SBJ/February 7 - 13, 2005/Labor Agents

Super Bowl ad kicksoff Verizon's 2-year endorsement deal with O'Neal

Shaquille O’Neal has signed a two-year deal to endorse Verizon, and a commercial featuring the Miami Heat star that was set to air during the Super Bowl is just the beginning of the relationship.

O’Neal’s sponsorship deal will likely include other commercials focused on Verizon’s new V Cast technology, which can provide streaming video to cell phones, said Perry Rogers, who represents O’Neal with agent Mike Parris. Rogers wouldn’t comment on financial terms of the agreement but said, “It’s a great deal.”

The deal is expected to include other commercials, which build off the Super Bowl ad, and could include print advertising and appearances for Verizon, Rogers said.

Verizon is a partner of the NBA, and the company is looking at ways to use the O’Neal endorsement to provide new content that may tie into the league’s sponsorship deal, Rogers said.

Meanwhile, Rogers said there has been a major uptick in calls from corporations about endorsements for O’Neal since he left the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s not even close,” Rogers said of the number of calls now compared with before O’Neal signed with the Heat.

“Miami is a great city that loves sports and is excited to get behind the success of the Heat,” Rogers said. “In Los Angeles, it ultimately became something that was difficult for the fans to remain as engaged as they would have because of all of the issues that surrounded Kobe [Bryant]. It became difficult during that time for people to understand where Kobe ended and where Shaq began.”

Now that O’Neal is away from the Lakers and Bryant, the media and corporations are “seeing Shaquille for what he is, and what he is is engaging, interesting and approachable.”

LOOKING FOR AGENCY DEALS: A baseball agent has formed a new company that wants to buy minority equity stakes in independent sports agencies as part of a plan to create entertainment properties and projects focused on sports.

Agent Doug Schaer is folding his baseball agency, Diamond Talent LLC, into Concept Entertainment Group, an Atlanta-based firm. Concept Entertainment is part-owned by venture capital firm KLM Investments, a company owned by investor Kevin Loughery Jr., who is the son of a former NBA player and coach.

KLM owns a number of companies, including Persistent Pictures, an independent film company.

“We are looking to fund sports- and entertainment-related properties and projects,” Schaer said. “I believe that sports agencies provide the ultimate backstage pass to everything and anything in sports.”

Business ventures that may come out of the relationships between sports agencies and Concept Entertainment include athlete-studded events such as golf tournaments and cruises, plus sports films and sports television shows.

Unlike the outright acquisition phase of a few years ago, when big corporations were buying sports agencies outright, Schaer wants to buy stakes of 10 percent to 25 percent. He is looking for up-and-coming agencies that want to keep control over their own firms but need some capital to help run the business.

“I don’t want management control,” he said. “I don’t want voting stock.”

Schaer is looking for agencies in all the major team sports, as well as tennis, golf and action sports. The new company’s Web address is conceptentgroup.com.

GAYLORD SIGNS PGA TOUR VET: Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Gaylord Sports Management has signed Dudley Hart, a 15-year PGA Tour veteran, for representation.

Gaylord COO David Yates, who formerly worked at IMG, will represent Hart. Yates represented Hart years ago at IMG.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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