Beats by Dre headphones have a great relationship with athletes, not such a great relationship with athletic leagues. Bose is the latest brand to negotiate a marketing deal that effectively gives the boot to Beats. The contract with the NFL bans them from pre-season practices and training camps, from actual games, and all televised interviews no matter where they are (in the locker room, during a press conference, etc). The NFL is responsible for enforcing the rule.
Previously, Sony entered into a licensing deal with FIFA and basically banned Beats from soccer matches. Both brands have clearly learned their lesson from the Olympics, in which Panasonic had a sponsorship deal and was overshadowed by all of the athletes walking around rocking their free Beats headphones.
According to Re/code, which first reported on the news, Beats “accounts for 61 percent of the premium headphone market (costing $100 or more) in the U.S.”
The NFL says their ability to restrict brands from different aspects of the sport has been on the books for a while. “The NFL has longstanding policies that prohibit branded exposure on-field or during interviews unless authorized by the league. These policies date back to the early 1990s and continue today,” a spokesperson told Re/code.
That spokesperson obviously didn’t talk to Richard Sherman:
— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) October 6, 2014
But Beats are ubiquitous throughout sports. You can find ads with soccer stars, basketball players, tennis players, football players and others wearing them. Not to mention the appearances that are unrehearsed. So these other marketers are fighting an uphill battle trying to draw the Beats away from the musical side of these athletes.
Clearly, it’s a fight worth having. Beats was acquired by Apple this year for $3 billion per year and certainly it’s because of their pervasiveness, the cool factor and their popularity. But can you force athletes to wear the other brands with the same swagger and frequency as Beats? We’ll have to wait and see.
It’ll also be interesting to see what Beats has up its sleeve now that the brand is facing these road blocks. If they can still manage to be a big presence in spite of these marketing tactics from the competition, it’ll be a case study marketers refer to in the future.