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OUTSIDE THE LINES EXPLORES THE WORLD OF ATHLETE MARKETING
Published April 23, 1996
In an "Outside the Lines" special entitled, "Sports, Inc.," ESPN's Bob Ley reported on the "modern incorporated athlete" and how, in the "booming" sports marketing industry, many superstars make more money off the field through sponsorships and endorsements than they do playing. From the original model fashioned by Arnold Palmer to Shaquille O'Neal's current world of "cameras, commercials and devastating dunks," the show focused on the marketing efforts of several big name stars and reflected on the growing dichotomy of today's athletes. Frank Deford: "We are seeing the creation of two classes of star athletes: the privileged ones who get heavy-duty endorsement money and the dull ones, who have to compete for a living." FACTS OF NOTE: Last year Ken Griffey Jr.'s likeness earned about $100,000 in merchandise sales for Pro Player. This year, that number is expected to be "well" into seven figures. The NFL Quarterback Club, "a powerhouse" owned by 26 former and present QBs (Troy Aikman, John Elway, Steve Young, Boomer Esiason, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly) has hired NFLP to help sell its members to corporations and sponsors. The Club recently added Emmitt Smith, Junior Seau, Barry Sanders, Jerry Rice, and Michael Irvin. NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt's biggest business is collectibles and souvenirs, an industry in which he has the potential to earn over $30M this year. He faces no league-wide merchandising scrutiny, as NASCAR does not require revenue-sharing among drivers. QUOTES OF NOTE: Shaquille O'Neal agent Leonard Armato: "People are a little tired of seeing one dimensional athletes and if they see someone that has not only athletic ability but personality and a variety of talents, it's compelling." Pro Player President David Strumeier: "Ken Griffey is outselling every player in [MLB] products by a minimum of three-to-one and our Ken Griffey sales in the first three months of this year are already ahead of Ken Griffey sales for the entire 1995 year approximately by 40 to 50%." Andre Agassi: "You have to know what you stand for. You have to know why you stand for it and you have to refuse to compromise it. It's called integrity, really, and not to, in a sense, whore yourself out." NFL Properties President Sara Levinson, on the QB Club: "These men recognize the potential of putting their names together into something that is even larger than they are" (ESPN, 4/22).