- Associated Press - Saturday, June 4, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - While fans fret about the NFL lockout affecting everything from training camps to regular-season games, marketing partners for the league and the players association aren’t panicking. Or fleeing.

They are making contingency plans, of course, because the time when sponsors and advertisers must make decisions on how loyal they can be to pro football is rapidly approaching.

“We’re not at an Armageddon date. We not staring that in the face this week,” Eric Grubman, NFL executive vice president of business operations for the NFL, told The Associated Press during the owners’ meetings last week. “The demand is good, I think strong. The platform of being with the NFL remains very valuable and healthy.

“We have had losses (of potential new sponsors) that won’t return immediately. With some of those, people have said they are not signing with us because of the labor situation. Those dollars have moved on forever, but those partners have not, I think. I think when we get back to (playing) games, I like our chances to get them back.

“We’re scratching and clawing to show them this, the value is still going to be there.”

On the other side, NFL Players, the marketing arm for the players association, says it has not lost any marketing partners. Keith Gordon, the organization’s president, believes the worth of its players to advertisers and sponsors could actually grow should the lockout continue into the fall.

“While sponsors are hoping that football resumes in the fall, they’re also positioning themselves to maximize player involvement without games being played,” he said. “The lockout provides greater access to players at a time when they would normally be inaccessible.

“While unfortunate, it creates an opportunity for players that would otherwise not be present.”

But those players already are in danger of losing money _ aside from what they currently are spending for medical coverage and what they potentially will lose in salary and bonuses if training camps, the preseason and real games are lost.

“In general, the most costly part of the lockout has been the contraction of the commercial opportunities for players with NFL sponsors,” Gordon said. “In particular, those (sponsors) who have either decided not to renew or those who have shifted dollars elsewhere.

“Sponsors usually spend the summer months working with players and integrating them into creative (campaigns) for their season-long marketing campaigns.”

One sponsor, Procter and Gamble, has said it’s making alternate plans. Others surely are, as well.

“Of course, we hope that an agreement is reached soon and the season commences as scheduled,” P&G spokeswoman Anne Westbrook said. “But we are planning with many contingencies in mind.”

So are the league’s broadcast partners, who might have the most to lose without a new collective bargaining agreement soon. The last thing ESPN, NBC, Fox or CBS wants is the loss of the cash cow that comes with regular-season telecasts.

Forget the advance payments the networks already paid the NFL that are being held up by Judge David Doty in Minneapolis. Eventually, games will be played and the networks will get the programming they paid for.

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