Branding the World of Sports

NFL legal battle could change sports sponsorships

Posted by ZA on May 26, 2010

The United States Supreme Court issued a ruling against the NFL that could open the door for a land grab among brands that want to sponsor the league.  The court ruled that the NFL is not a single business, which means they are not covered by antitrust laws.  This AdAge article explains that the ruling means that Reebok’s leaguewide sponsorship might be in jeopardy if American Needle wins their case in Federal Court in Chicago.

My take is that the change (should American Needle win their case) will usher in an era where corporations will compete to attach their brands to the marquee teams in the league.  No longer will league wide sponsorship deals rule the day; they will still exist but won’t be prohibitive to competitors like they are today.  It means Nike & Adidas will line up the top teams and throw a lot of money at them.  Whichever company misses out on top teams will then likely strike deals with the next rung down of teams.  Which will leave the least successful teams (the small market teams in some sports) with last pick among the sponsorship deals.

But this potential change will also mean that new companies can bring into the sponsorship game for major professional leagues (think Jones Soda at Qwest Field, instead of Coke or Pepsi).  That variety will be good for the teams and ultimately provide a more competitive, balanced marketplace for team sponsorship deals.  So the Supreme Court decision was a step in the right direction, now let’s hope the court in Illinois agrees so we can open up more sponsorship opportunities.

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