Sports branding and sponsorships are forecast to be the fastest-growing component of global sports market spending over the period 2009-2013, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. But after the lost endorsement costs of Tiger Woods, anxious brands are looking for ways to hedge the risk of featuring star athletes. “The only safe athlete is one whose story is complete,” noted Sports Illustrated in the early days of the Woods scandal.
Accordingly, some brands are looking to athletes with nostalgic appeal. A new campaign from iXP Corp., a U.S. firm that consults on emergency-response systems, features Yogi Berra and illustrates, according to The New York Times, “the consistent demand among marketers for endorsers—particularly athletes—who have proven themselves over the long term.” Other safe bets the Times cites include Cal Ripken Jr., Joe Montana and Jack Nicklaus.
Other brands are diversifying their endorsement portfolios with “hometown heroes” who can drive timely regional campaigns. New online services like Brand Affinity Technologies are helping to disrupt the traditional endorsement model—based on national campaigns and six-figure deals—by connecting regional athletes with advertisers, enabling quick creation of lower-cost local campaigns. When the Detroit Red Wings advanced to the Stanley World Cup finals last year, for example, within days Ford was featuring team captain Nicklas Lidstrom in an online campaign for the Fusion targeted to Detroit.
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