Sport Marketing and Promotions
What is an athlete endorsement and what significance does it play in the corporate world of advertising? According to dictionary.com an “endorsement” is the act of endorsing something through approval or sanction. Companies regularly use athletes and other high profile individuals to endorse their company and/or specific products as part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. They use the popularity of their talents to entice consumers to look favorably on their brand and to increase sales of their products or services thru their tacit approvals. These approvals or sanctions are done by having the athlete align themselves with the company thru advertisement, commercials, product or service promotions, or sports gear contract arrangements. Many endorsements deals can bring great wealth and exposure to both an athlete and a company. However, in recent years we have seen the negative side of these endorsement deals when the athlete doesn’t behave in a manner that provides a favorable image to the consumer they wish to attract. This can create difficult decisions for the company when considering whether to use sports athletes to promote their brand and image. The subject of this paper is to explore the Pros and Cons of athlete endorsement arrangements and how they can be either beneficial or detrimental to a company choosing this method of brand awareness.
The Origins of Athlete Endorsements
In the early 1900’s, Honus Wagner was a well-known professional baseball player who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Honus signed a bat contract with Hillerich & Bradsby Co. on September 1st, 1905. He was believed to be the first professional athlete with an equipment endorsement deal. During this time period, he was the first major leaguer to have his signature engraved onto a baseball bat. Following Hillerich & Bradsby Co’s footsteps was a non-sports company known as Gillette Razor. In 1910, Gillette won the product endorsement deal with major-league baseball stars. Gillette was the 1st non-sport endorsement deal to use professional athletes to market their products (“History of Athletes,” 2009). With the success of Gillette, more and more companies recognized this great new method of promoting their products and jumped on the proverbial band wagon by hiring high profile professional athletes to market their products. In 1917, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution, Converse All star shoes became the first mass producer of sneakers. With these new production processes, companies began to focus their attention on methods that could attract larger numbers of customers to their products. Converse was quick to recognize the potential that high profile individuals could draw and they became the first to use athlete endorsements in the sneaker industry. Converse used basketball players, such as Akron Firestones and Chuck Taylor to market their shoes (“History of Athletes,” 2009). It didn’t take long for others to also utilize this new brand awareness that these modern day gladiators could bring to their companies and products and it began a trend many still follow today. However, it wasn’t until the 1960’s when the first issues arose about the negative aspects of athlete endorsements. A prominent Los Angeles attorney, who specialized in the field of athlete endorsements, stated that using an athlete to endorsement a product could be very risky. The example the attorney used to explain the risk associated with athletes was as follows, “Suppose a company puts several hundred thousand into a campaign featuring an athlete and suppose that two weeks later the athlete is hurt and not heard from for the rest of the year?” This is something companies have to take into consideration where using athletes to market their products (“History of Athletes,” 2009). Racial controversies began to rise in...