SBJ/January 28 - February 3, 2002/Special Report

Bonds, Aaron team in Schwab ad

New single-season home run king Barry Bonds and career home run leader Hank Aaron are teaming in a Charles Schwab ad that will debut on Fox just prior to the kickoff of Super Bowl XXXVI Sunday.

Bonds

The highly guarded creative content pairs the long-ball hitters in the latest execution of Schwab's "Smarter Investors" campaign from BBDO, which has relied heavily on athletes and celebrities.

It the first major national endorsement for Bonds, who has been a baseball star for nearly two decades but who had a reputation as a malcontent. Launching these spots on the marketing world's biggest stage may be the first indication that he can be as effective a commercial spokesman as he is a home run hitter.

"Generally, you want to attach yourself to athletes that have a personality of approachability, along with heroic accomplishments on the field, and this may be the first step in portraying Bonds that way," said Keith Bruce, senior vice president and director of sports marketing at Foote, Cone & Belding.

Schwab has 90 seconds of ad time in Fox programming prior to the Super Bowl, including the last commercial before kickoff.

The Schwab ads in recent years have cast Troy Aikman with Jimmy Johnson and Jason Sehorn with Shannon Sharpe.

Super Bowl XXXIV brought the memorable ad featuring a retirement home crowded with ex-jocks Charles Barkley, Tara Lipinski, Wade Boggs, Barry Sanders, Evander Holyfield and Mike Ditka.

Filmed earlier this month in The Ballpark at Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers, the ad shows Bonds cranking balls out of the park while batting against a pitching machine. In an otherwise empty park, the public address announcer needles Bonds to hang it up, retire now, plan for the future and not stick around to establish any more home run records.

The payoff is that the P.A. announcer turns out to be Aaron, who holds the career home run mark of 755. Bonds tops the list of active players with 567 home runs and could break Aaron's lifetime record during the five-year term of his new $90 million contract.

A closing shot in the new spot shows Aaron and Bonds walking down the first-base line together. "It worked with [former single-season home run champion Mark] Mc-Gwire," Aaron quips.

Agency sources said that after the Super Bowl, the ad will be in a heavy sports and non-sports national rotation for the rest of the year, backed by $10 million in media.

While Bonds' individual statistical accomplishments are unassailable, his public persona as a malcontent, especially when compared with that of recent baseball marketing icons like McGwire and Cal Ripken, has contributed to a lack of endorsements.

Bruce said, "What I really like about this deal is that Bonds has done so few things commercially [that] using him now gives you a real advantage because he's uncluttered."

Late last year, Advantage Marketing Group, Dallas, and Miami-based Pro Access signed an 18-month agreement to represent Bonds in marketing deals. Officials there would not comment on the Schwab deal.

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