L.A. TIMES LOOKS AT FREE AGENCY IN THE SPONSORSHIP MARKET
While "there are solid reasons" why players "stick with their corporate partners," that doesn't mean they can't "sign with a direct competitor," according to Greg Johnson of the L.A. TIMES. Williams & Connolly's Lon Babby, the agent for Grant Hill, who helped negotiate his recent $80M Fila deal: "There's nothing endemic in an endorsement contract that prevents movement. In the vernacular of sports, you would be a free agent." Babby said that Hill's deal "doesn't include a non-compete clause" and that any such language "would push up the value of an endorsement contract." Babby: "That is going to be factored in, because you're talking about tying up a significant portion of a pro athlete's playing career." Babby added, however, that Hill "recognizes that continuity benefits both sides." While Johnson noted that some "well-known names have jumped ship to sign with a direct competitor," including Michael Jordan from Coca-Cola to Gatorade and Chris Webber from Nike to Fila, such a switch "can backfire." Consumers may view switches with "cynicism," figuring players are looking to simply "grab a bigger bag of money," while corporate sponsors may not forgive an athlete who "jumps ship to pitch a competing product" (L.A. TIMES, 9/25).