The NFL is not in a good place right now. To add to the strange lack of punishments for domestic violence cases, and the general feeling that the league is in a vulnerable place, they have a sponsorship snafu to deal with as well.
Headphone maker Bose is the official headphone sponsor of the league (yes, you can be a sponsor of headphones). In fact, just about any company can pay for play in the NFL world. Did you know Frito-Lay is the chip of the NFL? Or that NFL players are endorsed by Vicks for their cold needs? My personal favorite is the Castrol sponsorship, because when I think about the NFL, I think “Wow. Those guys must know a lot about cars.”
These sponsorships have stipulations, such as not wearing products of competitors in scenarios that might end up on television. Unfortunately, because this isn’t 1940, and everyone has a camera/camcorder in their pocket, just about any situation can end up on TV.
Football players such as Richard Sherman and Colin Kaepernick, two of headphone maker Beats By Dre‘s most visible promoters, have recently run afoul of the NFL’s sponsorship guidelines. Both have been televised wearing pink Beats in support of “Pinktober,” the NFL’s monthlong campaign for breast cancer charities and research.
The NFL has fined Kaepernick and Sherman $10,000 each, which, while still a substantial amount of money, isn’t that much for guys who make $19 million and $14 million per year. To me, this feels a little bit like the infamous Nike vs. the NBA case from 1985.
Nike gave Michael Jordan red and black shoes to match the Bull’s uniform. The shoes were found to violate the NBA’s dress code, so David Stern (then commissioner of the league) fined him. Again, and again, and again. Each time, Nike paid the $5,000 fine, and received publicity, favorable media coverage, and became associated both with Michael Jordan and with a bad boy, competitive attitude that culminated in record sales for the shoes when they hit retail stores. (1)
Beats by Dre has already saturated the market with high-priced, colorful, low audio quality headphones. Nike used that incident to gain their success in the world of basketball shoes. Beats has paid the fines, just as Nike did, and their athletes are continuing to wear the headphones.
Because Beats are associated with Dr. Dre, they already have a brand image, but this coverage is helping to continue the debate about the archaic rules that the NFL operates under. If players like a certain brand, don’t they have a right to use that brand’s products? As long as they aren’t coming out and openly saying “Bose sucks, we prefer Beats,” this seems like an intrusion into the rights of private citizens to do what they want.
Hopefully the NFL can figure out this issue, and get back to things that matter, like playing football, and making sure no one else is a victim of domestic violence or child abuse.
1. Trex, E. (2011, June 2). Why Michael Jordan’s Fancy New Sneakers Cost $5,000 Per Game. Retrieved October 15, 2014.