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Volume 25 No. 131

Marketing and Sponsorship

The NFL is "in the market" for a new ad agency partner, as the league has issued "both an RFI and an RFP regarding its overall marketing business," according to sources cited by Patrick Coffee of ADWEEK. Sources said that the NFL "reached out to an original group consisting of 12 agencies," which has since been "cut to seven as part of a larger review" managed by consultancy Roth Ryan Hayes. The agency group reportedly included current league partner Grey, as well as "competitors such as Wieden + Kennedy, 72andSunny and Droga5." Sources said that Droga5 "declined to participate due to a conflict" with their client ESPN, while the other three agencies "remain in the competition." The review's other participants are "unclear at this time." A source said that NFL CMO Tim Ellis "launched the exploratory phase of the review almost immediately" after beginning his new role in September. Another source said that the RFP "concerns marketing both the NFL brand and NFL Media," including NFL Network, NFL.com, NFL Films, NFL Mobile, NFL Now and NFL RedZone. Grey "won all branding duties" for the NFL, including media and apparel, in '09, "beating out incumbent BBDO as well as Ogilvy and TBWA/Chiat/Day" (ADWEEK.com, 10/15).

McLaughlin, a '16 U.S. Olympian, turned pro after her freshman year at the Univ. of Kentucky
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

U.S. Olympic hurdler Sydney McLaughlin has "signed a contract with New Balance as her footwear and apparel sponsor," according to Nick Zaccardi of NBCSPORTS.com. The 19-year-old McLaughlin, who was the "youngest U.S. track and field athlete to compete at an Olympics in 44 years" when she raced at the '16 Rio Games, "turned pro after her freshman season" at Kentucky. She joins fellow Olympians Jenny Simpson, Emma Coburn and Trayvon Bromell as New Balance endorsers. McLaughlin in July signed with WME for representation (NBCSPORTS.com, 10/15). FloTrack’s Lincoln Shryack noted anytime a “big caliber athlete chooses a brand other than Nike, it’s always a little bit of a surprise." However, it was a given that "everyone was going to be all in on Sydney McLaughlin.” McLaughlin wore New Balance while competing in the ’16 U.S. Olympic Trials, and it “just seems like she’s always been tangentially related to New Balance.” Noting other track stars who have signed with New Balance, it was always likely that the company was “going to have a heavy hand in the Sydney McLaughlin sweepstakes.” FloTrack’s Jenny Zahn noted McLaughlin is the type of athlete who can “change the entire landscape of fame and fortune for track and field.” Zahn: “She is going to be the face of this sport for the next four years at minimum.” Shryack said, “This is an investment for them. If she’s running and competing for Olympic medals in 2020 and 2024, and all the world championships in between … it’s going to be well worth it.” FloTrack's Kevin Sully said he thought New Balance may have “run out of money” after they signed sprinter Gabby Thomas earlier this month (FLOTRACK.org, 10/15).

Matthews appeared in fewer marketing promotions under the previous Maple Leafs administration
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Maple Leafs C Auston Matthews leads the NHL with 16 points in seven games, including 10 goals, but his off-ice moves are what have "garnered just as much attention recently," according to Isabelle Khurshudyan of the WASHINGTON POST. Matthews has "been everywhere from the pages of GQ to the cover of Sharp Magazine," including "staring intently at the camera while wearing a Dolce & Gabbana suit or a Givenchy sweater." It helps that Matthews "got a green light" for his marketing blitz from Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas. Dubas represents a "change" from his predecessor, the "old-school" Lou Lamoriello, who is now President of Hockey Operations & GM for the Islanders. Matthews has "organically become the face of a wave of young NHL talent that is making bolder, more creative choices on the ice," and who are now "starting to challenge a culture that's suppressed that sort of flash outside of the rink." Matthews said, "At some point, you've just got to do what makes you happy and put yourself out there and have fun." Khurshudyan noted Matthews' agent, Wasserman Senior VP/Hockey Judd Moldaver, at first did not "want to put too much on the plate too quickly" for Matthews. But now that Matthews is "more settled in his still-young NHL career, Moldaver has started to curate Matthews' off-ice opportunities according to his interests." Moldaver said, "We're open for business, and we've been open for business on his behalf. It's just a matter of the right brands, the right associations" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/15).