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NFL Players Can't Wear Beats Headphones On The Field

Mashable, October 07, 2014

By Todd Wasserman

Many NFL players may love Beats headphones, but as of this past weekend, they have to keep their brand affinity off the field.

As Re/code reported, thanks to an NFL sponsorship with Bose, players and coaches are banned from sporting Beats headphones when the TV cameras are on, and for 90 minutes after that. The league's deal supersedes any agreement the individual players or coaches have made.

Bose inked a deal with the league in August. The NFL went through the 2012-13 season without a headset sponsor. For 13 years before that, Motorola was paying $40 million a year to be the league's official headphone sponsor, according to estimates. The NFL rejected Motorola's attempt to keep the rights at $50 million a year.

Jim Andrews, senior vice president for content strategy at the sponsorship consultant IEG, says Motorola's deal was more wide-ranging than Bose's.

Andrews estimates the Bose deal is in the range of $10 million to $20 million a year, though another industry insider said it was around $32 million a year, or $1 million per club.

That spend has given Bose a solid reason to crack down, says Ben Sturner, CEO of Leverage Agency. "The NFL wouldn't allow players to go to an interview drinking a Coca-Cola product when they have a sponsorship with Pepsi," Sturner says. "The same is true with Beats as the league and Bose is putting down the hammer."

Andrews agreed. "In our world [of sponsorships] it's very standard that you'd have this kind of restriction," he says.

Andrews acknowledges that getting 100% compliance is impossible, especially with ambush marketers like Beats around. For instance, Beats got brand lift during the 2012 London Olympics by sending athletes free pairs of the headphones. Since Beats was not an official sponsor, athletes who tweeted about their Beats headphones wound up deleting the posts.

On the other hand, brands that pay millions for official rights often get shortchanged. A good illustration: NFL announcers keep referring to Microsoft Surface tablets as "iPads" even though Microsoft has paid $400 million to become the league's official tablet sponsor.

Despite its drawbacks, though, Bose's deal is still the brand's best chance to get its logo in front of its target audience. While viewers might tune out commercials, there's no way to avoid the Bose logos onscreen during games. Sturner says Bose is smart to push for its rights, even if it comes across as heavy handed. "They might not have the cool factor right now," Sturner says. "But they're going to have to maximize their deal."