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L.A. TIMES LOOKS AT FREE AGENCY IN THE SPONSORSHIP MARKET
Published September 26, 1997
While "there are solid reasons" why players "stick with their corporate partners," that doesn't mean they can't "sign with a direct competitor," according to Greg Johnson of the L.A. TIMES. Williams & Connolly's Lon Babby, the agent for Grant Hill, who helped negotiate his recent $80M Fila deal: "There's nothing endemic in an endorsement contract that prevents movement. In the vernacular of sports, you would be a free agent." Babby said that Hill's deal "doesn't include a non-compete clause" and that any such language "would push up the value of an endorsement contract." Babby: "That is going to be factored in, because you're talking about tying up a significant portion of a pro athlete's playing career." Babby added, however, that Hill "recognizes that continuity benefits both sides." While Johnson noted that some "well-known names have jumped ship to sign with a direct competitor," including Michael Jordan from Coca-Cola to Gatorade and Chris Webber from Nike to Fila, such a switch "can backfire." Consumers may view switches with "cynicism," figuring players are looking to simply "grab a bigger bag of money," while corporate sponsors may not forgive an athlete who "jumps ship to pitch a competing product" (L.A. TIMES, 9/25).