Saturday, July 11, 2015

Top That, Roger

It's no secret that most athletes make far more money off the field/court/track than they do on the same. That's not to say that they aren't well paid when they excel at their day jobs. Boxers lead the pack in that category: Manny Pacquiao had $148 million in winnings over the last year, while Floyd Mayweather earned $285 million in the ring. By comparison, Rory McIIroy, the top ranked golfer in the world, barely cleared $16 million on the course. Stephen Curry, star of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, survives on just $11 million from his court work. And quarterback Tom Brady of the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots scrapes by on an average of $9 million a year earned on the field. Makes you pity the bench warmers in Major League Baseball: they will make the bare minimum salary of $507,500 on the diamond. It's an amount so skimpy that they also get $100.50 in meal money for every day they are on the road.

No, the really big money is in the area of endorsements. That's when you get a smiling jock to stand there and tell you not that only this tennis racquet or that putter is better than any other, but also that this wireless carrier or that rolling suitcase beats them all. In the first case their expertise may play a part. But in the second? Not so much. Still, somebody somewhere thinks it's worth the trouble and investment. I mean, I think ex-quarterback turned announcer Troy Aikman would have at least some credibility promoting a company like Nike or Wilson. But does his stature, visibility and history do anything for Rent-A-Center, an outfit known to offer a short term lease on a 52" TV at usurious rates? I guess if it worked for Michael Jordan and Hanes underwear, all things are possible.

To be sure, some jocks and jockettes wind up with endorsement deals as much for their personality as for their success. Peyton Manning comes to mind as a guy who represents brands almost as much for his likeability as his championship ways. Sure, his deals with sporting goods companies Reebok and Nike lean on his athletic credentials. But while he likely drives, watches TV and eats pizza no better or worse than you or me, he gets millions to shill for Buick, Direct TV and Papa Johns. Somebody in the back room of all three of those cold hard businesses must have crunched the numbers and figured out it was worth it.

But in most cases, the ability to hum a Nationwide Insurance theme song while soaking in an ice bath after practice is not required. All the athlete has to do is lend their name and face, and, to borrow a phrase from singer songwriters Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp, "stand still, look pretty." What's more interesting is the pairings. Not surprisingly, those from sports with the most upscale reputations skew to brands with a similar demographic. So while basketball, football and baseball players sign on to promote Powerbars and Subway and Gatorade, golfers and tennis players are just as likely to promote Rolex and Barclays and Porsche.

Still, even within that that distribution, there are idiosyncrasies tied to the specific jock. Take Roger Federer and Rafael Nadel. Both unbelievable competitors, both demonstrated champions, both big earners on the court and off. But when Roger needs a lift, he hops into his Mercedes while Rafa darts into his Kia. Likewise, when it's time to quaff a post-match libation, Roger swigs Moet & Chandon, while Rafa has Bicardi. And if he has a hankering for something sweet, Roger might nibble a Lindt chocolate truffle, while Rafa would pop something from Quely, whose tag line is "possibly the best cookie in the world."

But Rafa just one-upped Roger. True, while Federer has Rolex, Nadal as a nearly $700,000 custom made Richard Mille 19-gram complex tourbillon watch designed to withstand 5000G's and Rafa's 3000 RPM two-handed backhand. But even bigger is that the Spaniard is now the face of Aceitunas de Espana-Olives. You can see his smiling face and bowls of the fruit appearing all over, reflecting "the intersection of Rafael's values and the products in terms of leadership, quality, effort, health and above all, their Spanish origin." Can you even name a Swiss fruit? Sorry Roger: that's game, set, match.


Marc Wollin of Bedford would happily endorse Reese's Peanut Butter Cups if asked. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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