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Friday, August 17, 2012
Was Motorola's deal with NFL worth cost?

By Darren Rovell

Jason Garrett
The familiar Motorola "M," such as on Jason Garrett's headset, won't be on sidelines anymore.
When fans watch NFL games this season, two changes might stand out: The Nike logos replacing the Reebok ones and the fact that NFL coaching headsets no longer have the Motorola logo.

Over the past 13 seasons, the Motorola "M" became synonymous with the league's on-field branding. It became as much a part of the visual inventory as Gatorade was on the sidelines.

But in April, right before Motorola Mobility was bought by Google, the brand ended the partnership, which reportedly was worth $40 million a year to the NFL. SportsBusiness Journal reported that the offer Motorola ultimately pulled off the table was a five-year deal worth about $250 million.

For a long time, Motorola publicly sang the virtues of the deal. In 2001, Dave Weisz, Motorola's director of global sports and events marketing, told the Chicago Tribune that the advertising more than paid for itself. The company had estimated that it received $350 million a season in equivalent advertising value from being on the headsets.

The company also said a survey it conducted showed that preference for Motorola products rose 37 percent among NFL fans versus those who didn't consider themselves a fan of the sport.

I'd like to see how that study was done.

While the deal was certainly high-profile, and I don't begrudge the NFL for selling the inventory, I could never understand how this translated into me, the consumer, wanting to buy a Motorola product. Others couldn't understand it either, apparently. In a Twitter poll, where I asked my followers if Motorola's association with the NFL led to them buying a Motorola product, more than 96 percent said no. I stopped counting after 200 votes.

For one, there wasn't any practicality to the headsets. I'm sure you're not shocked to hear that a company called Telex, not Motorola, made them. What was it about the technology that I should be impressed with? Was there any translation to the consumer? In other words, if I thought its NFL headset was so great, maybe I'd buy a practical headset that they were trying to sell me. I never heard that pitch.

The only thing I really wanted was the blow-up version so I could dress as a coach for Halloween.

Companies often get caught up in seeing their logos in high-profile places. I think Motorola was guilty of that. Maybe if the company delegated more dollars to their engineers to spend more time on infrastructure and the future of the phone business, which current owner Google obviously did, it wouldn't be in the position it's in now.