Endorsing the Non-Traditionals

Wes Welker and Dr. Leonard?  Tony Siragusa and Depends?  Jimmy Johnson and Extenze?  The McCourty Brothers and Coco Butter?  Most recently and with heavy press around the globe – Ronaldinho and Sex Free Condoms?

We’ve certainly seen odd “partnerships” in the past (and recent), Ozzy Osborne and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and recently Steven Tyler and Burger King come to mind.  However, the past 3-4 years have seen an influx of non-traditional industries and products themselves becoming actively immersed in the endorser world.  There are numerous reasons and capabilities as to how it is happening.  Many have been discussed in recent blog posts here; newer equity structures of contracts, a plethora of platforms for activation and accessibility and the sheer volume of endorsers (non-stars, media members etc.).  All lead to the growing universe of companies utilizing spokespersons.

It brings a vantage point to light that most consumers and even industry personnel rarely think of – the actual endorsers.  The power, leverage, direct association, risk and security of these programs certainly begin and end with the endorsers.  What is the buzz of the athlete?  Has he or she been mired in controversy before or during a campaign?  Have they recently won an award or championship?  Are they visible in the community?  Are they believable?  Are they funny?  Despite the heavy presence and consequence of the celebrity, his or her reasons why, willingness and satisfaction level are almost never noted.

These new endorsement spaces have brought these elements into focus.  As readers may know and can tell, most of these new products deal in very personal spaces.  Further, especially from the male perspective, it can bring into question the “toughness” and “manhood” of respective endorsers.  Thus, the willingness of these athletes is a major hurdle in securing a partnership.  How many prospects did Dr. Leonard have to go through to wind up with a willing partner in Wes Welker?  Did it take convincing on the brand’s part?  Were Devin and Jason McCourty immediately accepting to putting their name and faces on a personal care product like moisturizing butter?

Surely there are incentives on the athlete side aside from monetary as well.  There is a uniqueness to these that allows the athletes to operate in spaces that no others are.  The amount of foot apparel, clothing, drink, car and other major product category endorsements actively operating is difficult to count.  But how many former football players turned media staples are speaking for a bladder control and remedial product?  The exclusiveness is inherent and something I believe is very attractive.  It is a large reason why we’re seeing more and more of these alliances.

Speaking candidly, this has certainly been a productive shift for the industry.  It creates business and revenues, content for fans to enjoy and platforms to help grow sports.   It illustrates a willingness from peers (other athletes) to do the unexpected which leads to others following suit.

Perhaps most noticeably, it humanizes these celebrities and athletes by getting into their personal space and matters.  It is near surreal for target consumers to relate to these giant personalities and egos.  But by opening up their private worlds even just the tiniest of bits, endorsers give those consumers at least a small understanding and relatable real-life experience.  And that’s good for business.