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What’s wrong with this picture? LeBron

Posted by ZA on July 9, 2010

Why is LeBron James the only one in the photo who isn’t smiling? I know that image has been photoshopped, but its ironic that they pictured the smiling Dwayne Wade and grinning Chris Bosh next to a sullen looking LeBron because I think King James really is unhappy.  I think this entire free agency process, James decision to leave Cleveland and now the backlash are weighing heavily on LeBron’s shoulders.

I think LeBron is probably second guessing a lot of the decisions he’s made lately.  James isn’t going to change his mind on playing in Miami, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he would like a mulligan.  LeBron clearly never expected this decision would make him a villain, something that I think is eating away at LeBron inside.  He was clearly anxious last night at having to deliver such a tough message (bye bye Cleveland) on national television, but I expected King James to lighten up after announcing his decision.  James never did lighten up and instead seemed distracted and upset.  There was a lot going on, but I think LeBron realized for the first time yesterday that this transition is going to change who the public’s opinion of him.  He’s always been Lovable LeBron and now he’s the guy that NBA fans are going to root against.  And he can’t even “go home” because he’s now public enemy #1 in Ohio.

What should LeBron have done?
* Stayed in Cleveland to try to win a Championship.  Or go to New York City and revive that franchise by winning a Championship.  I thought the competitor in James would drive him to beat guys like DWade and Bosh, not team up with them.

* Met with the Cleveland ownership face-to-face to thank them and tell them that he was leaving.  I would hope that if James didn’t have sense to do that, at least one of his well paid agents would have made sure that happened.  My opinion of Maverick Carter could not be lower after watching how he’s handled the last few weeks of LeBron’s free agency circus.

* Not schedule a one-hour television special to announce his decision to the world.  There is a reason PR people exist in this world and this was the perfect time to use one.  Don’t play the “I’m bigger than everyone else” game by going on live TV to tell them where you are going to make your next $100 million.  Write a $1 million to charity (anonymously), met with Cleveland ownership, call other teams to deliver the news, turn over a statement to a publicity to release and then hop on your private jet for a vacation.

I think much of this will blow over in a few weeks and LeBron will be happy with his decision.  And I do think that James and company will win rings in Miami, but I don’t think this trio will last long-term in Miami.  James is 25 & DWade is 28; in 3-4 years the Miami Heat might have to make a decision who they want to resign.  I think they’ll choose LeBron due to age which will cause a rift that sends Wade packing for Chicago (his hometown, where he is still welcome).  LeBron might idle in Miami a couple of more seasons, but then eventually I think LeBron finishes his career in New York (Knicks or Brooklyn Nets).

Posted in Athletes, NBA | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Do you know Mark Grimmette?

Posted by ZA on February 11, 2010

Do you know this guy?

Most American sports fans have probably never heard the name, Mark Grimmette.  But Mark is a name you need to know because he has been selected by the USOC to carry the American flag at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Grimmette is a luger who competes in doubles luge with his partner Brian Martin.  Grimmette’s team won an Olympic bronze medal in the 1998 Winter Games and a silver medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.  More here on him at this Wikipedia page about Mark Grimmette.

I’ll admit that I had never heard of him before today, but I also probably do not know 95% of the athletes at the Winter Olympics.  It is an honor for Grimmette to carry the US flag; so I congratulate him and hopes he brings home the gold.

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Will Tiger return any money to Nike?

Posted by ZA on December 17, 2009

As the scandal around golfer Tiger Woods rages on, sales of Nike Golf apparel are dropping.  Retailers are no longer pushing the Tiger Woods branded Nike Golf line and his absence from the PGA Tour is only going to continue to hurt sales.  Bloomberg estimates that Nike stands to lose approximately $30 million in sales from the current Tiger scandal.  A former CBS Sports executive says “The aura (around Tiger) is gone”.

So the question is will Tiger give any of that money back to Nike?  Woods is almost solely responsible for building Nike Golf division into a half a billion dollar cash cow.  For that Tiger has been paid over $100 million dollars by Nike in his career.  So will Tiger consider giving some of that money back to Nike now – when it’s clear that Tiger’s personal actions are hurting the corporate giant.  I doubt that Tiger would ever hand over a check to Phil Knight, but I do think this will prompt Tiger to give Nike a sweetheart deal whenever his current contract expires.  Sure Tiger has made more money for Phil Knight than Knight has paid to Woods, but Knight & Nike have also stood by Tiger during this scandal.  Knight is the only sponsor who has vocally supported Woods saying that Tiger’s transgressions are just a “minor blip” on his great career.   I’m betting that Phil Knight gets a nice holiday card from Tiger this year.

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

Tiger Woods popularity dropping quickly

Posted by ZA on December 15, 2009

A recent ABC News/Washington Post survey said that only 42% of respondents have a “favorable opinion” of Tiger Woods.  In the same poll an equal number (43%) said they have an “unfavorable opinion” of Tiger Woods, with 26% saying they have a “strongly unfavorable opinion” of Mr. Woods.

The positive side of those numbers are way down for Tiger who scored 60% “favorable” and 25% “unfavorable” just a few weeks ago (right after car crash).  Tiger has lost a huge amount of good feelings since 2005 where he measured at 85% favorable versus 8% unfavorable.  See more details on the poll here at Brandweek.

Tiger’s fall from grace has occurred quickly as sordid details of his personal life have played out in the media.  During the scandal Tiger has remained silent except for a couple of canned statements that apologized for “transgressions” and begged for privacy.  Woods silence has seemed to add further fuel to the anger against him, as he is unwilling to answer questions about the accusations being lobbed against him.

I doubt Tiger is innocent in all of this, but would still like to hear him tell his side of the story.  Or at the very least I’d like to see him step forward and face the music.  At the core this is definitely a private matter between him, his wife and his family.  But he’s a public figure (professional athlete & spokesperson) who has been accused of some horrible things, so I think Tiger needs to make a public statement.  That should be on-camera and should specifically address the items he is accused of.  So far Tiger & his PR people seem to be bungling this situation, I’m hoping they are planning something to try to clear the air a bit…or at least give the public something to get people to start moving on from this issue (thus allowing Tiger & Elin privacy to work on things).

Posted in Athletes, Golf, Sports Brands | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Endorsement Profile: Maria Sharapova

Posted by ZA on December 11, 2009

Athlete: Maria Sharapova
Sport: Tennis
League: WTA
Agent: IMG (Max Eisenbud)
Age: 22   (April 19, 1987)
Rank in SI’s richest athletes: 13 (International list)

Maria Sharapova endorsement deals (thru Dec. 2009):
* Canon
* Cole Haan
* Land Rover
* Nike (athletic shoes & apparel)
* Parlux Fragrances (perfume)
* Prince (tennis racquets)
* Sony Ericsson
* Tag Heuer
* Tiffany & Co

Former Sharapova endorsement deals:
Colgate-Palmolive, Gatorade, Motorola & Tropicana

Maria Sharapova endorsement potential:
Maria Sharapova is the top female endorsement star in the sports world.  Sharapova has competition from Venus & Serena Williams, Danica Patrick, Michelle Wie and Lorena Ochoa; but Maria is still the top endorser among female athletes.  Sharapova’s endorsement success has been helped by her good looks; she was named in 2005 as one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful celebrities in the world.  But Sharapova is not just another pretty face (i.e.- Anna Kournikova), she is one of the top players in tennis who has won 3 of the 4 tennis major tournaments.

Only in her early 20’s Sharapova is already a global brand, which her sponsors take advantage of by featuring her in advertisements in the United States, Europe and Asia.  She is from Russia, but does not endorse any Russian companies.  But her lineup of endorsement deals is the envy of any athlete in the world.  She has some of the biggest companies on the planet tailoring their marketing campaigns around her name.  Canon has featured Sharapova in new product launches which were so successful that they even made Maria’s dog a star.

What’s next for the tennis superstar slash celebrity slash endorsement queen?  Maybe retirement.  Maria has made comments that she doesn’t plan to play tennis for her another decade.  She’s said she would like to follow the lead of Justine Henin and retire young so she can pursue other life goals.  That means that sponsors who wish to align their brand with the top earning female athlete on the planet better hurry up.  Maria Sharapova is in her prime as an endorsement star, but there may not be that many years left for advertisers to sign her if she decides to follow her dreams to raise a family.

Maria Sharapova commercial for Canon:

Posted in Apparel & Shoes, Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Endorsement Profile | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

NBA star on the rise: Kevin Durant

Posted by ZA on September 22, 2009

This New York Times article is a glimpse into the life of Oklahoma Thunder forward, Kevin Durant.  The Times labeling his as a “Rising Star” within the league, which could soon be an understatement.  Durant seems to be on the verge of becoming one of the marquee players in the NBA, the same way he did in high school and college.  I watched him during his one season at the University of Texas and he’s an athlete that has a near limitless upside.

I think Durant will continue to use his time in Oklahoma City to hone his game and mature his body.  Then when he’s a free agent, he’ll take his game to one of the big media markets (e.g.- New York City) to become a star.  He’s a low key, fly under the radar type of guy – so it’ll take that type of move to thrust his name into the national conversation.  But it’ll be his play on the court that keeps the media and fans talking about him, because there is very little on the court that he cannot do.

I also expect the endorsement dollars to start to flow once KD is in a major market (current Kevin Durant endorsement deals).  His current deals with EA Sports, Gatorade, Nike and Upper Deck should only grow bigger.  And plenty of new brands will line up to get one of the top, young athletes in sports to endorse their produce.  They’ll love how his polite, almost shy demeanor compliments the fiercest competitor that comes out on the basketball court.  Durant will be a millionaire many times over before he’s 30 and quite possibly once of the best basketball players of this generation.

Kevin Durant photo from

Kevin Durant photo from

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

“The kid from North Carolina” aka: Michael Jordan

Posted by ZA on September 9, 2009

A great article from Yahoo Sports on Nike’s decision to sign Michael Jordan.  The original deal signed back in 1984 was for $500k and a piece of the profits from Nike sales of Jordan products.  The deal eventually catapulted Nike from a top sporting goods company to a global brand.

Some more interesting tidbits from the article:
* Nike’s total revenue in 1984 (year MJ signed) was $900 million, in 2008 Nike had $18.6 billion in revenue.

* No one at Nike had ever met Michael Jordan when they agreed to sign him to an endorsement deal.

* Nike produced so much black & red apparel with Jordan that “at one point there was a run on the world’s supply of red-colored thread”.

It’s a good article by Dan Wetzel, it’s worth a read.

Posted in Apparel & Shoes, Athletes, Endorsement Deals, NBA, Nike, Sports Brands | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Who are the most popular athletes in America?

Posted by ZA on July 30, 2009

Americans love sports, so naturally we love the athletes who play the games.  But which athletes are our favorites?  Who are the top 10 most popular athletes in sports today? The Harris Poll recently released the results of their 2009 survey that asked 2,177 U.S. adults to tell who were their favorite sports stars.

America’s Favorite Male Athletes (2009):
1. Tiger Woods (Golfer)
2. Michael Jordan (Retired, NBA star)
3. LeBron James (Forward, Cleveland Cavaliers)
4. Kobe Bryant (Guard, Los Angeles Lakers)
5. Derek Jeter (Shortstop, New York Yankees)
6. Jeff Gordon (Driver, Nascar)
7. Peyton Manning (Quarterback, Indianapolis Colts)
8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Driver, Nascar)
9. Brett Favre (Retired, NFL star)
10. Albert Pujols (Baseball player, St. Louis Cardinals)

America’s Favorite Female Athletes (2009):

1. Serena Williams (Tennis player)
2. Venus Williams (Tennis player)
3. Danica Patrick (Driver, Indy Racing)
4. Candace Parker (Forward, WNBA)
5. Mia Hamm (Soccer star)
6. Maria Sharapova (Tennis player)
7. Annika Sorenstam (Golfer)
8. Chris Everett Lloyd (Retired, Tennis star)
9. Anna Kournikova (Retired, Tennis player & model)
10. Michelle Kwan (Figure skater)

What stands out to me about the lists, particularly among the guys, is the influence that Nike has among the list.  7 of the 10 guys on the list endorse Nike, you could count Brett Favre as an 8th since he endorsed Nike brand, Starter.  The only 2 guys who do not have endorsement deals with Nike are the two Nascar drivers, who wouldn’t be a target for a shoe/apparel endorsement deal.  So you could say that Nike has a clean sweep of the eligible males.  Among female favorite athletes Nike’s percentage drops down a bit, but they still have four of the top 10 and the #1 overall.  Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, Maria Sharapova and Chris Everett Lloyd all cash endorsement checks signed by Phil Knight.

Other brands are well represented; Gatorade has deals more than half of the two lists.  That number is even greater if you factor in all of the Pepsico clients, Gatorade’s parent company, on the two lists.  Nike’s chief competitor, Adidas, also has a couple of current (Parker) or former endorsers (Kournikova) on the list.

But no brand is as well represented on the two lists as Nike.  The question it brings up is whether Nike’s marketing is helping to make these stars more popular or whether Nike has just picked the most popular athletes?  My thought is that it’s a bit of both.  Nike has always been one of the innovative marketers in sports.  They’ve revolutionized the game of sports marketing with campaigns they built around athletes, starting with Michael Jordan and continuing today through Tiger Woods.

Consider that Nike did not even make golf shoes or clubs prior to signing Tiger in 1996.  Nike’s original endorsement contract with Tiger Woods was $40 million dollars over five-years, which was then followed by a five year, $100 million dollar extension.  But their spending did not stop there, Nike has spent tens of millions more to promote their association with Tiger Woods.  And for their efforts, it’s estimated that Nike Golf pulled in $725 million in sales in 2008.  Through their endorsement deal and promotion, Nike essentially created a new billion dollar revenue stream for the company.  That type of innovative marketing will generate the cash to pay for a lot of endorsement deals.

And Nike has never been shy about spending for top talent.  They signed quasi lifetime endorsement deals with a few of the top names (Jordan, Woods & Serena Williams) to make sure they locked up their stars.  Other deals might as well be lifetime contracts because you won’t see Jeter or Sharapova pitching anyone else’s shoe brand anytime soon.  And Nike jumps at the chance whenever their has been an opportunity to add a big, new star to their roster.  Just recently they solidified long-term agreements with two members of the top 10 list above who happen to be the most popular players in the NBA; LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.

All of the athletes above are some of the biggest stars in sports; a feat they achieved because of their superior talent and lots of hard work.  But to ascend to the top of the list of America’s favorite athletes also requires a little help from sponsors.  And from their dominance on the two lists, it appears that Nike is a really good sponsor to have.

Posted in Athletes, Endorsement Deals, Gatorade, Golf, MLB, Nascar, NBA, NFL, Nike, Sports Brands, Sports Marketing | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Only a select few to endorse Wheaties

Posted by ZA on July 28, 2009

In the 80+ years that General Mills has marketed Wheaties there have been thousands of great athletes featured on their boxes of cereal.  Everyone from Andre Agassi to Kristi Yamaguchi have been featured on the front of the famous orange box.  Being selected to appear on the cover of a box of Wheaties is quite an accomplishment; one that only the best athletes and teams will ever experience.

But as prestigious as it is to appear on a Wheaties box, it is even more so to be named a spokesperson for the iconic brand.  Wheaties has only had 7 athletes who were selected to serve as spokesperson for their product.  They are all athletes who transcended their sport and were famous around the globe.  The seven Wheaties spokespersons are athletes who excelled both on and off the field.

Athletes who served as Spokesperson for Wheaties:
* Bob Richards (Pole Vaulter)
* Bruce Jenner (Track & Field)
* Mary Lou Retton (Gymnast)
* Walter Payton (Football player)
* Chris Evert (Tennis)
* Michael Jordan (Basketball)
* Tiger Woods (Golf)

There are not published details on how much these athletes were paid by Wheaties to endorse their product.  But the distinction of being a spokesperson for a brand so closely linked to sports greatness is surely a thrill for each of these star athletes.

Full list of athletes who have appeared on a Wheaties box.

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Lance Armstrong rides alone in 2010

Posted by ZA on July 22, 2009

Lance Armstrong is going to ride for a new, Amercian-based sponsor when he suits up for the Tour de France in 2010.  Armstrong is heading to the new team, along with his long-time team manager, Johan Bruyneel.  Together the duo is sure to form one of the top cycling teams in the World.

The move is most likely a result of Lance not wanting to share the spotlight with his current teammate, Alberto Contador. The two star rides are on the same team (Astana) this year, which has caused a minor controversy about who should be the lead dog on the team.  Ultimately it seems that Armstrong conceded that power struggle to Contador and is helping his teammate to win the 2009 Tour de France.

I think when Lance returned this year, he might have initially thought playing a role in helping someone else win would be a good thing.  But I think Lance’s performance in the Tour has shown him that he’s still got what it takes to win the toughest race in the World…thus proving wrong some of the idiot writers that said he should race again (i.e.- me).

So even though the 2009 race is not yet complete, I am already looking forward to the huge rivalry that will take place next year.  I expect Armstrong and Contador to emerge as bitter rivals in 2010, both trying to defeat the other and win the race.  This year they both played nice and showed respect for each other because they are on the same team.  Next year, as opponents, I think the gloves will come off.

Lance knows he can win another Tour de France.  And now he knows that Alberto Contador might be the biggest thing standing in the way of that goal.  I’m hoping for a ride for the ages in 2010.  This year has been fantastic to watch, but the I just escape the feeling that Lance is conceding to Contador because they are teammates.  I want to see the two of them compete and hopefully watch Lance win.

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