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Monday, the Baltimore Ravens terminated Ray Rice after the video surfaced showing him knocking out his then fiancé, now wife, Janay. The NFL suspended him indefinitely, and now Nike and EA Madden NFL 15 have severed ties with the football star, taking away his potential for lucrative endorsement deals.

Endorsement deals between companies and athletes are high-risk, but these businesses bank on a high reward. A corporation spends millions of dollars to align with a popular athlete, and millions more on advertising campaigns around that athlete. Because of this investment, there is now a “morals clause” included in contracts.

A morals clause allows a sponsor to terminate a deal with an athlete who has tarnished the company’s image based on some “immoral” conduct such as drug use or criminal charges.

Notable examples of dumped athletes due to morals clause infringements include Paraolympian Oscar Pistorius, who had $2 million annual endorsement deals prior to his arrest on murder charges, and cyclist Lance Armstrong, who had enormous deals with Nike and Anheuser Busch before his admission to doping. MLB’s Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi lost millions in sponsorships with Nike, Pepsi, MasterCard and KFC after the BALCO steroid scandal broke.

A morals clause can also cover public fighting, drunk driving and domestic scandals.

Tiger Woods had some of the biggest athlete product endorsers ever, yet in 2010, the fallout from the golfer’s extramarital affairs cost him over $20 million as AT&T, Gatorade and others bailed.

Inappropriate social media behavior detrimental to a brand’s reputation can also cost an athlete a contract. Champion sportswear dropped NFL player Rashard Mendenhall after he tweeted personal comments sympathizing with Osama bin Laden and questioning the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The list of athletes who have been abandoned by sponsors because of illegal or unethical behavior will continue to grow. Because the risks are so high for businesses, morals clauses have become a necessity in endorsement deals.



bolgheader_BrandingNo pictures, please.

The American PGA and PGA European Tour have banned the use of social media at the upcoming coveted Ryder Cup to be played in Scotland later this month.

Tournament organizers released in a statement earlier this week, “No audio or video capture is permitted at all during the six-day event as the (PGA) and the PGA European Tour want to make sure their image is intact, and players are not distracted…You must not sell, license, publish (including, without limitation, via Twitter or Facebook or any other social media site) or otherwise commercially exploit photographs.”

This is a prime example of how some brands just don’t get it. The PGA wants to make sure their image is in tact? What image exactly is that? The one that shuns its fans from sharing the experience around the world? The one that shelters its sport from the change in technology that propels its very livelihood forward? Or, the one whose athletes make millions off social media’s commercial influence?

The PGA isn’t alone here, either. The Olympics tried to do the same thing last winter when they banned photos from within Olympic Village. And, shockingly, athletes adopt this policy every day, stating reasons like keeping their private life private, not enough time, too much work to keep up with fans, etc. etc.

Here’s the honest truth. The only brand leagues, organizations and athletes is leaving in tact in the absence of a social media presence is just that – “Absent.” With no brand to connect to, fans and consumers can only deduce one thing – it doesn’t exist. So, for better or worse, wrong or right, they replace it with whatever it means to them.

Sorry guys, but you gotta get with the times. Social media is part of the sports landscape now, plain and simple.

No pictures? Please.

My friend and client, Ralph Reiff, often reminds his executives not to “confuse an output with an outcome.” Ralph knows that hard work is not enough. To succeed in sports, business or life, one must achieve, not merely show up.

In the market of athlete brand building, being busy with appearances, interviews and social media posts is not enough. Smart marketing activity should be producing brand awareness and opportunity for the athlete. If it’s not, the athlete and their business advisers are merely creating outputs, not outcomes.

How can the athlete ensure they’re on the road to brand achievement?Brand Definition

First you define, then you position. If the athlete hasn’t defined their brand, they’re just throwing a generic presence into the market. Without a brand message, there’s little-to-nothing memorable for fans to recall. The athlete’s just a one graph USA Today piece, a forgettable Mike & Mike Show segment, or a commercial ignored during a trip to the refrigerator. Without a brand, the athlete is merely message static.

Consistency, consistency, consistency. In marketing, it is said that consumers need to hear a consistent message multiple times before internalizing the message and taking action. For athletes, it means describing “who you are and what you stand for” consistently and frequently in every interview or appearance. If the athlete is only sometimes true to their brand, the prospects of successfully growing a brand image diminish.

Have you put in the work? Some expect commercial success automatically or after only a few media interviews. The fact is that the same rules apply on or off the field. Years of repetition and hard work are the keys to success in branding and sports. Those who ignore this rule will be frustrated and unsuccessful.

There are many nuances to a successful personal branding campaign. However, the fundamentals of brand definition, message consistency, and hard work serve as the campaign’s underpinning. The more one remembers these three fundamentals, the greater the likelihood that media outputs will become brand outcomes.

I am a lifelong sports fan and have spent my entire career in merchandising. Now, at U/S Sports Advisors, I get to combine my passion with my area of business expertise. As such, the recent negotiations between athletic apparel and footwear giants Nike and Under Armour and basketball superstar Kevin Durant have caught my attention.

Sourced reports put Under Armour’s offer to Durant between $26.5-28.5 million annually, making it one of the largest endorsement deals ever. Other possible perks of the deal include building a community center that would bear his mother’s name and stock options in the fast-growing company.

The rise of Under Armour in the sports apparel industry has been meteoric. After it’s founding in 1996 by former University of Maryland football player Kevin Plank, the brand has grown to approximately 17 percent of the athletic apparel market. And its stock is up an astounding 96 percent over the past year, compared to just 21 percent growth for industry leader Nike.

That said, the big boys in the industry like Nike and Adidas  earn most of their top line revenue from footwear – an area where Under Armour has struggled to gain share. Recent numbers estimate their market share at only .6 percent of the $1.45 billion basketball shoe market. Durant’s signature shoes alone brought in approximately $175 million for Nike last year.

It may not be safe to assume that Durant can sell the same number of shoes at Under Armour as he did for Nike, but can one of the most marketable athletes on the planet turn the tide for a small player in an industry dominated by giants? We will have to wait and see, but Under Armour is betting $265 million that he can.

I grew up a Tomboy. I spent my summers at the softball diamonds and in the gym. My willingness to consistently be dirty and sweaty, enjoy an uneven farmer’s tan, walk around with scraped knees and use eye black slowly transitioned into an effort to avoid tan lines and a preference for eye shadow. I grew out of my boyish ways and traded them for feminine qualities, but my deep-rooted love for sports and competition will never leave.

So one can imagine when I heard about Mo’Ne Davis of the Little League Mid-Atlantic championship team Taney Dragons, I was thrilled! Mo’Ne is a 13-year-old All-Star pitcher, firing off 70-mph fastballs in a complete game shut out to get her team to THE tournament known as the Little League World Series (LLWS).

She is not the first, but the 18th girl to play in the LLWS. These girls are not only running the playground, they are queens of the court! Obviously, I’m obsessed.

Let’s continue. Last week, the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs hired Becky Hammon, the league’s first female full-time coach. After a successful 16-year playing career, Hammon served as an intern for the Spurs before collecting her official assistant title. What a baller.

Want more?

Okay, I’ll mention that the San Diego Padres are looking for a new general manager and Kim Ng, the senior vice president of baseball operations for Major League Baseball, is at the top of their list. That’s a huge deal.

So what is my point? Girls are the bomb? No, we already knew that. The point is that the sports industry is continuously changing and evolving. This is no longer the Good Ol’ Boys Club. Women are not only competing for these positions but they’re winning. And they’re beating the boys in the process.

Women are being hired to do more than stand on the sideline and look pretty. They are being hired for their expert opinion, both on the field and off. And that is fabulous.