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Nike Says Farewell To Jeter In Showcase Of Biggest Athletes

Bloomberg, July 14, 2014

By Erik Matuszewski

What does $120 million a year in Nike-sponsored talent look like?

Just watch the shoe company’s new commercial, which commemorates the final season of Derek Jeter’s professional baseball career. The ad, called “RE2PECT,” serves as a showcase for other athletes with Nike Inc. (NKE) endorsement deals, including top moneymakers Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

Jeter, playing his 20th season with the New York Yankees, was the first athlete to sign with Nike’s Jordan Brand, a clothing line developed by the basketball star. Other than Michael Jordan himself, Jeter has had more Jordan Brand shoes than any athlete. The 40-year-old shortstop — who earns $9 million to $10 million in endorsements annually, according to the Wall Street Journal — first signed with the brand in 1999.

While baseball isn’t a major source of Nike revenue, Jeter’s upstanding reputation has been an asset to the company, said Jim Andrews, a senior vice president for content strategy at the sponsorship consulting firm IEG.

“Jeter plays an important role for Nike,” Andrews said. “He stands apart from some of Nike’s other endorsers — such as Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Joe Paterno, and even to some degree, Jordan — in being universally admired and respected, without any taint of scandal or controversy.”

Jordan’s Revenue

Jordan is still Nike’s highest-paid athlete, more than a decade since his retirement as a player from the National Basketball Association. He made about $90 million last year from his partnership with the Beaverton, Oregon-based company, according to Forbes magazine. Woods, who has 14 major championship victories as a golfer, gets more than $20 million a year from Nike, Forbes estimates.

In the latest ad, Jeter steps up to the plate at Yankee Stadium and a range of New Yorkers, celebrities and fellow athletes tip their hats to him. The commercial includes appearances by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, rapper Jay-Z, film director Spike Lee and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Jeter, who wears No. 2, will bat in the leadoff spot for the American League team in tomorrow’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, marking his 14th and final appearance. The Nike commercial will air just before his first at-bat.

The five-time World Series champion, who is making a $12 million salary in his final season with the Yankees, has also had endorsement contracts with companies such as PepsiCo Inc. (PEP)’s Gatorade, Ford Motor Co. (F), Procter & Gamble Co. (PG)’s Gillette and Movado Group Inc. (MOV)

‘Evil Empire’

Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco, said Jeter has been baseball’s most marketable player every year since 2000.

“In a sport that is very regional in nature and has been racked by performance-enhancing drug controversy, Jeter has managed to rise above it all, enjoy national acclaim, remain scandal-free, appeal to every demographic, and epitomize grace and class — all while playing for a team that many non-New Yorkers view as the ‘evil empire,’” Dorfman said. “No baseball player ever has been, or maybe ever will be, as successful at moving product and enhancing brands as Jeter.”