In a somewhat surprising turn of events, CBS appears to have outbid its broadcast competition for the rights to the new Thursday night NFL package.
Leon Sandcastle isn't real, but that doesn't mean he's not going places. In fact, the imaginary Hall of Fame cornerback, played by Deion Sanders in Grey New York's amusing Super Bowl spot for the NFL Network, just signed an endorsement deal with Under Armour. There's even real photos from the fake signing. (Although of course, you hardly have to be a real person to have real marketing value.) "A talent like Leon doesn't come around very often," says Matt Mirchin, senior vice president of global brand and sports marketing at Under Armour. "Leon is the type of athlete we can't pass up because he plays the game with the experience of someone twice his age, and his trademark Afro and moustache look great on a graphic T-shirt." "There is a ton of buzz on Sandcastle," adds NFL Network's Mike Mayock. What does Sandcastle himself say? "I, for one, know my partnership with Under Armour is a match as good as peanut butter and jelly. The only company in the entire world who could keep up with Leon on and off the field is Under Armour. We're both ready for the Prime-Time, baby." All this is leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, to be broadcast on the NFL Network on April 25. Sandcastle is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick at the draft, according to NFL insiders who should not be believed. But in all seriousness, Sarah M. Swanson, vice president of marketing for NFL Network, says: "Leon's deal with Under Armour is the latest extension of the positive buzz and viral nature of this ad campaign … it's been a tremendous vehicle across all platforms for our partners to engage with the millions of NFL fans following the Combine and Draft on NFL Network."