Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 21 No. 26
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.
  • Created with Sketch.

Super Bowl ring hasn’t changed Cowher’s endorsement strategy

Prior to winning a Super Bowl, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher shunned most endorsement opportunities, preferring to send them to fellow coaches or his players. He also wouldn’t do any deals that conflicted with team or league sponsors. And, as a family man, he guarded his precious time away from coaching the way a Rottweiler stands vigil over a T-bone.

Now that Cowher has won a Super Bowl, dialogues with marketers have increased, but little has changed. Sure, there are licensing opportunities that don’t take any time, along with choice speaking engagements, but generally, “our plan with the coach hasn’t changed from pre- to post-Super Bowl,” said Phil de Picciotto, president of athletes and personalities at Octagon, Cowher’s longtime firm for contracts and marketing. “There’s a great opportunity there, because he’s been undermarketed relative to his stature, but I don’t anticipate you seeing a lot more of him marketing-wise next season than you did this season.”

The relatively undermarketed Bill Cowher
celebrated his first Super Bowl title in Detroit.
STEELERS SALES STRONG: A week after the Steelers’ first Super Bowl title in 26 years, sales of the team’s championship merchandise are strong enough to support earlier forecasts from licenses and NFL licensing executives that a Steelers win would ensure the NFL’s biggest Super Bowl sales bonanza ever.

Through Feb. 13, sales of championship merchandise on NFLshop.com, the league’s online store, were up sharply. Sales of Reebok championship caps ($29.99) were up 46 percent at 24,898 units; Reebok’s championship locker room T-shirts ($19.99) were up 92 percent with 25,334 units sold; while sales of the Warner Home Video DVD “Super Bowl XL Champions” priced at $24.99 have increased 121 percent, with 17,920 sold.

Since New England’s victory in Super Bowl XXXIX was its third in four years, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison, but it is an early indication that the Steelers will also be winners at the cash register.

“You’ve got a perfect storm with the Steelers,” said NFL consumer products senior vice president Mark Holtzman. “It’s a team that sells more product within its home territory than any other, but still has national appeal, combined with pent-up demand from last year’s 15-1 [regular] season and not having won a championship for some time. As a result, we’ve got a lot of licensees that are Steelers fans now.”

DRIVING INTO BASEBALL: Autotrader.com has been a longtime buyer of sports media, including ads around the Super Bowl and a title sponsorship of ABC’s “Monday Night Football” postgame show. Now, the company is using Major League Baseball as its first major venture into sports sponsorships. With an eye toward raising its brand recognition, the company has signed a handful of club sponsorship deals in markets where its dealer network is strong.

With the help of Octagon’s consulting division, which won the account last summer, the leader in the “online auto classified” category has inked or is in the process of finalizing sponsorship deals with six MLB clubs: the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers. The deals include signage, team controlled electronic media, tickets and hospitality and an in-stadium brand presence.

BRONX ELECTRICITY: New York consumer electronics retailer J&R Music and Computer World has signed a two-year deal with the New York Yankees, notable in that the team hasn’t had a sponsor in the consumer electronics retail category since Nobody Beats The Wiz filed for bankruptcy protection in the late 1990s. While the deal does not include category exclusivity, J&R gets the exclusive designation as the Yankees’ “official consumer electronics retailer’’ along with stadium signage. J&R is complementing its team rights with an ad buy on the YES Network, marking the first time J&R has bought time on that cable outlet. J&R is also talking to YES about possible branded content opportunities. J&R will activate further with Yankees marks in ads, point-of-sale material and a possible premium giveaway at Yankee Stadium.

Colony Sportswear’s new NBA line reflects the NBA
Store’s street location — 52nd & 5th — in the brand name.
CRACKING THE NBA DRESS CODE: Perhaps it was coincidence that Colony Sportswear’s first meeting with the NBA was just a day after the league announced its new dress code last October, but maybe not. The Summit, N.J. -based company, which has been pioneering the high end of the sports apparel market with licenses from various NCAA schools via Collegiate Licensing Co. and an NFL license that got a big boost when it was used in a televised Super Bowl pregame ceremony, is taking a different approach with its NBA apparel line. With an eye toward the league’s traditionally fashion-conscious consumers, Colony has created a brand under which it will offer pricier jackets and sport coats in wool ($345) and leather ($645) that carry NBA league and team logos in their mesh lining. The line will also include a selection of button-down shirts, silk ties and wool fashion caps. It will appear first at the NBA Store, with the store’s New York street location reflected in the brand name — 52nd & 5th — and on NBA.com.

Meanwhile, Colony received a huge boost when former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath flashed the Jets logo in the lining of his blazer during the Super Bowl XL pregame ceremony. About a third of the former Super Bowl MVPs at that ceremony wore Colony blazers, and close to half wore its NFL ties.

HERE & THERE: Reed Bergman’s Playbook Inc. has signed another wide receiver for marketing representation, the New York Giants’ Plaxico Burress. Mary Reiling Spencer, who left the NBA/WNBA last October, has joined Gary Stevenson’s OnSport agency in Raleigh as a member of the firm’s management team. Stevenson is former president of the media and marketing group at NBA Properties. … Ed Lynch has joined Sentient Jet of Weymouth, Mass., as the private jet firm’s director of business development, sports. The former MLBPA and Sports Illustrated marketer was last with All Access Sports & Entertainment Marketing. … In another rare intersection of sports and aviation, Steve Flatow joins Aviator Sports and Recreation as vice president of finance and business development. The Brooklyn-based facility includes an 800-plus-acre decommissioned airport on which a recreational complex is being built to house indoor ice rinks and basketball courts along with outdoor turf fields, a gym, shops and food concessions. Flatow, a former NHL and MISL corporate sales exec, was recently with the WNBA. … Mike Wade joins the NBA as senior manager of communications, concentrating on NBA TV. He was last with Oxygen.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.