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Volume 24 No. 160
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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).