SBJ/January 21 - 27, 2002/Marketingsponsorship

George looks to Wilhelmina for face time

Does Eddie George
have the look?

NFL running back Eddie George has signed Wilhelmina Artists Management, a division of the big New York-based modeling agency Wilhelmina, as his exclusive marketing company in a deal meant to bring the Tennessee Titan more endorsement pacts.

"We don't want to pre-announce what we are going to do, but you will see some announcements soon on the apparel and shoe side," said Dieter Esch, president of the two companies. George's shoe contract with Adidas has expired.

Wilhelmina, which represents more than 800 fashion models, launched a sports division last year, signing NBA star Stephon Marbury as its first marquee athlete client. Esch said George's looks make him an excellent crossover candidate in what is becoming a growing trend of athletes as models.

George, whose mother is a model, has done a lot of fashion work in the last few years, including a photo shoot for men's magazine GQ last week.

But Esch and George stressed that the most important part of his new relationship would be finding him more deals as a spokesman for major national companies. George said he and other NFL players face a marketability problem because fans watching them on TV see more of their helmets than their faces.

"I have used modeling to get my face out there," said George, who has appeared in numerous commercials, including promotional spots for the NFL and United Way. "The exposure [of modeling work] is a conduit to other things, such as being a spokesman."

But George added that modeling does have a downside when you work in the NFL. "Your teammates are going to rip you for it," he said lightheartedly.

Carolyn Redd, George's business manager, said a number of George's endorsement deals, including agreements with Adidas, Pepsi and Sprint, are ending as the new relationship with Wilhelmina has started.

Redd said George looked at several agencies, including IMG and AMG Sports, before selecting Wilhelmina. NFL agents Lamont Smith and Peter Schaffer will continue to handle George's contract work.

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