By Barry Janoff
February 22, 2015: With Super Bowl XLIX and the 2014 NFL campaign barely in the rear view mirror, the league has already started to tackle the 2015 season with the Scouting Combine (underway through Monday, Feb. 23), the NFL Draft soon to follow (April 30-May 2) and incoming rookies signing deals and eyeing their future on and off the field.
Among the first in, Upper Deck, adidas and Under Armour have helped to jump-start the 2015 marketing season. Upper Deck and adidas have signed a number of top incoming rookies to exclusive contracts; meanwhile Under Armour was the presenting sponsor for the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where it supplied participants with shoes and apparel and had numerous other signage and activation on-site.
Upper Deck said it has signed ollegiate licensed rookie autograph cards of such top prospects as quarterbacks Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Jameis Winston (Florida State) — who are expected to be the first two quarterbacks selected in the draft — Sean Mannion (Oregon State), Brett Hundley (UCLA) and Bryce Petty (Baylor); running backs Melvin Gordon III (Wisconsin), Todd Gurley (Georgia), Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) and T.J. Yeldon (Alabama); and wide receivers Amari Cooper (Alabama), Davante Parker (Louisville), Dorial Green-Beckham (Missouri), Jaelen Strong (Arizona State).
Adidas' newly minted signees include quarterbacks Hundley and Parker; wide receivers Kevin White (West Virginia, pictured above), Green-Beckham, Phillip Dorsett (Miami, Fla.), Tyler Lockett (Kansas State), Jamison Crowder (Duke), Nelson Agholor (USC,) and Vince Mayle (Washington State); and running backs Abdullah, Tevin Coleman (Indiana), Jay Ajayi (Boise State) and Buck Allen (USC); and defensive backs Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Marcus Peters (Washington) and Quinten Rollins (Miami, Ohio)
"We have heard loud and clear from collectors and shops that there has been a void in the market for a premium early season release that includes awesome trading card technology, hard-signed autographs and inscriptions," Brandon Miller, Upper Deck's collegiate sports brand manager, said in a statement.
Upper Deck's 2015 Inscriptions Football set is scheduled to hit stores March 11.
According to Miller, "We believe 2015 Upper Deck Inscriptions Football will more than fill that void. We are very excited to introduce collectors to the different levels of rarity and assortment of inscriptions from players in this product. It gives every collector the unique feeling they have received something more special than an autograph card."
Adidas initially had a deal in place with Porsche to award the three fastest players in the NFL Scouting Combine who signed with the shoe and sports apparel company a 911 Carrera. The league would not allow that deal to happen due to an existing contract between the NFL and General Motors.
Instead, adidas side it would replace the car with $100,000 reward.
Editor's Note: After the conclusion of the Scouting Combine, adidas said it was awarding $100,000 each to the three fastest adidas athletes: Trae Waynes of Michigan State (4.31), Phillip Dorsett of Miami (4.33) and Kevin White of West Virginia (4.35), who ran their top 40-yard dash times in the 4.7 ounce Uncaged adizero 5-Star 40.
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