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Beats, Bose battle over brand exposure on NFL broadcasts

Fighting over which set of $300+ headphones will appear cradling the ears of NFL superstars and coaches while millions of people watch football on Sunday, Bose recently struck up a sponsorship deal with the NFL that effectively bans Beats headphones on the field. While players, coaches and other employees of the NFL can wear Beats privately, they have been ordered by the NFL to wear Bose headphones during actual broadcasts. According to NFL representatives, this ban also applies to the use of Beats by Dre headphones using pre-game and post-game television interviews, practice sessions during the week and pre-season training camps.

According to Re/Code, players and coaches can change back to their Beats by Dre headphones exactly 90 minutes after a game ends. Releasing a statement about the ban on Beats headphones, a NFL representative said “The NFL has longstanding policies that prohibit branded exposure on-field or during interviews unless authorized by the league. These policies date back to the early 1990s and continue today. They are the NFL’s policies – not one of the league’s sponsors, Bose in this case.  Bose is not involved in the enforcement of our policies. This is true for others on-field.”

Of course, this didn’t stop Beats from releasing a statement about the player’s ability to choose their own headphones. Specifically, a Beats spokesperson said “Over the last few years athletes have written Beats into their DNA as part of the pre-game ritual. Music can have a significant positive effect on an athlete’s focus and mental preparedness and has become as important to performance as any other piece of equipment.”

It’s likely that Bose believes this sponsorship deal will help the company regain a portion of the premium headphones market. According to a recent NPD study, Beats controls over 60 percent of the premium headphones market while Bose controls less than 25 percent. Arguably, all the money spent on marketing these headphones to a mass audience is passed along to the consumer in the price of the headphones. Apple recently purchased Beats for approximately $3 billion and heavily integrated the line of Beats products into the Apple Store.

Interestingly, the Bose sponsorship deal is very similar to the multi-year deal Microsoft struck with the NFL that promotes the use of the Microsoft Surface tablet on the field. Hilariously, several NFL announcers weren’t aware of the shift to the Surface hardware and continually referred to the tablets as Apple iPads during multiple games in September. Speaking about the iPad mentions over broadcast, a Microsoft spokesperson said “Despite the majority of our friends in the booth correctly identifying the Surface on NFL sidelines, we’re working with the league to coach up a select few.”

While the NFL is specifically cracking down on brand sponsorship during broadcasts, the organization didn’t specifically state if players could promote Beats in commercials or other advertisements. Over the last year, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman appeared in commercials promoting the use of Beats to block out the constant noise of rival fans and the press core.