The Elite Eight features seven Nike schools and one team covering up the logo of its apparel partner.
UCLA, one of two double-digit seeds remaining in the tournament, is in the middle of a legal battle with Under Armour over one of the largest apparel contracts in NCAA history. It’s less a matter of whether the deal will end and more a matter of how; UCLA has already inked a new partnership with Nike that will kick in on July 1.
In the meantime, the Bruins are covering up the Under Armour logo on their jerseys, and many players are wearing Nike shoes, depriving the Baltimore-based sportswear company of valuable exposure during one of the most popular television events of the year. Though the UA logo is still visible on shorts and some sideline apparel, Under Armour has lost out on roughly $12 million worth of marketing exposure during UCLA’s run, according to Apex Marketing Group. Should the Bruins make the championship, that number could rise to more than $35 million.
What would normally be a huge marketing opportunity—one of college basketball’s most storied programs back in the Elite Eight for the first time in nearly 15 years—is being largely ignored by both sides. UCLA gear isn’t listed on the company’s fan site, and Under Armour’s logo is no longer on the Bruins homepage.
Under Armour also says it has no plans to produce any UCLA product in relation to the NCAA tournament. A UCLA spokeswoman referred questions to the company.
The 15-year, $280 million UCLA-Under Armour deal went sour last year in the middle of the pandemic, when Under Armour sent the school a letter stating its intention to terminate the deal due to a major change in circumstance. The letter came as Under Armour sheds major sports marketing deals across its business.
UCLA sued Under Armour for breach of contract, and unsuccessful mediation attempts concluded in August. The lawsuit remains in litigation in L.A. County Court, with a hearing set for April 15.
Sportico will be publishing one short business highlight every weekday (and on some weekend days) during the three-week NCAA tournament.
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March 20: Men’s vs. Women’s NCAA Tournament Money
March 21: Indexing the NCAA’s Corporate Sponsors
March 22: Largest Financial Mismatch Produces Biggest Upset
March 23: As Top Seeds Lose, Sportsbooks Win
March 24: #NotNCAAProperty Reaches Millions Online
March 25: Sidelined in 2020, TV Advertisers are Back in Force
March 26: Loyola’s Rambling Flutie Effect
March 27: Juwan Howard vs. Dawn Staley Money Matchup
March 28: The Other NCAA Men’s Tournament is a Profit Machine