Bose becomes official sound of the NFL, but players aren't complying

We’ve already written about the issues that could arise with the NFL’s agreement with Bose, especially if players decide not to comply with the ban of Bose’s competitors during team pre-game warmups and post-game interviews. Bose tried to alleviate some issues by shipping free headsets to teams. After all, Bose and the NFL couldn’t force players to buy Bose headphones or earbuds.

Colin Kapernick was the first NFL player to thumb his nose at the NFL, wearing Beats by Dre headphones after the San Francisco 49ers’ victory last week. The NFL hit him with a $10,000 fine. Surely, that would send a message to NFL players: if they don’t comply with the NFL’s new rules, they will be fined. Let’s check in with some of the players.

Cam Newton

John Grieshop/Getty Images
John Grieshop/Getty Images

So, Cam is wearing similar Beats by Dre headphones to the pair worn by Colin Kapernick. How about Richard Sherman?

Richard Sherman

Cornerback Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks wears 'Beats by Dr. Dre' headphones as he warms up before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at CenturyLink Field on October 12, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

It looks like the NFL will have to hand out another fine to Sherman as well.

As it turns out, even players who don’t have headphone endorsement deals are wearing whatever headphones they like.

Tom Brady

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warms up before an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
AP Photo/Mike Groll

Look closely. Those earbuds . . .  are Beats by Dre branded earbuds. Tom Brady doesn’t even have an endorsement deal with Beats by Dre.

Still, at least the NFL’s TV partners won’t post pictures of players wearing Beats by Dre on social media, especially after most TV partners made the mistake of identifying Microsoft Surfaces as iPads during nationally televised games.


I guess not?

Guerrilla Marketing

Beats by Dre is playing this perfectly. When Bose took over as the official headset from Motorola (not the official sound, which it is now), the previous Motorola deal was valued at roughly $40 million per year. Let’s assume that Beats by Dre is picking up the tab on each fine; this would come across as a gesture of goodwill to its supporters in the league and embolden players to ignore the NFL and Bose. At $10,000 per fine, Beats by Dre would have to cover 4000 fines to equal the potential value of the Bose deal. The brand exposure is worth it.

Even if the NFL continues to fine players and raises the fine for each headphone violation, it probably won’t matter. The more fines the league hands out, the bigger this issue is and the more it’s reported on, only benefiting Bose’s competitor. And if it’s not paying the fines, Beats by Dre has to be loving this free advertising. Bose’s $40 million bought them just enough exposure to make “NFL Bose” only slightly more popular as a Google search term than “NFL Beats by Dre.” Almost every major news outlet is reporting on the issue. It’s generating buzz. It’s creating conversation. It’s making Beats by Dre cooler because the players are going against the establishment. 

The NFL is in a bind. It can’t stop fining the players. But Bose didn’t shell out a large sum of money to see its competitor during pre-game warmups and post-game interviews. Yet the more the NFL fines players, the more exposure Beats by Dre receives. Suspending a player may cause an even larger uproar. This could actually hurt the NFL in future sponsorship negotiations. The league and Bose should try to come up with a creative solution soon, because somehow Beats by Dre is looking like the winner in all of this.

UPDATE: The NFL has clarified its position by saying “players may wear other headphones while on the field for stretching or warm ups, before going out with the team for official pregame activities.” Colin Kapernick also covered his heads with tape to avoid another fine. 

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