League, players cooperate in marketing
Business as usual in the NFL.
Not among the owners, coaches, and players. Not between
Commissioner Roger Goodell and the players’ association. Nor
between general managers and player agents.
In marketing the game, however, the lockout has not resulted in
a dead stop.
For consumer products such as video games or trading cards, or
in licensing of merchandise, not much is different even with a work
Player merchandise, including jerseys and other items, will
still be available to fans thanks to long-standing agreements
between the league, the NFLPA and their licensees. It’s something
Gary Gertzog, NFL senior vice president of business affairs, says
”we are very comfortable with.”
”We want NFL football to be depicted in an authentic way,”
Gertzog said. ”Those companies have secured rights from the
marketing affiliate of the players’ association and from the
league. The production is proceeding and those products will be
delivered in preparation for the 2011 season.”
Even though the season is endangered by the work stoppage.
Companies involved in licensing or consumer products previously
acquired rights from the NFL for its logo and trademarks and for
those of the 32 clubs. Another set of rights was obtained from the
NFLPA for the players’ identities. Those agreements remain in place
for the 2011 season.
For sponsorships, though, the accord between the league and
Players Inc, the marketing arm of the former union, expired when
the collective bargaining agreement did on March 11.
It’s up to those sponsors if they want to proceed by going after
player rights through a third party, and the NFL is telling
sponsors to make sure they have the appropriate rights before
Indeed, the league has questioned the NFLPA’s rights to seek
group deals because it has decertified as a union.
Players Inc doesn’t agree, naturally, and has been aggressive in
pursuing those sponsorships.
”During the lockout, we are essentially the engine that drives
the NFLPA (financially),” said Keith Gordon, president of NFL
Players. ”We are seeking whatever we can create to be supporting
the players during the lockout. Marketing activity, including
sponsorship, licensing, and event production, supports the players
when they are not getting any other (income) in this situation.
”For us to not have the ability to sell sponsorships, we would
be crippling ourselves. So we are actively pursuing every
opportunity while they are available, which is simply smart
Gordon would not identify specific companies with whom the
players are talking, but cited the categories of personal care,
automotive, technology, financial services, beer, and
”Our players also continue working with select NFL sponsors who
have contingency agreements in place,” Gordon said. ”Outside of
those sponsors, individual player deals may continue to occur
provided the sponsor is not in violation of our exclusive group
player licensing rights.
”While football may not be played on Sundays during the
lockout, the game continues to live through our players. The desire
of fans to connect with NFL players has not diminished one bit, and
in fact may actually increase if no games are played.
”Any players who make the commitment to be visible and engage
with fans, with partners and with media will have an opportunity to
increase their visibility, showcase their personality and impact
their overall marketability.”
And what about the teams and the league itself? NFL merchandise
tends to fly off the shelves throughout the year, but especially
heading into the season. The shadow of the lockout could impact
those sales just as it affects whether games will be missed.
”We have had discussions with nearly all our business partners
and they all exercise their agreements in different ways and times
of the year and with different executions,” Gertzog said. ”We
have a terrific roster we do business with who are very committed
to marketing with the NFL. As we do, they have confidence our labor
situation will be worked out.”
Gertzog points out that Anheuser-Busch, a first-year league
sponsor, will unveil its marketing initiatives at the draft in late
April. His department already has begun discussions for kickoff
weekend in Green Bay in September. There have been conversations
with the various broadcast partners ”based on the current
circumstances and selling advertising and expectations of a
”In terms of our marketing calendar, training camp is an
important vehicle for all the clubs and the NFL,” Gertzog added.
”The clubs have found it a very important avenue to bring new
fans, to get up them up close to the players, and they’ve created
interactive elements that are very appealing. Training camp
experiences have become a very strong and important marketing
effort for the teams.”
Training camps are due to open at the end of July, making them
even more endangered than the games – despite both sides’ marketing
plans being in full swing. The players and the league emphasize
they both are year-round sports properties with whom marketing
partners want to do business.
But there’s also never been a lockout to affect the business of