SBJ/Sept. 20-26, 2010/In-Depth

The Dealmakers

We asked people in the endorsement trenches to recall the first and largest deal they made, and to share on pitch that never got signed. Here are highlights of their responses:


First deal: “For Subway, it was with Reggie Bush in 2006.”
Largest deal: “1994 Monsters of the Gridiron promotions for Coke with Randall Cunningham, Emmitt Smith, Ronnie Lott, Lawrence Taylor, Howie Long and around 30 players dressed up as pseudo monsters for Halloween. It wasa phone-in-and-win promotion. Our goal was 6 million phone calls … we ended up with 32 million.”
One that got away: “Shaq. Twice. When Shaq was coming out of school, we chased him for Coke and lost. They [Pepsi] offered more dough but we had better creative. A couple of years later, we chased Shaq for Burger King and couldn’t get it done, but the agency after us finally did.”


First deal: “A partnership with [NASCAR driver] Carl Edwards and the American Legacy Foundation for an anti-tobacco campaign.”
Largest deal: “I don’t know if he counts as an athlete, but if you consider the amount of media behind it, which included a Super Bowl ad, it was the ‘Terry Tate, Office Linebacker’ campaign for Reebok.”

GroupM ESP

First deal: “Chris Evert/American Express U.S. Open tennis campaign, late ’90s.”
Largest deal: “Tiger Woods/American Express.”
One that got away: “Recommended a campaign with Roger Federer and Tiger Woods that would focus on their shared dreams of becoming the ‘best ever’ in their respective sports. Client passed, and a few months later Tiger was sitting in Federer’s box at the U.S. Open. The following year, Gillette launched their ‘Champions’ campaign.”

Genesco Sports Enterprises

First deal: “In 1997, I secured rights for athletes including Bob Lilly, Walter Payton, Johnny Unitas and other NFL greats to be on cups for a Pepsi/Subway promotion. I remember driving with my best friend across Florida and we stopped at a Subway and the cups were actually there. I never felt better.”

Davie Brown Entertainment

First deal: “Signing Harold Reynolds
for an appearance at the Little League World Series.”
Largest deal: “Tiger for Gillette and Tiger for AT&T.”


Largest deal: “In the ’80s, it was Steffi Graf. In the ’90s it became Anna Kournikova. We established records for women’s tennis players with both. More recently it has been with Michael Phelps.”
One that got away: “We had many opportunities for female athletes to pose for Playboy and the like. We’ve never done them and I’m glad. Despite the economic benefits, we’ve stayed away from deals in all the sin categories and I’m glad we did.”


First deal: “The original sponsorship of John Madden’s cruiser with Greyhound Bus in 1987.”
Largest deal: “Madden NFL is the No. 1 video game of all time, so it would have to be that. The first deal we signed was in 1985 and we’ve sold 80 million-plus units.”
One that got away: “In 1990, TWA offered John Madden $1 million to fly seven minutes on a plane from Oakland to San Francisco. They were going to film a commercial on the plane along the lines of ‘the fares are so low, even I had to fly.’ John hasn’t flown since 1980, so when I called him to tell him about it, he hung up on me.”


First deal: “Michael Jordan’s first deal for Gatorade in 1990. People forget he was originally a Coke endorser.”
Largest deal: “The Gillette Champions program began with Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry, as global and local icons as big as Derek Jeter filled in country by country, around the world. Programs don’t get much bigger than that.”

Platinum Rye Entertainment

First deal: “Partnered Johnny Knoxville and ‘Jackass’ with Converse to make a special-edition Jackass Chuck Taylor — 2005.”
Largest deal: “Programmed talent for the last four DirecTV Celebrity Beach events during Super Bowl weekend, now going on its fifth year. Secured over 30 athletes/celebrities per year including Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Eli Manning, Reggie Bush, Mark Sanchez — 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 (and now 2011).”
One that got away: “A line of high-end Scotch from Michael Jordan.”

BBDO, New York

First deal: “Joe Montana for Diet Pepsi in 1991 with Ray Charles.”
Largest deal: “In terms of literal size, it was definitely Shaq for Pepsi’s [1-liter] Big Slam bottle. Very few athletes can bench press me. In this case, Shaq did, and I’m not referring to the fee.”
One that got away: “In the non-sports world, we had a wonderful concept for Jack Nicholson that he just wouldn’t do. But I still hold out hope that he’ll call.”

Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing

First deal: “George Foreman with Beneficial Finance (mid-1990s, approximately).”
One that got away: “A now defunct cell phone brand’s TV ad with Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Jack Welch.”

— Compiled by Terry Lefton 

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