SBD/Issue 132/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Yankee Doodle Dandies: Jeter, A-Rod Most Marketable MLBers

By Jon Show, Staff Writer, SportsBusiness Daily
Marketers Feel Jeter Is
The Complete Package
While Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez have further distanced themselves as MLB’s most marketable players, the league’s steroid issue is clearly having an impact on the marketability of players suspected of performance-enhancing drug-use, according to a survey of 81 sports media and industry execs conducted by THE DAILY. While Jeter was far and away voted MLB’s most marketable player with 64% of first place votes, Barry Bonds, who is nearing the all-time home run record, one of the most coveted milestones in professional sports, did not receive a single first place vote in the eight ballots on which he appeared and failed to finish in the top ten of the overall voting. Jeter and Rodriguez, who combined to account for 78% of all first place votes, also finished No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in THE DAILY’s ’03 survey.

THEY’RE WATCHING: Beyond Bonds, it’s clear that Corporate America is closely monitoring the steroid issue and watching how the league and players mentioned in the controversy handle the situation. A-B VP/Global Media & Sports Marketing Tony Ponturo speaking earlier this month at Octagon/Street & Smith's World Congress of Sports said, “From an advertiser perspective, the only reason you are sponsoring sports is to align with the quality, integrity and image of these sports. When that is jeopardized, you really have to second-guess that commitment.” But Gatorade VP/Sports Marketing Tom Fox is still waiting for the story to unfold: “Ultimately, I think Bonds will be the most affected as companies who normally would try to borrow interest from his record-chase will sit back and stay silent. The others? They weren't big endorsers anyway, and there are enough great, clean players to help carry the game from a marketing standpoint.”

METHOD TO THE MADNESS: All respondents to the survey were asked to list, in order, who they think are the five most-marketable players in MLB. Points were awarded on a five-point scale, with a player awarded five points for a first-place vote, four points for second place, etc. Each player's ranking from our '03 survey is listed in parenthesis. Forty-four players received at least one vote, representing the most players receiving votes in one of our three MLB surveys. Click here to see the full results.
RK
NAME
TEAM
1ST
2ND
3RD
4TH
5TH
TOTAL BALLOTS
TOTAL POINTS
% FIRST
1) Derek Jeter (1) Yankees
52
15
8
0
1
76
345
64.2%
2) Alex Rodriguez (2) Yankees
11
18
9
13
1
52
181
13.6%
3) Curt Schilling (13) Red Sox
7
11
13
11
1
43
141
8.6%
4) Roger Clemens (t9) Astros
2
9
12
5
10
38
102
2.5%
5) Albert Pujols (t31) Cardinals
3
8
5
6
6
28
80
3.7%
6) Ichiro Suzuki (5) Mariners
2
6
10
5
5
28
79
2.5%
7) Carlos Beltran (-) Mets
2
2
4
6
5
19
47
2.5%
8) Johnny Damon (-) Red Sox
0
1
3
2
7
13
24
0.0%
9) Randy Johnson (t9) Yankees
0
1
1
6
4
12
23
0.0%
10) David Ortiz (-) Red Sox
0
1
2
3
1
7
17
0.0%
START SPREADING THE NEWS: Jeter, who has deals with Nike, Gatorade, Take2 and Skippy, among others, appeared on 94% of all ballots cast. Fox Sports President Ed Goren, whose network first began broadcasting MLB in ’96 during Jeter’s Rookie of the Year campaign, said, “Derek Jeter is a gentleman in every sense of the word and possesses everything you want in an athlete: class, leadership, integrity, good looks. He is a role model and plays in the country's biggest market on the most recognized team in sports.” When Rodriguez became the first reigning MVP in league history to be traded before last season, his arrival in N.Y. was projected to be a marriage of perfection — one of the league’s biggest stars in its largest market playing for one of the most marketable and storied franchise in sports. It was even suggested that Rodriguez — who has deals with Nike, Mennen and others — could chip away at some of the endorsement dollars possibly earmarked for Jeter. But many respondents noted the opposite may be occurring. The Javelin Group President Jeff Bliss said, “ARod is a great entrée to the Hispanic market but is starting to hurt himself in the corporate marketing world with his prima donna attitude.” Sports Illustrated VP & CMO Jeff Price: “Jeter is a class act who is actually benefiting in my opinion from the ARod fallout.” Rodriguez, in a supposed down cycle, still finished second in our survey, and many respondents believe he is only a World Series ring away from realizing his full endorsement potential.

Rocket’s Forceful Presence Propels Him
To Fourth Spot On Marketable List
PITCHING IN: Curt Schilling (No. 3), Roger Clemens (No. 4) and Randy Johnson (No. 9), who are each in the twilight of long, successful careers, represent the pitchers voted into the top ten. Schilling secured local deals last year with Dunkin’ Donuts and New England Ford Dealers, and also stumped for President Bush’s ’04 reelection campaign. And in case you missed the indelible image of Schilling’s bloody sock and the vector logo adorning his cleats — a logo that continues to receive priceless exposure in World Series highlights — Schilling also endorses Reebok. Clemens and Johnson jointly appeared in a Cingular/AT&T Wireless spot in ’04 around the companies’ merger, and many marketers said the players’ attraction stems from their success and hard work. Clemens has deals with Texas-based H-E-B and adidas, among others. The Bonham Group Chair Dean Bonham: “The Rocket’s accomplishments cover many pages in the record books and combine with his forceful presence to impact every audience. Corporate marketers can and will capitalize on these assets.” But VF Imagewear MLB Brand Manager Steve Eaves said Clemens’ competitive nature “can sometimes be perceived as confrontational.” Johnson endorses Nike, Pizza Hut and Capital One, and, as expected, many suggested his relocation to N.Y. will provide a boost to his endorsement income. CSMG Int’l Exec VP/Player Marketing Nova Lanktree, whose firm reps Johnson, said, “His presence in New York will add another layer of marketability to his already impressive portfolio.”

ALBERT BOOKS: A rising star whose off-the-field potential is finally starting to get the respect of his MVP-caliber play, Albert Pujols (No. 5) is rapidly becoming the latest power-hitter to ascend MLB’s marketability ranks. Wieden & Kennedy Nike Creative Dir Hal Curtis called Pujols “a guy that appeals to every ethnic group.” EA Sports Senior Brand Manager Brian Movalson: “Albert Pujols is one of the best players in this era, and he’s just starting to mature.” Pujols last season appeared in a DirecTV spot for MLB’s “Extra Innings,” on the cover of EA Sports’ “MVP Baseball 2004” and in Nike’s “Warriors” spot that broke this winter.

HIT PARADE: A fan base the size of Japan helps fuel the endorsements of Ichiro Suzuki (No. 6), whose portfolio includes Mizuno, Asics and Oakley, as well as Japanese-based companies Nikko Cordial, Sato Pharmaceuticals, NTT Communications and Shin Nippon Oil. ESPN.com’s Darren Rovell: “The only thing keeping Ichiro from being the most marketable in the sport is himself. ... If he signed on the dotted line more often, he’d likely be among the highest earning athletes of all time in the endorsement world.” Added ESPN’s Rob Neyer, “Ichiro would rank higher if he’d just speak English!”

UNFROZEN CAVE MAN: The World Series run of the Red Sox has made Johnny Damon (No. 8) one of the league’s most visible players, and his crossover appeal has not been lost on the entertainment industry. Damon makes his authorial debut today, as his book about the ’04 season, “Idiot,” hits shelves, and he also has a cameo role in the Farrelly Brothers’ latest movie, “Fever Pitch,” which premiers Friday. Damon was recognized last year in People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive” issue and will appear on an upcoming episode of Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” And then there is the beard, which he has agreed not to shave off until his promotional book tour ends. Damon shaved publicly last season to help Gillette launch its new M3Power razor, and donated the $15,000 he was paid to charity. His hall of fame-bound whiskers are also the subject of a new DHL spot. Pickett Advertising Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman called Damon “the breakout star of 2004. Damon’s matinee-idol looks, Neanderthal hair, and balls-out style of play combine to form a unique package.” A Puma endorser, the company cited Damon’s distinctive character in using him for its fashion ad campaign last fall.

HOME RUN KING? Public perception of Bonds has certainly affected his marketability, but since withdrawing from the MLBPA’s licensing deal to pursue solo deals, he has secured licensing agreements with Topps, MLB hat supplier New Era, uniform supplier Majestic and others. However, after more revelations of alleged steroid use and possibly facing an extended absence from the field due to knee surgery, to what extent will the negative media coverage around Bonds further affect public opinion of him? Fox Sports announcer Joe Buck: “It is hard to deny the guy his due since he is chasing [Hank] Aaron, but the steroid thing may scare off advertisers, and he has a very low likeability number.” SI’s Tom Verducci agreed: “Bonds has the talent and résumé to have baseball and its fans in the palm of his hands, but he’s never cared about being likeable or being an ambassador for the game. Now his involvement in the steroids issue has pushed people further away from him. I could not see any established, reputable brands interested in associating with Bonds to sell to middle America.”

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