Case Study – Guerilla Sports Marketing

August 17, 2006

Did you know Reggie Bush wears Adidas shoes?

You do now, even if you only caught 2 minutes of sports news. Did Adidas do a press release? Autograph signing at Foot Locker? Nope, just used odd NFL rules and bureaucracy to their advantage by asking Reggie to wear the illegal (brand) shoes in a preseason game.

Reggie got fined $10k for the uniform infraction, which Adidas will likely pay, in addition to the millions he already gets in the endorsement deal. The NFL doesn’t allow unofficial brands to show their logos. As a sidenote, Adidas owns Reebok, which is approved by the NFL, so one could assume some lawyers will make the whole thing go away.

The marketing lesson is that everytime someone said Reggie Bush, they said Adidas, all for $10k. So it makes sense to exploit sports leagues, award shows, and other events that have funny rules and are covered by the popular media.

Take for example, Under Armour, a rapidly growing sports apparel company that started by making a shirt that wicked away sweat and kept you dry. A novel, billion dollar concept. But now, they want to sell shorts, warm ups, hats, and shoes. It’s a niche brand that most people don’t know about even though they’re a public company, so they need to make it mainstream to make Nike money.

Just a week prior to the Reggie and Adidas stunt, Under Amrour signed an agreement with the NFL to become official so any NFL player can wear their shoes. Again, a sidenote, in that UA only gave the NFL some warrants to buy stock at a now underwater price, but that still costs them capital. The worst part is that it wasn’t a newsworthy deal.

Instead, UA could have paid a nominal amount to every rookie or guy fighting for a contract or even the whole defensive team to wear their shoes for the Monday Night game of that week. These are the types of guys that are in their commercials, no-name players who need smart equipment, just like the recreational basketball player who is really the customer. So yes, they’d also have to pay the fines, so maybe it costs them a million bucks, but the media would be ranting and raving for the rest of the week. It might be bigger than TO this year.


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