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In the NBA's "age of the celebrity coach," there is "no scarcity" of Larry Bird sightings, but the Pacers' coach "would be even more pervasive" if he signed with every company seeking his endorsement, according to Sean Horgan of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS. Jill Leone, Owner of FL-based Leone Star Services, which has handled Bird's endorsements since '79: "We are probably only able to do about 15 or 20 percent of what we're offered. Larry is very selective." Bird has long-standing national deals with McDonald's, Converse, Viking Computer Co., Viewsonics computer company and Miller Brewing. In IN, he has local deals with Marsh Supermarkets, for which he stars in a TV spot, as well as print or billboard ad deals with Thomson Consumer Electronics, Nordstrom and The Finish Line. Horgan writes that Bird's endorsement portfolio "is shrinking. By choice." Bird: "They're down to where I don't hardly do any anymore. With this job, it takes too much time" (STAR-NEWS, 4/23) LARRY'S LEGEND: While Leone wouldn't give specifics, sports marketers say that Bird "commands about" $45,000 for a personal appearance and anywhere from $300,000 to $750,000 for a one-commercial national deal. Bird: "I'm getting to the age now where I really don't care, unless it's a corporation that comes to me and really shows a lot of interest, and I have the time in the summer." Horgan writes that Bird "has loyalty that shows up in his relationships with sponsors, which he chooses with care and stays with over the long haul." Bird: "I never dealt with companies that I didn't have a lot of faith in. I try to pick companies that are going to be around for a long time and have a good rapport with customers" (STAR-NEWS, 4/23).
Following last week's endorsement deal with Links Direct, SI's "Golf Plus" notes that Fuzzy Zoeller "completed the six-step program of image rehab: gaffe, denial, loss of endorsements, apology, reacceptance, endorsements regained" (SI, 4/27 issue)....Pacific Trading Cards signed Padres OF Tony Gwynn as its spokesperson. Gwynn will appear in all print and TV ads, as well as on display boxes, wrappers and other promo materials during the '98 season (O.C. REGISTER, 4/22)....Jaguars QB Mark Brunell was named spokesperson for Players Inc, the marketing arm of the NFLPA (Players Inc). NOTES: TX-based Duckster, a maker of golf rain gear, shirts and hats, has purchased Pro-Line Cap, which makes headwear for sports teams, corporations, colleges and related entities. Bill McCoy, a member of Duckster's board of directors, has been named President of Pro-Line (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/23)....ESPN's Pro Beach Hockey will feature the first-ever continuous rotational signage for hockey supplied by ANC Sports. ANC will supply 100 feet of its Space and Time signage (PBH)....Gatorade will sponsor "Breaking Barriers: It's a Complete Game," a new, multi- curricular classroom educational program that uses the story of Jackie Robinson to teach kids about American history, life skills and ideals (MLB)....In Italy, "some lawmakers want to sever that country's soccer ties with Nike over allegations of labor abuse in Nike's Asian factories. A leftist political party is behind the effort which gained steam recently when the Italian team unveiled their World Cup uniforms that features a Nike swoosh on the chest" (Bob Ley, "SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/22).
The Univ. of Memphis, "reacting to criticism from some boosters, is reviewing the sponsorship" by a MS casino of a Tiger Clubs golf tournament, according to David Williams of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. UM AD R.C. Johnson: "I don't know that our position has changed any, but I certainly think it merits taking a look at it. ... [W]e have two choices. We go as we are, or else I send them the money back." The Horseshoe Casino is paying UM $10,000 for the Tiger Clubs/Horseshoe Casino Spring Golf Fling, scheduled for May 11. The Tiger Clubs are the fund-raising program for the UM athletic department, and Johnson said that he thought a Tiger Club outing, "something away from the campus, not involving student-athletes," was an event for which he could utilize the casino's sponsorship (COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/22). In Memphis, Geoff Calkins: "We have gone so far with this endorsement stuff, we take so much of it for granted, that sometimes it's important to step back and remember that universities aren't supposed to exist for the sole purpose of making money" (COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 4/22).