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Volume 25 No. 28

Marketing and Sponsorship

Adidas’ offer was reportedly worth almost $20M more than Nike’s best offer to UW
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Univ. of Washington Board of Regents "formally approved" the school’s new apparel deal with Adidas, but "not before several regents raised concerns about Adidas’ link to the federal investigation" hanging over college basketball, according to Adam Jude of the SEATTLE TIMES. UW AD Jennifer Cohen said that she "has had 'a lot of conversations with Adidas' about the FBI investigation and felt strongly" that former Adidas exec James Gatto’s actions "were that of a rogue agent." Cohen pointed out a clause in the Adidas deal that allows UW "to terminate the contract if Adidas 'engages in conduct that attracts national publicity which, based on objective evidence, has a material adverse effect upon the status or reputation'" of the school. Cohen "largely drew praise from regents over the deal, and from UW President Ana Mari Cauce" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/13). In Portland, Jeff Manning notes the UW deal is the "first big university sponsorship for Adidas since it was sucked into the basketball criminal case" in September. Cohen said, "After spending a lot of time on the issue, we felt comfortable that they're tackling this issue head-on" (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/13). Cohen said that Adidas' presentation during negotiations was "'compelling' because of how prepared the company was when UW's administration went to company offices in Portland for a meeting." She also said that Adidas' reps "made it less about the company and placed the focus more on UW" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 4/13).

COMING IN $20M AHEAD OF NIKE: The SEATTLE TIMES' Jude notes the "total value of the agreement is more" than $120M, making it "one of the top-10 richest apparel deals in college athletics." Cohen told the regents that, in "cash alone, Adidas’ offer was worth" almost $20M more than Nike’s "best offer to UW." A source said that Nike "was not willing to offer the Huskies more" than the 11-year, $88M extension it gave Oregon in '17. UW will also receive a $3M signing bonus from Adidas, to be "paid when the contract term begins on July 1, 2019." With guaranteed royalties and potential bonuses, UW "could receive more" than $125M by the "end of the term" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/13).

FedEx will title sponsor the WGC event moving from Akron to Memphis next season as part of what PGA Tour Commisioner Jay Monahan indicated is a "long term" agreement to play the tournament in the city, according to a front-page piece by Mark Giannotto of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. The WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind "will take the place of the annual FedEx St. Jude Classic," though the exact dates "aren’t set yet." Monahan said that the tournament "will likely occur in 'late July or August.'" He said that discussions about moving a WGC event to Memphis "began in the 'fourth quarter of 2017,' once the PGA Tour couldn't line up a new sponsor" for the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron. FedEx’ sponsorship of the PGA Tour served as a "major impetus behind why Memphis is hosting such a prestigious event moving forward." FedEx last May "announced a 10-year extension to its sponsorship agreement of the PGA Tour’s season-long points race" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/13). 

PLAYING SECOND FIDDLE? In Akron, Bob Dyer notes with the WGC leaving town, the city "will instead host the PGA Senior Players Championship" at Firestone Country Club from '19-22, and Bridgestone "will continue as the title sponsor." Bridgestone Americas CEO Gordon Knapp said that his company "would have been permitted to keep the WGC event in Akron had it anted up enough money." However, Bridgestone’s sponsorship budget is "lower than FedEx’s." Monahan said that if Bridgestone "hadn’t stepped up to sponsor the Senior event, 'we might not be here (at all) in 2019'" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 4/13). Monahan said there was a "shift in Bridgestone's strategy." However, Knapp said, "I don't know if I would necessarily describe this as a major change in direction. ... We looked at where the PGA was going with their evolving objectives in pricing, and frankly, we had to take a step back and look at our own portfolio of sports sponsorship packages" (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 4/12). In Cleveland, Bill Livingston writes the move by the PGA Tour is an "insult to Akron, which has conducted one of the best-run tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule." The senior event "won't be the same" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/13).

Harper will get an equity stake in Blind Barber by lending his name and time
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Nationals RF Bryce Harper has signed a deal with Blind Barber, a "network of six barbershops where customers can get a cut, have a drink and buy one of the brand's variety of hair care products for retail," according to Darren Rovell of ESPN.com. As part of the deal, Harper will "help create and sell the brand's hair strong hold styling clay." Harper will get an "equity stake in the business by lending his name and time." A teaser for the deal went viral Wednesday when Harper's brother Bryan "tweeted a clip of Harper blowing his hair out with a hair dryer in each hand." In a commercial that the brand rolled out Thursday, the "dual hair dryers return in a spot that sees Harper talking himself up in the mirror in a bathroom." Blind Barber "blindly sent Harper a set of their products and didn't hear back for a year." Harper's reps then "called the company to say he liked their products." It took another year to "consummate a deal" (ESPN.com, 4/12).

Harden said the company comes up with some out-of-the-box ideas, like Trolli Beardsketball
Photo: TROLLI

Rockets G James Harden has endorsed candy brand Trolli since '16, and their relationship "boils down to one word: 'weird,'" according to a profile by Devin Gordon of GQ. Their partnership so far has "yielded sour Gummis shaped like Harden's line of Adidas sneakers; a set of MVB (Most Valuable Beard) trading cards, including one that depicts Harden surfing through space on the back of his bulldog, Zeus; and one of the most surreal series of ads ever filmed by a pro athlete." In one spot, a "bunch of Harden-head nesting dolls pop open, including one that has laser beams shooting from its eyes." Harden in describing Trolli's creative process said that the company "comes up with some bonkers idea 'and they bring it to me." Harden: "They're like, 'Oh, I don't think he would do that -- it's just too crazy.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'll do it.'" This story appears as part of the upcoming GQ cover story (GQ, 5/'18 issue).

IT'S A SHOE-IN: In Houston, Demetrio Teniente notes Harden's signature Adidas shoe, the Harden Vol. 2, is "getting a new colorway and it's dropping" on Saturday, the day before Game 1 of the Rockets-T'Wolves series. Adidias is "doubling down on the whole 'Fear the Beard' thing with this campaign" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/13).

Fanatics is the company that currently manages the retail sales for the Univ. of Arkansas
Photo: FANATICS

The Univ. of Arkansas has named Dyehard Fan Supply to "manage licensed merchandise sales at athletic events and online," according to Jaime Adame of the NORTHWEST ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE. UA Associate AD/PR Kevin Trainor said that "no deal has been signed" and added that "contract negotiations are the next step." Dyehard Fan Supply was "created last year by private-equity firm Teall Capital." The company was "chosen over bids" from Fanatics and GameDay Holdings. Trainor noted that Fanatics "currently manages the retail sales." In the bid process, UA listed $1.21M in '16-17 sales for "retail shops at athletic venues." The school also "listed net online sales of $899,939 for the same year, with the online sales made via a link from the main athletics Web page" (NWAONLINE.com, 4/10).

Warriors G Stephen Curry prior to the start of the postseason was trying to "restock his latest sneaker -- the Under Armour Curry 5 'Pi Day.'" The shoe is "inspired by the ancient Pi equation of 3.14." The shoe’s initial rollout featured a "limited release of the sneaker, in which just 314 pairs were put on sale for the public, quickly selling out at retailers" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 4/12).

NEW OPPORTUNITIES: AD AGE's E.J. Schultz noted the NBA's newest CBA gave the player's union "more power to craft licensing deals," which allows them to "strike brand deals for off-court activities with marketers that are not official NBA sponsors." Going forward, the NBPA is "open to more deals with brands that don't have official league sponsorships."  NBPA CMO Jordan Schlachter said, "There are lots of companies that are interested in the basketball space." The new arrangement "doesn't seem to be hampering the league's ability to craft deals with its own sponsors" (ADAGE.com, 4/12).

FROM PITCH TO STITCH: NWSL Orlando Pride MF Christine Nairn "runs a T-shirt company called Finding Euphoria." Finding Euphoria, which launched in July '17, "offers shirts, beanies and bracelets." Orlando Pride D Carson Pickett is the "model in most of the photos that showcase the store's shirts" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 4/11).