As has become tradition, particularly in the United States, sports leagues and clubs have been busy unveiling their 2016 Christmas Day uniforms ahead of the festive season. In the NBA, the tradition recently has seen NBA jerseys feature “script writing in vintage holiday card font” that will be worn during the games scheduled on Christmas Day. For the NBA’s current apparel provider, Adidas, this will be its last year manufacturing these special uniforms, as 2016 marks the end of its eleven-year partnership with the league. Nike was announced last year as having signed an eight-year deal worth “roughly $1 billion, according to sources,” which is to commence in 2017. It is noted that, unlike previous apparel deals with Reebok and Adidas, Nike's logo “will appear on NBA game jerseys”, with this being a first for the league.
Also in the news recently, and with particular relevance to Australia, sportswear clothing company BLK announced they had been placed into receivership last month. As the manufacturing supplier of a number of AFL clubs, and many other sporting organisations nationally, this places merchandise and apparel production for the 2017 season in jeopardy. Despite the full impact of this announcement on the various clubs and leagues not yet being known, the Richmond Football Club has been proactive in bringing forward a previously-arranged contract arrangement for apparel with Puma, and terminating its agreement with BLK.
Apparel manufacturing and sponsorship agreements are often extremely valuable in the sporting sphere, especially with renowned brands such as Manchester United (deal with Adidas for reportedly £750 million for ten years), Barcelona FC (deal with Nike for reportedly £140m a season) and Collingwood Football Club (five-year deal with ISC). As such, the particular agreements can vary in scope in terms of the attire provided, the benefits for the various parties, and the limitations placed on athletes of the club or league in terms of their own apparel arrangements. Generally, the club or league is provided with apparel, as defined in the agreement, whilst the provider receives the benefit of promotion, sponsorship or association with the club or league. The agreement will also provide for the length of the term, the rights to licence a trademark and the terms upon which the agreement may be terminated.
Because of the ever-present representation of an apparel-provider’s association with a sport, league or governing body due to logo placement on playing gear, negative publicity regarding the sport, league or governing body can affect the reputation of these providers, and impact upon their financial bottom-line. An example of a termination right in action, in addition to the move by Richmond to end its deal with BLK, was Adidas’ recent decision to terminate its agreement with the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) three years before their eleven-year sponsorship deal was to expire. This has been reported to be due to the “doping scandal sweeping the sport,” with Asics Corp reported to be taking over as the official sponsor.
When you sit down to watch the Aussies on Boxing Day in the cricket, or you or your children unwrap the latest Melbourne Renegades, St Kilda Saints or Melbourne United playing top on Christmas Day, take some time to see if you can locate the symbol of the apparel provider on the gear… whilst often not considered, this connection with the club is often an extremely valuable association for both the provider and the club itself.
On behalf of the Sports Law team at Harwood Andrews, we wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
For advice or further information regarding apparel manufacturing and sponsorship agreements, or other areas of Sports Law, please contact: