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Volume 26 No. 51

Marketing and Sponsorship

Joshua, who hails from the U.K., counts Under Armour as one of his U.S.-based sponsors
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

British boxer Anthony Joshua "suffers from an American identity crisis that could derail the expansion of his financial empire in the United States, where he is banking on becoming boxing’s version of David Beckham," according to Vincent Mallozzi of the N.Y. TIMES. Joshua's rep Freddie Cunningham, is "well aware of the importance" of Joshua's fight against Andy Ruiz Jr. Saturday night at MSG -- set to air exclusively on DAZN. Cunningham said, “This is simply a must-win situation. In order to please both the American audience and potential commercial partners here in the United States, Anthony must not just win this fight, but he must win it in style.” Mallozzi notes Joshua has "combined good looks with great entrepreneurial instincts to become a marketing machine whose image is used to sell clothing, jewelry, automobiles and other products throughout England." He has "entered into business deals with such companies as Hugo Boss, Under Armour and Jaguar Land Rover," though his business partnerships remain with "mostly European 'commercial partners.'" Joshua is "wildly popular in London," but his recent arrival at a Hugo Boss store in Midtown Manhattan was "met with the kind of notice that could be appreciated only by a cat burglar" (NYTIMES.com, 5/29). Joshua said, "I could have stayed in London fighting in front of 50,000, 60,000 people, but I wanted these challenges" ("First Take," ESPN, 5/28). 

PROVING GROUND: YAHOO SPORTS' Wallace Matthews noted the "real reason the fight is being held" at MSG is to "gauge the viability of Anthony Joshua as an international attraction." Joshua has "yet to prove he can draw outside the U.K." That is a "major sticking point to the fight boxing fans really want to see, a showdown with Deontay Wilder." Joshua wants to "demonstrate his ability to sell tickets on this side of the Atlantic -- and to attract subscribers to DAZN." Joshua's promoter, Matchroom Boxing's Eddie Hearn, said that "some 7,000 Brits are expected to travel to New York for the fight." With the exception of about 800 tickets, Hearn said that the "remainder of the approximately 20,000 seats" are sold. However, as of Tuesday, the MSG website had "more than 2,000 tickets available at prices ranging from $131 to $3,500." That "does not include the number of tickets that might be in the possession of secondary-market sellers" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/28). ESPN’s Max Kellerman told Joshua he can pack 50,000-60,000 fans into an arena in England “no matter who you fight” and “you generate enormous money no matter who you fight.” Joshua: “I could have stayed in London fighting in front of 50,000, 60,000 people, but I wanted these challenges” (“First Take,” ESPN, 5/28).

Koepka has primary endorsement deals with Nike, Michelob Ultra, NetJets, Rolex, BMW and Infor
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Brooks Koepka's agent Blake Smith insists that he is one of the most highly compensated golfers in the world, but his strategy for Koepka is "not to publicize" what he earns from endorsements, according to Tom D'Angelo of the PALM BEACH POST. Koepka does not appear on any lists when it comes to his earnings off the course, and Hambric Sports' Blake Smith said that this is "by design." D'Angelo noted Koepka has "primary endorsement deals with Nike, Michelob Ultra, NetJets, Rolex, BMW and Infor." Nike recently "erected a billboard in Manhattan" to celebrate Koepka winning the PGA Championship for the second year in a row, which said, "It's only crazy until you do it -- again, again, and again." Following his victory at Bethpage Black, Koepka "posted a photo of himself holding the Wanamaker Trophy while standing in front of a jet." He posted, "She's coming home safely," while thanking NetJets. In an '18 study, Koepka's Q Score was "tied for seventh among golfers with a 31," trailing the likes of Phil Mickelson (45), Tiger Woods (38) and Jordan Spieth (37). However, Koepka's social media brand is "growing at a fast rate." In the three days following his PGA Championship win, Koepka's Instagram page "generated 300,000 engagements (likes and comments), five times more than any other player on tour" (PALM BEACH POST, 5/26).

A new Nike ad shows top-ranked tennis player Naomi Osaka as she "slams back at all the insensitive and impertinent questions that get served to her during interviews," according to Oona McGee of SORANEWS24.com. Osaka in the ad, which was released to coincide with the start of the French Open, is playing on court while a "volley of questions roll by," such as, "Who's your biggest rival?" and "Do you consider yourself Japanese or American?" There also are a few questions asked in Japanese, including, "Can you answer in Japanese?" and one that references her favorite meal. Osaka concludes the ad by turning to the camera with a finger next to her lips and saying, "Shhhh." The spot then "delivers a strong message at the end: 'Don't change yourself. Change the world.'" It is a message that "fits in nicely with Osaka's public image." It will be "interesting to see if this new commercial will have any effect on the types of questions reporters plan to throw at Osaka next time she does a round of interviews" (SORANEWS24.com, 5/28). Osaka is the first Asian player to hold the No. 1 spot in the WTA rankings, and she has "seen her success on the courts [grow] into a global obsession about her personal life off of it" (THEDRUM.com, 5/29).

Williams turned more heads at the French Open this week with her zebra-striped outfit
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Women's tennis dresses have "become a political tool" through Serena Williams, an "unabashed statement of female empowerment and independence not just for herself, but for all," according to Vanessa Friedman of the N.Y. TIMES. This has been "happening slowly over the last year, but it crystallized this week" with Williams' outfit at the French Open, a "black-and-white striped crop top, tennis skirt, trapeze-back jacket that flew out like a cape in the wind, and maxi skirt." This is all "to a certain extent a statement" about Williams and her talent. But it is also a "statement about women in general," and to "what extent they should be free to break old rules that have lost all meaning." This began last year when Williams "appeared at the French Open in a catsuit," which French Open authorities said was a dress code violation. At the U.S. Open later last year, Williams "appeared in a tennis tutu," a dress that "on its own was taken as something of a riposte to the French ... but which sent messages about reclaiming and reinventing old tropes of what was considered traditionally 'ladylike' and defining them as powerfully as she pleased." Williams "understands as well as anyone on the court -- or in sport, for that matter -- what fashion can do" (NYTIMES.com, 5/29).

MAKING IT BIGGER THAN IT IS? ESPN's Pablo Torre said when the French Open banned the catsuit that Williams wore last year, it "enabled a whole new marketing campaign ... that's infused clearly with some larger social significance." However, ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "I've seen this connection being made to the French Open's decision last year. Are you sure that even if she had worn this last year and they let her that she wouldn't be wearing this now? I have not seen this put out there as a direct refutation or some rebellious move against what the French Open had done before" ("High Noon," ESPN, 5/28).

Puma has signed an expanded sponsorship with esports organization Cloud9, locking in a multiyear deal to develop a full apparel collection and claim the apparel/footwear category for the entire organization except its Overwatch League franchise. Terms were not disclosed, but the parties said it is an “eight-figure” deal. The prior Puma-Cloud9 deal, announced in January, only covered the League Championship Series League of Legends team for the spring season. Cloud9 lifestyle apparel will be available by September on Puma and Cloud9’s websites to start, as well as in Puma's flagship N.Y. store. Puma Team Head of Digital Marketing & Gaming Matt Shaw said the goal is to have the Cloud9 line across Puma’s global retail channels by early summer '20. “This is a big step in a new direction and one we’re really excited to take,” Shaw said. Puma also will be developing custom products for Cloud9 team members to be worn “off stream and on stream,” Shaw said. The deal is limited by Riot Games’ league-level apparel deal with We Are Nations, which produces and sells LCS jerseys that include a Puma logo, and by the OWL's league-level apparel deal with Fanatics, which blocks Cloud9’s London Spitfire team brand from Puma. The Puma logo also appears on a generic Cloud9 jersey. Under this deal, Puma will make all Cloud9 kits other than LCS. Cloud9 is counting on Puma’s retail presence and brand to help the gaming brand cross over into the mainstream, said Exec VP/Commercial Partnerships Jordan Udko. Shaw said esports helps Puma relate to a younger demographic. “It’s like basketball when we were first entering,” Shaw said. “While we will definitely sell basketball shoes, what we’re trying to do is be culturally relevant. This is very much in the same vein."

Motherhood and a temporary absence from the court "have not hampered" WNBA Dallas Wings G Skylar Diggins-Smith's endorsement deals or her "status as one of the WNBA's most recognizable faces and names," according to Dorothy Gentry of THE ATHLETIC. Diggins-Smith signed with Puma in '17, becoming the "first professional basketball player to do so" since '98. Diggins-Smith said her new sponsorship with Rihanna's Fenty Beauty make-up line has been a "great partnership." She said, "It's so important to see athletes in this realm as women. There are a lot of misconceptions that you just play basketball and that's it. So it's important to be showcased in that realm and have athletes cross over into that beauty." Diggins-Smith also said that she is "continuing work" with online retailer Zappos.com. She recently "designed a jacket for their clothing line that will be released next month." Diggins-Smith also has "more partnerships down the line." She said, "There are other partnerships coming out that are low-key right now that I've been working on" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/28).