San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Photograph by John Froschauer — AP
By Daniel Roberts
January 13, 2015

In the startup world, lawsuits from ousted co-founders are commonplace. So perhaps it was inevitable that shortly after Beats Electronics (better known as Beats by Dre) inked a deal to sell to Apple for $3 billion, a lawsuit would come along. Last week, cable-maker Monster Inc. and its founder Noel Lee, an early partner of Beats, filed suit against Beats alleging that Dr. Dre (real name: Andre Young) and Interscope chairman Jimmy Iovine duped Lee out of his 5 percent stake in the company.

It was the kind of press that Dre, Iovine, Beats and Apple (AAPL) certainly don’t want. And another apparent bump in the road for Beats came in October when the National Football League signed a new deal to make Bose the exclusive headset provider of the league. That meant that Beats by Dre headphones—endorsed in commercials by a number of football stars—are effectively banned from NFL games, locker rooms, press conferences, and official events.

But what may seem like bad news has proven to be the opposite for Beats. Getting “banned” has created added cool-factor and credibility for the product. (Iovine has said about the ban, “I can’t believe I’m this lucky.”) Those NFL players that advertise for Beats (including 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, and Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant) have continued to wear the headphones, despite risk of the $10,000 league fine for non-approved apparel. (The NFL slapped Kaepernick with the fine in mid-October.) Even players who are not official endorsers of the company have defied the rule: Tom Brady wore Beats earbuds on the field during his warmups before an October game against the Bills. (He was not fined, perhaps because it isn’t as flagrant as wearing them at a postgame press conference, as Kaepernick did.)

It is also likely that when a player is fined, Beats reimburses him. When asked if this happened in his case, Kaepernick replied, “We’ll let that be unanswered.” Regardless, it’s clear that being “banned” by the league has not damaged the brand, and in fact may have even strengthened it.

Similar to the situation with Beats, a number of other prominent apparel or beverage brands have been effectively banned by the NFL because a competitor brand has an exclusive deal. Here are some of the biggest.



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