I guess I really don’t understand the lavish amount of money that corporations commit to professional athlete endorsements.
I understand that ad agencies figured out long ago that attaching brands to athletes helps sell the product. People identify better with a brand. Anyone remember the slogan, “Be like Mike?”
Can you think about Nike without thinking of Jordan or vice versa? Probably not. And the more people remember a product the more enticed they are to buy it.
Now, some ads centered around athlete endorsements are not only entertaining but send a meaningful message as well. My favorite example is the Peyton Manning “Sweat it to Get it” Gatorade commercial. Manning, as we know, has a demonstrated knack for television and comedy.
The great thing about this commercial is that it’s part of a series, each with different reactions to Manning’s demands. Some are in disbelief, others can’t wait to play along, and there are those who look like they have no idea who Peyton Manning is. The message is unmistakable: You must perspire to acquire.
That’s an effective ad if I’ve ever seen one.
But that commercial is an exception, not the rule. I mean, should I fly a certain airline because Sidney Crosby does or because they have a safety record that gives me the best chance of arriving at my destination in one piece? If Crosby endorses United Airlines and then proceeds to drive his Bentley through a day care center playground while shitfaced, how would that look?
So just how large is the financial deluge of athlete endorsements? According to opendorse, the top five endorsers alone make north of $230 million annually. Here are those fortunate five.
1. Tiger Woods | PGA Tour
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $55M
Current Endorsements: Nike, Rolex, Upper Deck, NetJet
2. LeBron James | NBA | Cleveland Cavaliers
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $53M
Current Endorsements: Nike, Upper Deck, McDonald’s, Samsung and Coca-Cola.
3. Roger Federer | ATP
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $52M
Current Endorsements: Rolex, Credit Suisse, Wilson, Gillette, Nike, Mercedes-Benz
4. Phil Mickelson | PGA Tour
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $48M
Current Endorsements: Callaway, KPMG, Rolex, ExxonMobil, Amgen, Barclays
5. Kobe Bryant | NBA | Los Angeles Lakers
2014 Endorsement Earnings: $32M
Current Endorsements: Nike, Panini, Lenovo, and Turkish Airlines
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a capitalist and have some belief in Gordon Gekko’s line that “greed is good.” But dropping a king’s ransom on an athlete or anyone else to say he uses a product seems like a waste of money. And for what?
Think for a minute, you’re filthy rich and shopping for a watch. Would you be in a jewelry store with an ad page ripped out of Golf Digest depicting Tiger Woods confidently leaning on a 7-iron with a glistening Rolex wrapped around his wrist?
No, if I had that kind of dough, I’d already have a $125,000 Hublot Tourbillon Solo Bang and really “wow” people. Tiger also pitches NetJet, something I’ll keep in mind the next time I’ve got an extra $25,000 laying around for a round trip to Disney World.
Am I going to buy Coke because LeBron James is hawking it? Of course not, I’ve been drinking it for 60 years. LeBron also represents Samsung luggage. When’s the last time he personally packed a suitcase, let alone carried any?
Probably the last time a bling burdened Kobe Bryant was seen actually holding Panini trading cards.
Oh, Phil Mickelson plays with Callaway clubs? That has to be the secret; if I part with $500 and pick up a set I’ll probably lower my handicap from 23 to scratch. He also pitches a popular pain reliever to control the pain of his arthritis. Arthritis my ass, if he can earn $25,000,000 while golfing in such pain, where do I sign up for a similar malady?
And here in Chicago, Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews endorses Chevy Blazers. I guess the Mercedes-Benz he’s usually seen tooling around town is just a loaner.
But why do most brands want to be associated with jocks? In some cases, those performers get into big trouble and cause embarrassment instead of prestige. Just look at O.J. Simpson; he went from running through airports in Hertz rental car commercials to using one of them to flee the police.
Why don’t we see ad agencies affixing themselves to real heroes, the likes of Nobel Prize winners, astronauts, and soldiers? What about breakthrough medical researchers, drug cartel busters and brave first responders?
Perhaps those people are too common and even boring compared to using the “talent and skills” of a hot celebrity bimbo.
But instead of complaining and criticizing the current state of athlete endorsements, let’s look at the unexplored possibilities.
For example, why doesn’t an insurance company employ the services of daredevil Nik Wallenda? Imagine him on a tightrope, walking across Africa’s Victoria Falls. The voice says, “If we underwrite a lunatic like this, you can be sure that we’ll cover your sorry ass.”
Or what about the Law Offices of M. Gerald Schwartzbach, APC?
They could use actor Robert Blake, who was found not guilty despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence stacked against him. Thanks to the efforts of Schwartzbach; Blake was acquitted of the slaying. The ad would feature Blake quipping, “If they can get a maggot like me off Scott free, imagine what they can do for your DUI?”
A movie studio could even promote a film about great composers and have Arnold Schwarzenegger appear in a promo saying, “I’ll be Bach.”
PUMA could have Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton promising that they wouldn’t take the first step in a million-man march to WDC, without wearing a pair of Puma Cats.
Could Nexter, one of the world’s largest tank manufacturers pick a better spokesman than Vladimir Putin? Picture the Prime Minister of Russia perched atop the turret of a Leclerc tank saying, “I don’t always invade neighboring countries, but when I do, I use a convoy of these bad boys?”
What could be better than having espionage fugitive, Edward Snowden, representing Norton Antivirus? He could be depicted in a rage, taking a sledgehammer to a laptop out of frustration for being unable to break through the firewall.
The utilization of this wider universe of corporate spokesmen would certainly lower the cost of commercials by helping to chip away at the athlete endorsements monopoly in the industry.
Who knows, to raise money for the church, you may someday see Pope Francis cruising through the streets of Rome behind the wheel of a shiny red Ferrari 458 Spider.