown suede mountaineering boots with red laces." The Polo Ralph Lauren Team USA collection is "available in limited editions in select Ralph Lauren retail stores and at RalphLauren.com and TeamUSAShop.com, with a portion of the proceeds earmarked for the U.S. Olympic team." All of the uniforms are "made in the USA" (USA TODAY, 1/22).

MLBAM has named Indians SS Francisco Lindor as the cover athlete for the upcoming “RBI Baseball 18,” highlighting a significant overhaul of the ongoing revival of the classic ‘80s and early ‘90s video game franchise. This year’s version includes improved graphics that more accurately depict player faces, body types and uniform preferences as well as individual ballparks. There also is the inclusion of licensed music for the first time and a new franchise mode featuring more than 100 MLB legends, including Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Tom Seaver and Ernie Banks. MLBAM execs, now in their fifth season producing a new version of the game, said they have not abandoned the roots of the title as a more casual game and do not plan to mimic the more simulation-based “MLB: The Show” produced by Sony Interactive Entertainment. “‘RBI’ still has the same feel and lightness to it, but now with more polish and finish to it,” said MLBAM VP/Games & VR Strategy Jamie Leece. “We’ve listened a lot to user requests, and sought to be very responsive to that, particularly with the franchise mode that was a frequent ask over the years.” The announcement of Lindor as the game's cover athlete was made over the weekend at the Indians’ TribeFest. This year’s game also involved a completely internal development process by MLBAM, as opposed to prior seasons in which baseball’s digital arm outsourced some work on the title to external studios. Some of the improved graphics in “RBI Baseball 18” are due to ongoing work MLB is doing in VR. “There’s been some carryover from that, but this is also the result of a commitment of a lot more resources behind this,” Leece said. 

The annual Sports Licensing & Tailgate Show begins tomorrow in Las Vegas, and leading blanket and bedding licensee Northwest Company is using the occasion to announce a five-year extension of its MLB license. Northwest’s deal continues it as the exclusive manufacturer of MLB-licensed throws, blankets and bedding. The company also has non-exclusive rights for other home, beach and bath products, along with backpacks and bags. Other Northwest exclusive licenses are with the NFL, Ohio State and USC. 

Topps will launch its Pyeongchang Games trading card series on Friday, signing skier Lindsey Vonn to anchor the series with a special collection celebrating her career milestones. Forty-eight past and current Olympians comprise the series, which will be distributed in hobby stores and online but not in big box stores. It is the fourth Topps Olympics collection since the cardmaker became the USOC’s official licensee in '12. Every package will include at least two of the “Lindsey Vonn career milestone” cards. Topps Marketing Communications Manager Susan Lulgjuraj said of Vonn, “She’s one of the most popular Olympians in Olympic history, especially when it comes to the Winter Games. She’s somebody everyone knows." Prior lead athletes in the Topps series have included swimmer Michael Phelps ('12), speedskater Shani Davis ('14) and swimmer Missy Franklin ('16). There is an “outside chance” that Topps will be able to create its Topps Now product, a “live run” style card to celebrate a particular moment in Pyeongchang, but the legal approvals in the Olympics are proving more complicated than in other sports, Lulgjuraj said.

In Atlanta, Ken Sugiura notes Georgia Tech and new apparel partner Adidas have "landed on the shade of gold that it will use for apparel and uniforms" when the deal goes into effect July 1. Georgia Tech AD Todd Stansbury "declined to identify" the new gold. It will be "introduced in the spring, as will other elements of the athletic department’s new branding with Adidas." Many Tech fans have "lamented the inconsistency in the gold and yellow that are used in uniforms and apparel" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 1/22).

HUT, HUT, HIKE! USA TODAY's Erik Brady anyone registered in Hut Rewards -- Pizza Hut's loyalty program -- gets a "free medium, two-topping pizza depositing to their accounts for redemption Feb. 8-11" if anyone "scores a faster touchdown" in this year's Super Bowl than Devin Hester's 14-second kickoff return in Super Bowl XLI. Pizza Hut said that it has "'several million' members and wants to entice many more before kickoff." Pizza Hut is a sponsor of the NBC Super Bowl Pregame Show (USA TODAY, 1/22).

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
 Verizon is "returning to the Super Bowl for the first time" since '11. However, it "declined to describe its plans." Verizon's rival and a much more frequent Super Bowl advertiser, T-Mobile, "declined to say ... whether it is returning to the game" (ADAGE.com, 1/19).