Around the Horn: March 9th

The development of niche sports (I wouldn’t go so far as to refer to them as “emerging” sports) apparently remains a hip, trendy endeavour among the community of alternative sport enthusiasts.  Last week, we mentioned the “sport” of Taser Ball.  This week?  Standup Paddleboard Yoga…what will they think of next?  What’s the most bizarre sport you’ve seen?

Today’s Oregonian featured interesting insight on the development of a new soccer ball for the upcoming Major League Soccer season.  Adidas America, headquartered here in Portland, OR, made a few tweaks to the ball used the past two seasons.  The redesigned ball should help minimize complaints from league goalies who suggested the old ball would “knuckleball” on them, making it difficult to predict movement patterns.

Heard a heated discussion taking place at lunch today discussing the Andrew Luck vs. Peyton Manning discussion…and not the on-field performance argument either.  The debate was focused on which player would best represent a brand as an endorser.  With questions remaining about Peyton’s ability to bounce back from several neck surgeries and Luck’s “upside” that so many NFL analysts are raving about, which QB would you rather have endorsing your product from this point forward?

Around the Horn: Feb 23rd

Seems Ryan Braun could potentially be setting a new standard for how MLB athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs will be perceived by fans and media.  The Milwaukee Brewers‘ slugger who allegedly failed a drug test received a 50-game suspension from Major League Baseball (shortly after winning the league MVP award).  That suspension was overturned today yet the reason behind the decision has yet to come to light.  Perhaps the biggest question now for Braun, off the field anyway, will be how the news of a “clean slate” will be received by sponsors…does the news make him any more marketable now than yesterday or his reputation damaged beyond repair in the eyes of the sports marketing community? Will the circumstances behind the decision to overturn the suspension influence a brand’s willingness to align products/services with Braun?

It has been a busy week at Nike‘s HQ… What was the biggest announcement from the Beaverton, OR company this week?  Introduction of FlyKnit technology?  Launch of Nike+ basketball?  Upping the ante with their relationship with Knicks star Jeremy Lin?  Previewing the Team USA basketball jerseys?  Announcing a “greener” product line?  Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the original “Dream Team” with a new “retro” Dream Team product line?  Like we said, busy week at Nike’s HQ…

Seems fans in Miami are keeping a watchful eye on the progression of the Peyton Manning situation in Indy.  A group of rabid Dolphins fans are confident Manning provides a slight upgrade at the QB position over Chad Henne and Matt Moore, so much so they were willing to buy a billboard to draw attention to their ManningToMiami campaign.  The billboard encouraged fans to visit their website, www.manningtomiami.com.  The move drew so much attention that the website crashed and was down most of the day Thursday.

While Oakland A‘s General Manager Billy Beane is attending the Academy Awards in hopes of capturing an Oscar for the film adaptation of his book “Moneyball“, baseball analysts will likely be busy picking apart his latest personnel move.  On Monday, it was reported that the team had signed aging slugger Manny Ramirez to a minor league deal worth $500,000.  While many baseball purists have been critical of the decision, it makes sense to take a gamble from a business perspective.  Last year the team ranked last in MLB attendance.  Worst case scenario, Ramirez (who must first serve a 50 game suspension for testing positive for banned substances) will help the ballclub sell some tickets.  Best case scenario, Ramirez helps give the A’s a boost on the field, likely resulting in a significant bump at the turnstiles, a boost in concessions, parking and potentially creating new sponsorship sales opportunities…