When Seattle plays Washington on Monday Night Football, Richard Sherman won’t be able to wear his Beats by Dre headphones during warmups. Bose just signed a deal to become the official sound of the NFL, which means only Bose headphones will be allowed on television during NFL events. That includes warmups and post-game interviews.
This deal creates similar business challenges as the NBA/JBL deal. The NFL can’t force its players to wear Bose headphones. Some players may choose to switch to the NFL’s official partner, but players who have endorsement deals in place with Bose’s competitors will just warm up without their personal playlists.
It will be interesting to see if fines are levied against players wearing non-Bose headphones. The NFL reminded For The Win that it “has longstanding policies that prohibit branded exposure on-field or during interviews.” But does that account for one of the NFL’s television partners filming players walking into the stadium or into the locker room? If Tom Brady is filmed walking into the stadium wearing Uggs brand shoes, he doesn’t get fined because he isn’t wearing Nike. It also doesn’t help that some broadcasters already have a hard enough time correctly identifying the official tablet of the NFL.
In the end, Bose made the decision that this partnership is a good investment. Headphone brands can either market quality or cool/differentiating characteristics. Beats By Dre already has the edgier part of the market cornered. If the only way fans associate Bose with the NFL is the coach’s headset, that may be a problem.
UPDATE: After this article was published, Colin Kapernick showed up at his press conference with pink Beats by Dre headphones. He was fined $10 thousand. By going against the establishment (NFL), Beats by Dre and Colin Kapernick continue to build an edgy brand image. Kapernick declined comment when asked if the headphone company would be paying his fine. The free marketing and brand exposure is most likely worth more than just $ 10K.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute and Senior Editor of The Fields of Green.