Like most pro sports leagues, the NFL has strict rules on player uniforms, cleats and on-field attire, but this week is bending its rules for several good reasons to support and promote 'My Cause, My Cleats,' which will see 500 players wear shoes they each designed with league partners Nike, adidas and Under Armour to raise awareness for such issues as birth defects, cancer, diabetes, lack of clean water, bullying, pet adoption and funding for more education, with the cleats garnering national attention beginning with the Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings game on Thursday Night Football (NBC, NFL Network) and running through the Monday Night Football game on ESPN when the Indianapolis Colts play the New York Jets. MORE
In a spot that channels an iconic ad from the 1990s in which Magic Johnson and Larry Bird play an über game of H*O*R*S*E for a Big Mac and fries (and re-created years later by LeBron James and Dwight Howard), Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks and Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs are featured in the humorous 'Call Your Shot,' part of a multi-media 'Aim For Greatness' effort from Bauer Hockey, in which the two players challenge each other to take ever-increasingly difficult slap shots using Bauer's new 1N hockey stick, with the pair ultimately trashing on-set cameras, lights, an ice sculpture, a table filled with food and other items. MORE
The Golden State Warriors have signed an agreement with the second company to become a founding partner for their new venue, Chase Center in San Francisco, where the NBA team is scheduled to move (from Oracle Arena in Oakland) for the 2019-20 season, adding professional services firm Accenture to the recently signed United Airlines, with the team and Accenture planning to build a tech architecture and ecosystem throughout the venue that will involve the entire fan experience, a strategy that both parties are now testing and unveiling via prototypes, including handing out VR viewers to people attending Warriors games so that they can experience the future via a VR film. MORE
The NCAA, currently involved with the college basketball season en route to March Madness 2017 in Phoenix, has unveiled some activation details for March Madness 2018 in San Antonio, including the official logo, marketing and community plans to support the event, with the Final Four to take place in the Alamodome March 29 and April 2, all part of the city's Tricentennial Celebration, marking the first men's Div. I hoops championship there since 2008 but the fourth overall. According to Dan Gavitt, vp-NCAA men's basketball championships, 'It's evident that the Final Four has a lasting effect on the host city and we're excited to bring it back to San Antonio.' MORE
It seems as if WWE's top-tier event, WrestleMania, is not itself without Snickers as the candy brand has signed on for the second time as exclusive presenting partner, bringing to the ring a multi-platform campaign under its 'You're Not You When You're Hungry' mantra, to include TV with WWE stars, Internet, social media, POP and a bevy of activations on-site in Orlando the week before and then during WrestleMania 33 on April 2 in the Citrus Bowl, involving such other WWE jewel events as the Axxess FanFest, NXT Takeover, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Monday Night Raw and Smackdown. MORE
Armed with official alliances from more than two dozen top clubs — including Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, AC Milan and Arsenal — and top players and icons such as Pelé, Dugout.com has launched as an online destination where soccer and sports fans can find exclusive interviews, videos, information and stats, with the site thinking on a global pitch by seeking to reach '3.5B soccer fans worldwide' via a platform that could mirror Facebook and other social media outlets by enabling visitors to connect, interact and network about their common interests. According to president and co-founder Elliot Richardson, 'Dugout was devised and built for the fans . . . who want to follow their favorite clubs and players across the world, on and off the pitch.' MORE
The company that develops and operates venues and manages sports franchises such as Barclays Center, Nassau Coliseum and the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, is expanding its reach via a new deal with Cooper Holdings, which oversees such companies as CSE marketing and CSE Talent, to build alliances worldwide with a focus on naming rights deals under the company name Entitle. According to BSE, Entitle's mission is to 'provide properties and brands with effective and meaningful partnerships (and) deliver a fully integrated model that aligns brands with properties to fulfill their strategic goals.' MORE
As the number of weeks in the NFL regular season grow shorter and the playoffs get closer, Super Bowl LI is getting more of a spotlight, which is what Pepsi wants as exclusive presenting sponsor for its fifth consecutive half time show, joining in a promotion with official NFL pizza partner Papa John's for a sweepstakes offering a grand prize of a trip to Houston and tickets not only for the Big Game in NRG Stadium but also for the intermission event being headlined by Lady Gaga, supported by multi-media marketing from Pepsi and Papa John's. MORE
Singer/actress Demi Lovato already hangs with a popular crowd that includes Nick Jonas and DNCE, but now she is joining another another high-profile crew that includes the NBA (where JBL is an official partner), NBA stars Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, music legend Quincy Jones and music group DNCE as a global spokesperson for Harmon division JBL to promote its array of headphones, speakers and other music-oriented products, with Lovato to appear in multi-media marketing and make personal appearances and JBL supporting via a dedicated Demi Web site that includes videos, tour information and updates about her efforts not only on-stage but in her public efforts to support equal rights, empowerment of young girls and dealing with the issues of mental health and drug addiction. MORE
NEWS FROM NFL 2016
In 2006, the NFL began to air Thursday Night Football on NFL Network, and ten years later the platform includes CBS, which first came on in 2014, Twitter and NBC, now in its first season of broadcasting 'TNF' via a two-year deal that gives it a unique two-package along with Sunday Night Football. But as Jennifer Storms, CMO for NBC Sports Group, reveals in this Q&A, engaging viewers with 'TNF' marketing and differentiating the property from 'SNF' while keeping such other NBC sports programming as Nascar, the NHL, Premier League and golf top of mind can be as challenging as it is rewarding.
In the 1971 movie (and 2005 remake), Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, people who found rare golden tickets received a unique and sweet treat — a tour of the factory and candy for life — a premise that Anheuser-Busch is using in a 'Strike Gold Bud Light' campaign, in which people (of legal drinking age) who find one of 37k gold cans being placed in limited-edition packages of Bud Light (Nov. 28-Jan. 13) would be entered into a sweepstakes to receive a unique and sweet treat — a pair of Super Bowl tickets for life (up to 51 years) beginning with Super Bowl LI in Houston this February. MORE
Even though NFL broadcasts have seen a drop in ratings this season, NBC has scored well with Sunday Night Football, this past Sunday averaging 22.2M viewers, success the network plans to mirror with Thursday Night Football, beginning this week a five-game package for the first time on NBC, which is seeking to reach maximum eyeballs via a multi-media campaign that includes TV, Internet and social media with stars from such shows as The Voice, The Blacklist, Blindspot, Law & Order: SUV and Chicago Fire/Med/PD, as well as characters from the upcoming animated movie, Sing. MORE
Throughout his footbal career, Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys has shown that he knows how to catch footballs and score touchdowns, which has translated into his becoming the No. 1 mover of merchandise in the NFL, according to the NFL Players' Assn. and its licensing arm, NFL Players Inc., which showed that in Q2 (June 1-Aug. 31, before the season began and before he injured his knee in Week 3) some 81K officially licensed Bryant items were sold, putting him atop a list that includes a Top 10 of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Odell Beckham Jr., Tony Romo, Rob Gronkowski, Cam Newton, JJ Watt and Jason Witten. MORE
Citing a 'growing consumer base and huge market potential,' the global licensed sports merchandise market is expected to top $28B this year and continue its climb to more than $48B by 2024, according to a just-released report from Transparency Market Research, which shows that North America accounts for more than 50% of global of merchandise sales and that, within the region, the NFL and MLB drive half all revenue, but also warns that worldwide sales of counterfeit is an even bigger market, topping $960B. MORE
Now in the second of a four-year deal as the official vehicle for the NFL, Hyundai has extended its team alliances — recently adding the Los Angeles Rams — and is upping its presence in social media, launching a platform on Facebook that puts rival teams and the fans who support them face-to-face via a 'Put Your Profile On The Line' effort and another on Twitter that ties into NFL broadcasts, both with the end goal of raising brand awareness for the automaker among consumers while offering what many football fans see as the ultimate prize, tickets to Super Bowl LI this February in Houston. 'Friendly competition between rivals is an important part of NFL culture and we are tapping into that passion,' said Paul Imhoff, Hyundai director-marketing communications. MORE
For most of its history, NFL games aired on broadcast and then cable networks, but last year saw the first live-stream game on Yahoo and this year the league has signed with Twitter to live-stream ten Thursday Night Football games that will air during the season on CBS, NBC and NFL Network, which comes at a time when more players are not just interacting with fans via social media but using various platforms to build their own brands. But as Brian Rolapp, evp-NFL Media and CEO/president for NFL Network, reveals in this Q&A, while the league has embraced the future of social media to help grow the NFL and bring regular season, playoff games and the Super Bowl — as well as marketing messages from league partners — to people domestically and worldwide, it also is playing watchdog to see that coaches, players, fans and others are not abusing, this burgeoning power.
The NFL is a big business, with an anticipated revenue of $13.3B this season, and much of that money comes from fans on game day, but in a league that strives for on-field parity the cost of seeing a game varies wildly, from an average high of $272 to attend a Washington Redskins game in FedEx Field and $268. to see the Dallas Cowboys in AT&T Stadium to an average low of $132 to see the Cincinnati Bengals in Paul Brown Stadium and $133 to watch the Cleveland Browns in First Energy Stadium, according to a new survey from GoBankingRates.com, which also points out that paying $75 to park at AT&T Stadium is more than the average ticket price for such teams as the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. MORE
The NFL Draft, a long-time staple in New York before relocating to Chicago in 2015, is on the move again, returning to Philadelphia — which hosted the initial Draft in 1936 and last feted the event in 1961 — for 2017 as part of the NFL's strategy to enhance and financially enrich the platform, with local planners envisioning more than 200K visitors and eying an $80M economic impact on the city via what could be a week-long party in late April that is scheduled to include many league and city marketing partners and sponsors and cover an area that features such landmarks as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the Cathedral Basilica. MORE
The 2016 MLB season may be over, but the hits keep coming for Topps thanks to the Chicago Cubs, Big Papi and Derek Jeter, the former captain for the New York Yankees and five-time World Series champ, who has signed a multi-year deal to autograph cards for the company — a return to the brand he last worked for about ten years ago — which enhances what has been a prime time for Topps, led by sales of more than 500K cards in its first-year NOW platform, in which cards are instantly produced to reflect such key events as the Cubs winning the World Series (9k sets sold), highlights of David 'Big Papi' Ortiz's farewell season, Ichiro Suzuki's 3,000th MLB career base hit (more than 11.5k cards sold in one day) and 42-year-old pitcher Bartolo Colon hitting his first career HR (8k+ cards sold). MORE
David Ortiz may have retired from baseball following the 2016 season, but he certainly has not slowed down when it comes to marketing and activation, with the ex-Boston Red Sox star over the past month having appeared in new spots for MLBAM's StatCast (along with Joe Torre) and Big Papi's Kitchen; attended events for Big Papi's Cigars and Big Hapi beer from Sam Adams; been seen on Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Last Walkout on ESPN's 30 for 30 and the World Series; and promoted through various efforts the work of UNICEF and his own Children's Foundation, with a slate of marketing and appearances still to come, all of which make the retired Peyton Manning — who is omni-present on TV for Papa John's, Nationwide and DirecTV — seem as if he's goofing off. MORE
After a drought of 108 years, the marketing floodgates opened immediately following the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series since 1908, with such brands as Nike, Anheuser-Busch, ESPN, Under Armour, adidas, American Airlines, Chevrolet, Topps, Red Bull and MLB itself hitting the ground running with activation that included TV, Internet, social media and championship hats, T-shirts and other gear that featured Cubs players Kris Bryant, Series MVP Ben Zobrist, Jake Arrieta and even Harry Caray, the team's legendary long-time broadcaster who passed away in 1998 but making an appearance to 'call' Game 7 for Budweiser. MORE
Last year, iconic trading card company Topps asked people to vote for the player they believed should appear on the prestigious No. 1 card in its MLB Series — a spot that has been held by the likes of Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Derek Jeter and 2016 winner, Mike Trout — and now the voting is open for the No. 1 card in the 2017 Baseball Series One, with candidates including David 'Big Papi' Ortiz, Bryce Harper, Buster Posey, Kris Bryant, Clayton Kershaw, Gary Sanchez, Manny Machado, Mookie Betts and Trout, who is seeking a rare back-to-back top-card victory. MORE
Cal Ripken Jr. knows more than a lot when it comes to playing baseball at a high level, a streak of historic proportions and farewell tours, which puts him in rarified company with another Baseball Hall of Famer, Vin Scully. As Ripken prepares to cover the MLB AL playoffs for TBS, he opens up in a Q&A about Scully, the mental and physical challenges of maintaining a playing streak for more than 15 years (Scully has been at it for 67 years!), baseball in the Olympics, Big Papi's farewell tour and why pitchers did not want to throw at him.
Among the gifts that David 'Big Papi' Ortiz has received during the final season of what has been a 20-year MLB career are cigars, a hand-made Stetson cowboy hat, the actual dugout phone he smashed in Baltimore in 2013 and a life-size Lego statue, but he now can add to the list a 'Thank You Big Papi' commercial from MLB to air now through the post-season that features highlights from his playing days both on and off the field, with an English version narrated by actor Ben Affleck and an Hispanic version with voiceover from former teammate Pedro Martinez, both offering, 'For all the big moments. The big blasts. The big smile. The big heart. You're not walking away. You're walking off.' MORE
If you are looking for diamonds buried in the infield of a baseball stadium or diamonds in the rough that could become gems, Minor League Baseball has that and more, with a roster of 160 clubs — including such iconic teams as the Toledo Mud Hens, Las Vegas 51s, Columbus Clippers and Durham Bulls — some 43M people through the turnstiles, 107M fans, national deals including Esurance and John Deere and rising retail sales of merchandise. But as David Wright, former veteran executive with MLS and now Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer for MiLB reveals in this Q&A, Minor League Baseball is reinventing itself to attract national marketers and make the game-day environment even more inclusive to an audience that is 'tech-savvy, active and family-based' without losing its traditional down-home ambiance, out-of-the-box promotional creativity — think Asparagus Night, CATurday and Diamond Digs — while remaining a development platform for future MLB stars, all of which sets the 115-year-old MiLB apart from other sports leagues.
With the dust from the 2016 All-Star Game having just settled, and Home Run Derby balls hit by Giancarlo Stanton still rattling around PetCo Park, MLB has started the march to the 2017 All-Star Game and festivities in Miami Marlins Park, unveiling the official logo and accompanying promo video for such events as the SiriusXM Futures Game, T-Mobile Home Run Derby — where Marlins outfielder Stanton could defend his title while serving as one of the hosts for the week of events — the FanFest in the Miami Beach Convention Center and the All-Star Game presented by MasterCard, with the Marlins using the jewel activities to sell season tickets for this year and beyond. MORE
NEWS FROM COLLEGE 2016
Seeking to lock in prime real estate while emulating the process used by the NFL and the IOC of selecting championship host cities many years in advance, the NCAA has named the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans as the site for the 2022 Men's Final Four, with the college sports governing body promising to extend the lead time even more when the next round of potential March Madness title venues comes up for a vote in 2018, all of which also helps local businesses and marketing partners to plan their activations. 'With the Final Four competing for many of the same venues that host the Super Bowl and the College Football Playoff (also under the auspices of the NCAA) we did not want to wait to make the decision,' said Dan Gavitt, vp-NCAA men's basketball championships. MORE
When it comes to sports, there are a lot of stats that define the action on the field or court, but outside the playing field there are stats of much more importance. Pediatric cancer is the second leading cause of death among children in the U.S. ages 1-14, with more than 10K new cases expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society, which has teamed with a dozen universities represented by IMG College to launch 'A House United To Tackle Pediatric Cancer,' supported by coaches, athletes and multi-media marketing including a dedicated Web site were visitors can make donations in the name of such schools as Duke, FSU, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, UCLA, Houston, Mississippi, Pittsburgh, South Carolina, Washington, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech. MORE
While millions of fans prepare for the 2016 college football season, Nissan has gotten the party started with the sixth edition of its multi-platform Heisman House, which this year adds Tim Tebow and NFL rookie Derreck Henry to a mix of former Heisman Trophy winners including Eddie George, Doug Flutie, Herschel Walker, Tim Brown, Tony Dorsett and George Rogers, with a campaign that includes TV — with Henry and Tebow the focus of early efforts — print, radio, Internet, social media and such on-campus activation as the Heisman House Tour, with Nissan also supporting via an alliance with 100 schools and numerous NCAA championships and a fan-centric app that lets people color their photo face in their favorite school colors as well as multi-layer support from lead partner ESPN. MORE
Buffalo Wild Wings, which since 2013 has been the 'official hangout for March Madness,' has renewed and expanded its alliance with the NCAA, acquiring the role of 'official hangout for NCAA' sports, to include enhanced marketing and activation across 90 championships and special marketing and promotional considerations in 2019 when the Men's Div. I Final Four is played in its hometown of Minnesota, with support coming from a new alliance with 23 schools and the chain's title sponsorship of CFB's Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, much of which has been brought to life in a new TV spot where mascots from schools nationwide put aside their rivalries and come together over wings and B-Dubs fun. MORE
In an effort to broaden its presence in college basketball, Under Armour has signed its first deal with New York's Madison Square Garden to become the official partner of college hoops during regular-season games in the 'World's Most Famous Arena,' an alliance that will be supported by multi-level marketing and anchored by 'Reunion,' a planned annual double-header scheduled to begin in December that will see South Carolina play Seton Hall and Auburn take on Boston College — all four squads being part of Under Armour's partnership roster and all four having ties to The Garden or their opponent, including SC's NIT title-winning game there in 2006 and a 1974 victory over Seton Hall in the venue, Seton Hall's regular presence as a member of the Big East Conference and Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl's history at BC, his alma mater and site of his first hoops job as an assistant coach. MORE
Its roster of endorsers includes such pro athletes as Serena Williams, Cam Newton, Dwyane Wade, J.J., Watt, Bryce Harper, Karl-Anthony Towns and Usain Bolt, but the focus of Gatorade's new 'Incredible Is Inevitable' push is youth and prep sports, with a series of ads putting a spotlight on football, basketball and soccer, respectively, supporting the brand's on-going support of such programs as the Gatorade High School Athletes of the Year. Little League Baseball and Pop Warner, with the spots getting up-close and personal during intense games on the field and strenuous workouts during practice, all of which, fueled by Gatorade, shows how hard work and unwavering dedication tends to win out during competition, if not always in victories, certainly in personal gains and development. MORE
NEWS FROM NBA 2016-17
Although the 7'1 Shaquille O'Neal fills a big space wherever he goes, he has decided to Shop Small in a new campaign for American Express, which encourages people to spend money in their local stores and shops now through the holidays, bringing along Grammy award-winning musician Kendrick Lamar in the first of several spots as part of a multi-media effort to support what AmEx said is the longest-running platform in its history. MORE
The San Antonio Spurs are one of the most successful teams in the NBA and H-E-B is one of the most successful supermarket chains in the U.S., so it makes sense that for the 12th year the two have teamed for a humorous ad campaign that touts the products for sale in the store while giving fans and consumers an opportunity to see such players as Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Tim Duncan — who has retired from the NBA but not from H-E-B spots — try their hand at acting. MORE
In the mischievously good-natured vein of the 1979 classic, Animal House, Turner Sports has its own Delta Tau Chi fraternity, populated by Robert Hoover (played by Ernie Johnson), John 'Bluto' Blutarsky (played by Charles 'Sir Charles' Barkley), Eric 'Otter' Stratton (played by Kenny 'The Jet' Smith) and Daniel Simpson 'D-Day' Day (played by Shaquille 'Big Diesel' O'Neal). But as Turner Sports evp-production and chief content officer Craig Barry — who here gets the role of Animal House director John Landis — relates in this Q&A, letting the four Inside The NBA guys banter and joke among themselves on almost any topic — such as Shaq investing in the company that makes one of his favorite foods, Krispy Kreme — resonates with viewers because they are real, the show is authentic and, above all else, the focus always comes back to the NBA.
Russell Westbrook, who this season will lead the Oklahoma City Thunder without Kevin Durant (who signed with the Golden State Warriors) has a new teammate in Mtn. Dew marketing, Kyrie Irving of the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who joins a roster that includes 17 other players from around the league — including Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Reggie Jackson (Detroit Pistons) and Isaiah Thomas (Boston Celtics) — who will be part of the brand's multi-platform strategy on TV, Internet, social media, POP and consumer activations. MORE
NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O'Neal loves Krispy Kreme doughnuts so much that he has bought into the company, purchasing an iconic doughnut shop in Atlanta and signing on to become a global spokesman for the company — an occasion he celebrated by visiting company headquarters and enjoying some of the product — with the first activation a 'Shaq-or-Treat' Halloween giveaway on social media. 'Our goal is to help people find their happy place, and what better way than with a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts,' said Shaq. MORE
In his on-going fight against leukemia, Craig Sager has shown grit, determination and humor while inspiring others around the world, and with the start of the NBA season a new wave of support is coming for the veteran sideline reporter for Turner Sports, including an online auction of 100 pairs of Nike Air Force 1 kicks (designed by Sager) and T-shirts from the Golden State Warriors and the NBA on TNT's Inside the NBA to raise awareness and funds for the SagerStrong Foundation and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society; plus on-air messages from players across the NBA, MLB and elsewhere. MORE
Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose are among the players who will be on new teams when the NBA season begins, but the NBA on TNT's Inside the NBA will return with its Emmy-winning roster, including Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley, adding a new NBA on TNT Road Show platform and in '17 The Race Card hosted by Barkley, who in this wide-ranging Q&A talks about Colin Kaepernick, the role of athletes on the field and in the community, Kevin Durant as hero and villain, commissioner Adam Silver's decision to pull the ASG from Charlotte, his predictions for the upcoming season and the reason why LeBron James may never make his personal Top Five all-time NBA players.
Having been a brand spokesman since 2003, LeBron James is well aware of the tactics Coca-Cola uses to sell people Sprite, but in its new 'Wanna Sprite' multi-media campaign, Sprite sends James — assisted by the likes of rapper Lil Yachty and other 'influencers' — on a different path in which the NBA star ensures consumers, 'I would never tell you to drink Sprite, even if I was in a Sprite commercial, which I am, and even if you were watching me in a Sprite commercial, which you are, and even if you were eating tacos with extra hot sauce.' The punch line for this creative, which is supported by Internet, social media and an emoji: 'I'd ask: You wanna Sprite?' MORE
During his Hall of Fame career in the NBA, Julius 'Dr. J' Erving played alongside the likes of Darryl Dawkins, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone and Maurice Cheeks, but now via a 'strategic partnership' with Authentic Brands Group — which will own and manage the intellectual property of Erving in marketing, licensing and other deals worldwide — he is on an ABG roster that includes Shaquille O'Neal and the estates of Muhammad Ali, Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson, as well as such brands as Prince (tennis), TapouT (MMA), Spyder (outdoor apparel) and Frederick's of Hollywood. 'We are excited to continue Dr. J's legacy into consumer brands as well as luxury, travel and corporate sponsorships,' said ABG president Nick Woodhouse. MORE
It must be 'The Hoopers,' because State Farm, whose multi-platform campaign starring Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love, Kevin Garnett and Damian Lillard, this past season has replaced Anheuser-Busch as the NBA's most active sponsor, according to research firm IEG, which also said that overall league sponsorship deals hit a record $799M and that the most active partners also included FanDuel, MillerCoors, Coke, PepsiCo, Geico and Kia Motors, while the most active categories were insurance, QSR, non-alcoholic beverages, medical and retail. MORE