Remember the television commercial that opens with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick arriving at an opposing team’s stadium, where he is greeted by a throng of screaming, projectile-throwing fans?
Kaepernick dons a pair of Beats by Dre noise-cancelling headphones to tune out the invective-spewing mob, affecting a stoic pose, as the slogan “Hear What You Want” appears on-screen.
The professional athlete still can hear whatever he wants, but Kaepernick and other NFL players must remove their Beats headphones around the television cameras.
Bose secured a league sponsorship deal that effectively allows it to elbow Beats — and any other rival headphone manufacturer — off the playing field.
Under terms of its agreement with the league, the NFL confirmed, Bose received a broad set of rights that entitle it to prevent players (or coaches) from wearing any other manufacturer’s headphones during televised interviews.
This ban extends to TV interviews conducted during pre-season training camps or practice sessions and on game day — starting before the opening kickoff through the final whistle to post-game interviews conducted in the locker room or on the podium. The restriction remains in place until 90 minutes after the play has ended.
The NFL, which enforces the terms of the agreement with Bose, defended the practice.
“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,” an NFL spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Beats issued a statement saying that its headphones have become part of the pre-game preparations for professional athletes like Kaepernick.
“Over the last few years athletes have written Beats into their DNA as part of the pre-game ritual,” a Beats spokesperson said. “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.”
Bose isn’t the only luxury headphone manufacturer looking to squelch Beats’ marketing clout by blocking its access to athletes during high-profile sporting events. Such televised contests attract millions of television viewers — including those who typically bypass commercials when watching shows they’ve recorded for later viewing.
Sony kept its rivals off the pitch this summer, during the month-long World Cup soccer tournament. FIFA informed all 32 competing countries that Beats products were banned during media briefings and on match days.
The reason for the aggressive marketing tactics is clear: Beats by Dre, which Apple acquired for $3 billion earlier this year, accounts for 61 percent of the premium headphone market (costing $100 or more) in the U.S., according to researcher the NPD Group. Bose had a distant 22 percent — and Sony a paltry 2 percent, the firm reported.
Updated at 2:50 p.m. Saturday to include a statement from the NFL
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.