Just Like Jordan – Advertising by Getting Fined

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.


Image courtesy of BeatsbyDre product information page, Studio Beats

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.

7 thoughts on “Just Like Jordan – Advertising by Getting Fined

  1. Player sponsorship is tough because it can bring in a lot of fans but your brand reputation is susceptible to the actions of the player you sponsor. Companies have to decide if they are willing to put their reputation on the line for a skilled player.


  2. I have to agree with your Castrol sponsorship statement because it’s true I wouldn’t think that they knew a lot about cars. That definitely tied into your article because some of the items sponsored wouldn’t be something of value except for celebrity endorsement. However those items that are likely to hit mainstream society should be looked at. Yes they are able to pay the fines and then have shoes like Michael Jordan but what if this goes too far? Would they monopolize the market, would they have to pay the player just because they are wearing their item and endorsing it, or if they ended up doing something like domestic abuse and the company is intertwined with that. There are a lot of factors and the NFL should have regulations but they should update them in accordance with societal standards.


  3. A player should not be limited to certain products simply because they sponsor the NFL. If they want to wear a different brand of headphones then do it! The NFL should not have the ability to fine players this way. Ridiculous.


  4. I think the NFL could benefit most from focusing on the promoting breast cancer awareness, as opposed to focusing on promoting its sponsors, especially in the light of the recent domestic abuse cases.This situation is not helping with the reputation of the NFL, in terms of how people think it views and values women.


  5. I think that this article and concept is very closely related to something I had posted earlier about the relationship between the NFL and CoverGirl, another one of their woman orientated promotional sponsors. I don’t see the relationship between the two and if there is any, I think that it’s a very slim factor because truthfully people are going to continue to buy certain brands just based on what they have in the past.


  6. The NFL has become so corporate it’s unbelievable, I think it’s ridiculous to fine someone based on a product their wearing. Especially now, I mean don’t they have bigger things to worry about? Like domestic violence and child abuse cases?


  7. I agree with Olivia, what an athlete wears shouldn’t be such a problem as say, domestic violence and child abuse. Additionally, these athletes are people and have a right to wear whatever they want. Part of being on a team is representing yourself in the way they want you to, however, the NFL is being a little difficult enacting rules such as this one.


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