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Cam Newton's Shoe & Apparel Negotiations Heat Up

Cam Newton
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Cam Newton

Cam Newton’s media workout yesterday in San Diego was by most accounts a stellar performance. Former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, now an ESPN analyst, said scouts “would have been slobbering.”

And while it might start to move him up the draft boards, the workout could also help the Heisman Trophy winner up the ante in the biggest marketing battle over an NFL Draft pick since Reggie Bush five years ago.

A national champion who is also a Heisman Trophy winner and has potential in the NFL is likely worth about $500,000 annually to a shoe and apparel brand in this marketplace. But Newton has one huge thing going for him — his college team, Auburn, was an Under Armour team. With 17 interlocking “UA” logos on him each Saturday, he’s more identifiable with Under Armour than any athlete has ever been for the $1 billion company.

Although Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank told me no one athlete is bigger than the brand, it will obviously be good for Under Armour’s marketing consistency. Nikeknows that. And Nike has a blank checkbook not only to get players who they want to use, but to buy players that they merely want to keep away from the competition.

With Nike getting the NFL main apparel deal starting in 2012, they can win Newton if they think he’s the next big thing, but they can also just spoil Under Armour’s party. I don’t think Adidas gets into the game because their Reebok brand is fading from its official deal and I’m not convinced they think their Reggie Bush deal was well spent.

Newton was playing the game well at his media workout. He warmed up in a Nike sweatshirt, Nike shorts and Under Armour cleats.

Nike also has the advantage because Newton’s marketing agent is Carlos Fleming from IMG. Since IMG’s main representation is now in tennis and golf, the agency has more of its top stars with Nike than any other brand – Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, to name a few. But Under Armour does have a dog in the fight. They’ve already teamed up with IMG Academies on their training initiative.

Nike, with 20 times the marketing budget of Under Armour, is going to have a chance to match Under Armour’s offer. With so much as stake, I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers hit close to $800,000 a year for Newton.

Sources say that one side will likely be declared the winner by the Combine in two weeks or perhaps as soon as early next week.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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