Branding the World of Sports

Archive for March, 2009

Nike has every team in the 2009 Final Four

Posted by ZA on March 31, 2009

By the end of the week you will know every fact about every player on the four teams that are playing in the 2009 NCAA Final Four.  If you do not read them in your local newspaper or online, then you will hear about them on SportsCenter or from CBS during their broadcast.

But let’s examine one area of these programs that might not get covered by Dick Vitale on ESPNews.  Where is the money behind each program.  What are the partners that are generating the revenue needed to drive these powerful programs?  Let’s look at the brands supporting the teams in the Final 4.

We will reveal 4 key ingredients in each team’s sports brand:
1. Who handles their marketing & media rights.
2. Which company has their shoe contract.
3. Where they rank on list of college licensing (CLC 2008-2009 data).
4. Their team & athletic department sponsors.

Connecticut Huskies

  • Marketing partner: IMG College
  • Shoe contract: Nike
  • Licensing rank: 53rd
  • Sponsors: AT&T, Coca-Cola, Dunkin Donuts, Nike, People’s United Bank & Toyota.

Michigan State Spartans

  • Marketing partner: N/A
  • Shoe contract: Nike
  • Licensing rank: Did not rank top 75.
  • Sponsors: Alltel, Nike & Pontiac

North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Marketing partner: Learfield Sports
  • Shoe contract: Jordan Brand by Nike
  • Licensing rank: 8th
  • Sponsors: Capital Style, Continental Tire, Domino’s, Eye Care Associates, Jordan Brand, United Healthcare & Verizon Wireless, Wachovia.

Villanova Wildcats

  • Marketing partner: ISP Sports
  • Shoe contract: Nike
  • Licensing rank: 71st
  • Sponsors: Anthony Travel & Nike
Nike's big at the 2009 Final 4

Nike's big at the 2009 Final 4

One brand that has already won big at the Final Four is Nike, because they have endorsement deals with all four schools that qualified.  UConn, Michigan State and Villanova are Nike schools, while UNC is with Nike’s Jordan Brand.  Last year Nike only had two schools in the Final Four (Memphis & North Carolina), while rival Adidas had the UCLA Bruins and eventual National Champion Kansas Jayhawks.  This year Nike won’t be sharing the spotlight with anyone, so expect to see them roll out some support behind their four schools.

So as you watch the games this weekend, remember that these sponsors helped to fun the programs.  Sponsorship dollars are huge towards creating a successful program.

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Athletes desperate for endorsement dollars

Posted by ZA on March 30, 2009

There are thousands of professional athletes around the World, very few of them will ever pull in significant endorsement dollars.  For every LeBron James and Tiger Woods there are ten thousand other athletes who combined don’t earn endorsements equal to what LeBron and Tiger earn in a single year.

So along comes French pole vaulter, Romain Mesnil, to show us just how desperate athletes are to pick an endorsement deal.  Mesnil’s contract with Nike recently expired, so Mesnil took it upon himself to try to find a new sponsor.  His plan was not to call up Adidas, Puma and Reebok.  No, instead Romain decided to use the web to go viral.  His strategy worked.  His run through the streets of Paris that was posted on Youtube has already had over 200,000 views.  Its just a matter of time until some company slaps their logo on his back…my bet is on Golden Palace.

Oh, did I mention he ran through Paris in the nude?  Yep, only carrying his pole (pun intended).  Here is the video:

Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Nike | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

New York Yankees COO comes clean

Posted by ZA on March 30, 2009

A lot of executives put off the persona that nothing phases them…they subscribe to the ‘never let them see you sweat’ mantra.  But not New York Yankees COO, Lonn Trost, who will tell you exactly how he really feels.

The Yankees’ Trost had a great quote in the Newark Star-Ledger about how he is feeling coming into the 2009 baseball season.   Trost said, “Most expensive stadium, highest prices and the worst economy in history means I don’t sleep at night.  Everybody in every walk of life is suffering from the economy, and we’re no different“.

One of the most powerful people in one of the most successful sports franchises on the planet isn’t getting a good night’s sleep.  He’s worried about how the Yankees are going to fill up their luxurious, new stadium every night.  I love that Trost is so honest about the Yankees situation, because I’m not sure everyone in his position would be so candid.

Trost is probably right not to be sleeping so well, because the challenge facing the Yankees is a daunting one.  They are opening up the new Yankee Stadium at a time when discretionary spending in New York City is at one of its lowest points this decade.  The financial sector of New York has taken it squarely on the nose during this economic downturn.  The Yankees were obviously counting on selling luxury seats to many of those who were most effected.

With many of those prospects suddenly unable to buy season tickets at new Yankee Stadium, the team was forced to put those tickets on-sale to the public.  The single game ticket on-sale the Yankees offered through Ticketmaster featured scores of seats priced between $350 and $2600.  Imagine the pain the Yankees are feeling selling that $2600.00 Infield Box seat on a game-by-game basis.  The only thing worse would be not selling that seat.  Lonn Trost is a guy who is most feeling that pain.

In the long-run the New York Yankees will be fine.  But the next few seasons, particularly after the hype of this inaugural season in the new ballpark is gone, could be rougher financially than what they’ve experienced recently.  The Yankees are going to face the same challenge other MLB teams have faced for years.  They’ll be forced to watch their spending closely as they try to sell out all of their tickets.

[Assist: Sports Business Daily]

Posted in MLB, Sports Brands, Tickets, Venue Information | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

NBA game to stop at halftime

Posted by ZA on March 26, 2009

That would be weird, wouldn’t it…if NBA teams only played the first half of a game and then quit.

That’s kind of how I view the NBA’s decision on what names they included on their “Latin Night” promotional jerseys.   They only went halfway and then quit. The NBA told the Chicago Bulls to stick with “Los Bulls” rather than go with “Los Toros”, which would have been the proper translation for “The Bulls”.


If “Latin Night” is about honoring the league’s Hispanic fan base, then why not go all the way.  Why not actually a Spanish team name on the front of the jersey?  The current version is not Spanish and it is not English…call it Spanglish, which a lot of people I know speak down here in Texas.  We mix in English words to our conversation when we are trying to speak in Spanish.

The reason the NBA decided to stick with the nonsensical  “Los Bulls” is obviously a brand decision.  I’m sure someone in the league office thought it was a bad idea to completely remove the team nickname.  Probably for fear of alienating some non-Spanish speaking fan in Wheeling, who would flip on WGN and immediately call to complain about “Los TOROS” on the front of his team’s jerseys.

[Bulls fan calling WGN] “This is America.  What is a Toro?  Why is their Spanish on our dang jerseys?  Latin-o night?!? This is America, dammit” [/Bulls fan calling WGN]

Is it a big deal?  No.  It is kind of silly for the NBA to strattle the fence on this?  Absolutely, but what do you expect when we live in such a pc world.

[Assist: Sports Business Daily]

Update: Looks like Houston Rockets forward agrees with me.  His quotes from the Houston Chronicle that came out after I posted the story above.

Posted in NBA, Sports Brands | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Golfsmith backs Sergio Garcia at Masters

Posted by ZA on March 26, 2009

Golfsmith is backing Sergio Garica, but not sponsoring or endorsing the Spaniard.  Instead they are putting a wager on him to win the Masters, well sort of…  What is for sure is that Golfsmith’s new promotion will get people, who participate, rooting for Sergio Garcia to win the 2009 Masters.

The offer from Golfsmith is that anyone who buys select TaylorMade drivers at Golfsmith will get their money back if Sergio wins at the Masters.  You buy a driver for full retail price, then if Sergio wins you get your money back but get to keep the club.  Pretty cool, huh?  I bought my new TaylorMade driver last year so unfortunately I’m not eligible.

But I still like the promotion because its unique and will draw attention.  It is also a smart bet for Golfsmith because most golf experts would say that Sergio is a long shot to win the Masters.  Sergio has yet to win one of golf’s majors, although he came close at the British Open before choking it away on the final holes and in a playoff.

The Golfsmith promotion was already written up in AdAge and it will probably get a lot of attention in the golf community and blogosphere.  So even if Sergio does pull of the miracle victory at Augusta National and Golfsmith has to pay up for all of the TaylorMade drivers they sell.  The attention generated on the promotion will still be worth the cost to Golfsmith.  Golfsmith is receiving some positive brand exposure for offering the promotion and they will probably sell a few extra TaylorMade drivers.  So to me it is a smart move by the golf retail giant.

Click here to shop at Golfsmith.

Posted in Golf, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Soccer player shot during victory celebration

Posted by ZA on March 25, 2009

Iraq is a dangerous country, but it just doesn’t seem fair for an 18-year old to die while celebrating a victory.  I know, I know…life isn’t always fair.  My prayers to the young man’s family and friends.

Story from New York Times about an Iraqi soccer player who was shot after his game, by an off-duty cop.

Posted in Random Stuff, Soccer | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

DirecTV renews NFL deal at $1 billion per year

Posted by ZA on March 24, 2009

There are two times a year that I notice an abundance of DirecTV advertising; around March Madness and during football season.  The NFL is one DirecTV’s major selling points because you can sign up for their NFL Sunday Ticket to see every game.  In addition to their subscription fees, DirecTV typically charges $200 to $250 for a whole season of the NFL Sunday Ticket.  That program obviously has been lucrative to DirecTV because they just announced a renewal to their NFL deal.


The new deal between DirecTV and the NFL has the satellite television giant paying $300 million more dollars per year than their current deal.  DirecTV signed a four-year NFL deal that will pay the league $1 billion dollars per season, up from $700 million per year.  A 40% increase in this tough economic climate is huge for the NFL, which once again proves they are the top league within the four major professional sports leagues in the U.S.

(Assist: Sports Business Daily)

Posted in NFL, Sports Television | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Will the NBA & NHL be forced to cut teams?

Posted by ZA on March 24, 2009

There is a saying that “once is chance, twice is coincidence and three times is a pattern.”  If that saying is true, then we will soon see a pattern of conversations about the NBA and NHL being forced to shut down teams due to the economy.  That is because a couple of knowledgeable sports columnists have recently written articles about the dire situation for certain teams due to the current economy.  It is only a matter of time until more of the mainstream sports media begin to harp on this subject.


My initial reaction was surprise at reading in Bill Simmon’s “Welcome to the No Benjamins Association” column that he and his sources guess that between “three and eight” NBA teams will be sold, move to a new city or turn over operations to the league.  I had not thought about this possibility because I naively assumed that all of these owners or ownership groups had sufficient capital to ride out the current economic storm.  But I heard a similar story, confirming what Simmons has heard, when I talked to a friend of mine who works in the front office of a prominent NBA team.  My friend specifically pointed to the Memphis Grizzlies as an example of a team that is riding on fumes and said everyone in the league knows it.

Simmons went on to say in his article that the situation in the NHL is probably worse than the NBA.  Simmons writes that contraction of teams in the NHL is likely, whereas NBA Commissioner David Stern will probably refuse to cut NBA teams, even if he should do it.  Simmons said Stern’s stubborn nature that would probably be the reason the NBA doesn’t eliminate failing teams.  Wow that is a lot to absorb; it’s hard to fathom multiple NHL teams closing up and the possibility of the same in the NBA.


But Bill Simmons makes a compelling case in his column; he mentions the declining attendance, corporations who cannot afford their luxury suites and fans that are choosing to stay home.  Combine those factors with the escalating salaries in the NBA and you start to see a recipe for disaster.  And just when I think I’m starting to get my head around it, then another respected media member comes 0ut with a similar story that adds credibility to the dangerous situation the league’s face.

Darren Rovell, who is master of all things sports and business for CNBC, wrote a column about the trouble owners needing to sell might find in trying to locate a buyer.  He says that some of people who own pro franchises are not nearly as rich today as they were when they bought their club.  That downturn in their net worth may cause some of those owners to be forced to sell their team.

Complicating the matter, says Rovell,  is the fact that the days of debt financing the purchase of a professional sports franchise are done.  That means the only people who have the means to buy a franchise are those with loads of cash; like $300 million dollars or more in liquid assets.  Rovell says at this point that it is probably more feasible for a team to be taken over by their league than sold on the open market right now.

The question then becomes how many teams can the NBA & NHL afford to operate on their own dime?  If the rumblings turn out to be true, and there are a handful of teams in each league that cannot afford to continue on their own, then how can the leagues help them?  The simple answer is that they cannot save them; the NBA and NHL would have to instead shut down some of their teams.

I believe it is beyond theory now, it is going to happen.  The NBA & NHL will have to shutter some of their teams, or make otherwise drastic changes in order to save them.  Fans should get accustomed to this idea now, because it is only a matter of time.

Again, if I had just read it once I might shrug it off as a theory that might not come to fruition.  But this story is out there and being told by people who are “in the know”.  So in my mind it is no longer a matter of “if” the leagues are going to shut down teams, it is “when” they make the decision and how many teams will be affected.

Posted in Improve Attendance, NBA, NHL, Sports Brands, Tickets | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Powerade uses ESPN to attack Gatorade

Posted by ZA on March 23, 2009

The detente in the sports drink war between Coca-Cola and Pepsi is officially over, and Coca-Cola’s Powerade is coming out swinging. Powerade has launched their first major marketing campaign since 2001 and the current campaign paints a target squarely on the back of chief rival, Gatorade.

The new Powerade campaign mocks Gatorade as being an “incomplete” sports drink because it lacks a couple of the electrolytes that Powerade has in their new formula.  The campaign will become the first advertiser to take over the cover of ESPN The Magazine, which it will do with a cover flap that says “You wouldn’t want an incomplete cover.  Don’t settle for an incomplete sports drink” next to a Gatorade bottle.  The inside flap of ESPN will show a Powerade bottle with the tagline, the “complete sports drink”.

This campaign is a bold move for Powerade, taking a ‘challenger strategy’ by clearly singling out their competition.  But it a strategy that parent companies Coca-Cola and Pepsi have engaged in before across other beverage categories.  In this case Powerade has very little to lose by comparing themselves directly because has over 75% market share in the sports drink category (compared to 22% for Powerade).

And there may never be a better time for Powerade to attack because Gatorade is in the midst of a rebranding project.  Making their move while Gatorade transitions their brand might allow Powerade to capitalize on some consumer confusion; getting people who suddenly don’t associate with the Gatorade brand to reach for a Powerade instead.  Sun Tzu said in “The Art of War” that “all warfare is based on deception.”  Powerade seems to be taking a cue from him in this war for sports drink supremacy.

Tale of the Tape: How does Gatorade versus Powerade stack up?
Parent company: Gatorade is PepsiCo.  Powerade is Coca-Cola Company.
Founded: Gatorade in 1965.  Powerade in 1988.
Marketshare: Gatorade has ~ 77%.  Powerade has ~ 22%.
Calories (main product): Gatorade has 158.  Powerade has 195.
Official sports drink: Gatorade has MLB, NFL & NHL.  Powerade has Nascar, NCAA, PGA & US Olympic Team.
Top endorsers: Gatorade is endorsed by Derek Jeter, Peyton Manning & Tiger Woods.  Powerade is endorsed by LeBron James, Ryan Howard and Venus Williams. (View complete list of endorsers.)

Posted in ESPN, Gatorade, Powerade, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gatorade sponsors Plays of the Week on

Posted by ZA on March 23, 2009

Now you can visit the “G Moments” page on to watch and vote on the NBA plays of the week.  Gatorade is the presenting sponsor of this promotion, which is where the “G” in “G Moments” comes from.  Using “G” is sort of a play on words because it stands for Gatorade, but also is slang for “Gangsta” which can be used to describe a great player or particular play.

Click here to watch Gatorade’s “G Moments” on

New Gatorade Logo

New Gatorade Logo

Gatorade has been a sponsor of the NBA since 1984, which includes the NBA, WNBA, NBDL and USA Basketball.  The “GMoments” promotion on is another vehicle that will help create awareness for the new Gatorade brand.  The new Gatorade logo is prominently displayed on the page along with a few of their new taglines like Gatorade Fierce’s new “Bring It”.

Posted in Gatorade, NBA, Sponsorship Deals | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »