SBJ/November 26 - December 2, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Bonds cans marketing agent

National League MVP Barry Bonds has abruptly switched marketing agents after a season in which he set a home run record that should have corporate sponsors knocking on his door with endorsement offers like never before.

Now representing Bonds is a joint venture between Advantage Marketing Group of Irving, Texas, and Miami-based Pro Access. Bonds had been represented by Impact Sports Marketing, the Atlanta firm of baseball agent Scott Boras.

Bonds' deal with AMG/Pro Access is for 18 months and is limited to endorsements. Bonds will continue to be represented by Boras as he seeks what will likely be one of the largest playing contracts in history. Boras did not return calls seeking comment.

The San Francisco Giants slugger hit a single-season-record 73 home runs in 2001 and is approaching career milestones in both home runs and stolen bases. He also has a chance to surpass Henry Aaron's career mark of 755 round-trippers.

Steve Hoskins, Bonds' business adviser, said Bonds was seeking an agency that had a track record of building programs with sponsors around these milestone moments. AMG and Pro Access built those kinds of programs for Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys ("Run With History") and former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders.

"We want long-term marketing programs and corporate relationships that will continue after Barry finishes playing," Hoskins said.

Even after his banner year, Bonds' marketability remains in question.

"He's a tough sell, based on the public perception of him as arrogant and aloof, and we're at a time where sports marketing budgets have been slashed dramatically," said Ryan Schinman of Platinum and Rye Entertainment of New York, who secures commercial talent for brands including Coors, Charles Schwab and Cingular.

"But all it takes is one successful campaign from a big brand to change all that," he said.

The agreement with AMG and Pro Access would still allow Bonds to make his own deals but makes the companies both the "principal professional marketing agency" and the "only external marketing agency" the slugger will use for endorsements, according to the contract.

Pro Access President Eric Levin said he is looking for deals in apparel and sneakers, soft drinks, fast food restaurants and automobiles. Bonds has been affiliated with Fila on a year-to-year basis for four years.

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