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Volume 10 No. 23

Marketing and Sponsorship

Adidas "has taken the unusual step" of condemning Liverpool player Luis Suárez, who has a boot deal with the company, "in a sign of the potential negative commercial repercussions" of the striker's latest onfield indiscretion, according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. Major brands "tend to shy away from criticising their charges in the immediate aftermath of controversial incidents," but the sportswear company issued a strongly worded statement on Monday in the wake of Suárez's apology for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic. Adidas said, "Adidas takes this type of incident very seriously and does not condone Luis Suárez's behaviour. We will be reminding him of the standards we expect from our players." Notoriety is "sometimes encouraged by sponsors" -- see Nike's playful treatment of former ManU striker Eric Cantona's return from his ban after assaulting a Crystal Palace fan -- "but Suárez seems to have gone well beyond that." Adidas is no longer Liverpool's kit supplier, "but its stance is indicative of the likely impact on the player's personal brand and the danger of it having wider implications for Liverpool's commercial strategy" (GUARDIAN, 4/22). REUTERS' Martyn Herman reported Liverpool fined Suárez an undisclosed amount for biting Ivanovic, but "will not sack him." Suárez is "expected to get a lengthy ban from the FA," but Liverpool Managing Dir Ian Ayre said that the club "would stand by him." Ayre: "I think the most important thing is that we acted swiftly yesterday" (REUTERS, 4/22). The BBC wrote when asked if the incident would affect the player's time at the club, Ayre said, "Not at all. It affects his future in the sense that we have to work with him on his discipline" (BBC, 4/22).

PM GETS INVOLVED: In London, Andy Hunter wrote Downing Street has called on the FA "to make an example of Luis Suárez" after he was charged with violent conduct. The FA also cleared the way for Suárez "to receive a substantial suspension" and said that an automatic three-match ban for violent conduct would be "clearly insufficient." A spokesperson for Prime Minister David Cameron entered the debate, saying "It is rightly a matter for the football authorities to consider. As part of their consideration, I think it would be very understandable if they took into account the fact that high-profile players are often role models" (GUARDIAN, 4/22). EUROSPORT wrote Merseyside Police "have confirmed no action will be taken" against Suárez following his bite on Ivanovic. Ivanovic did not report any physical injury and told police that "he did not want to pursue the matter" (EUROSPORT, 4/22). EUROSPORT also reported the Professional Footballers' Association will offer Suárez anger management counseling. It is the latest in a series of unsavory incidents in Suárez's career and PFA CEO Gordon Taylor said that "the players' union would offer the striker help to deal with his temper" (EUROSPORT, 4/22). In London, James Olley opined, "Players have been allowed to bare their teeth for far too long." It is time football's authorities "bite back." There "is no defence." No individual of sound mind "would cross the Rubicon of human decency by deeming it acceptable to bite another" (EVENING STANDARD, 4/22).

Tennis player Maria Sharapova has signed a three-year deal with Porsche to endorse the automaker. The agreement will see her participate in a global communications campaign (Porsche). ESPN's Darren Rovell noted the sponsorship marks Sharapova's "second car deal." Sharapova, who is repped by IMG, signed with Land Rover in '06, but "was lost in the shuffle when Ford sold the brand less than two years later." It is "surprising" that Porsche's "first ever global endorser would be a woman." The automaker is "dominated by male buyers," as research from shows more than 88% of Porsche 911 buyers "are men." However, part of Sharapova's "lure is that she appeals to both men and women." She earns around $20M annually in endorsements, including deals with Nike, Cole Haan, Evian, Tag Heuer and Samsung (ESPN, 4/22).

Banking group Virgin Money "has extended its sponsorship of the London Marathon" until at least '17, it said on Monday after the race "brought big crowds" to London's streets, according to Keith Weir of REUTERS. Virgin Money has been the title sponsor of the race since '10, and "set a target" of helping runners to raise £250M ($381M) for charity over the five years. Virgin Money is the banking business of U.K. entrepreneur Richard Branson's "stable of companies" (REUTERS, 4/22). BLOOMBERG's Alex Duff reported financial terms "weren't disclosed." Race organizers said that Virgin Money’s previous five-year accord that began in '10 was worth £17M (BLOOMBERG, 4/22).

EPL champions ManU is set for more staggering riches as it emerged that American sportswear companies Nike and Warrior "will fight it out" for the rights to the club’s new kit deal, according to Ian Ladyman of the London DAILY MAIL. ManU -- which won its 20th league title with a 3-0 victory over Aston Villa at Old Trafford on Monday night -- currently wears a strip manufactured by Nike, a deal that nets the club a basic sum of £23.5M ($35.9M) per year. But already England’s most commercially successful football club is set to smash through the £30M ($45.8M)-a-year barrier and beyond with its next contract after being told by up-and-coming Warrior that it will compete for the rights when ManU becomes "legally able to talk to rival bidders at the end of this summer." ManU has already warned that it expects a significant increase on the last deal -- thrashed out as long ago as '02 -- and the fact that it and Nike are aware of Warrior’s interest "will only strengthen the club’s hand" (DAILY MAIL, 4/22).

Memorabilia sellers "converged on Old Trafford" prior to ManU's 3-0 win over Aston Villa Monday, according to Mike Keegan of the MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS. A number of traders "have been quick to attempt to cash in, flogging a variety of items emblazoned with the slogan 'Champ20ns.'" Some Man City fans have been quick to point out that "the scarves, flags and mugs may have been produced last year" when it looked as though ManU would retain the crown before a late collapse handed Man City the prize (MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS, 4/22).

BT has awarded its ad sales contract for its new sport channels to Channel 4, "closing one of the avenues the telecoms giant could have taken to resolve its increasingly bitter conflict with rival BSkyB," according to Maisie McCabe of MEDIA WEEK. In the final stages of the process, "Channel 4 beat Sky's Sky Media." Channel 5 "was also shortlisted for the business, but is believed to have dropped out of the bidding" earlier this year. Although several sources suggested that Sky "was never likely to win," one source with knowledge of the process said that "it could have been awarded the business as part of a wide-ranging deal between the two warring companies." BT started speaking to potential ad sales partners in autumn '12, and "invited ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky Media, as well as the smaller firms Axiom Media, Dolphin TV and Mean Broadcast" (MEDIA WEEK, 4/19).