Chances are you've seen that Dick's Sporting Goods commercial featuring Jimmy Rollins, the one for Nike Air Swingman Remix cleats, in which a pitching machine fires baseballs off his chest. You might not know that the same commercial has been seen across America, just as the advertising campaigns Ryan Howard has done with the sporting goods company in conjunction with adidas.
Call it the spoils of victory - and a good start.
A byproduct of winning the World Series last fall is that certain members of this young Phillies team have become an increasingly larger presence in the marketing/advertising arena. The four big names are Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels, according to David Buck, the club's senior vice president for marketing and advertising sales. But players such as Shane Victorino and even manager Charlie Manuel have done appearances with some frequency during the offseason.
Regionally, Buck says, the team has received "twice the amount of phone calls from companies that want to work with our players than we would get in a normal offseason."
Nationally, Howard and Rollins have become brands, and Hamels and Utley are not far behind. Buck said Howard and Rollins had a head start by virtue of winning the NL Most Valuable Player awards in 2006 and 2007, respectively. Hamels also did a spot this spring for New Era Caps, the official provider of headwear for Major League Baseball.
"Winning the World Series has given our players a national stage," Buck said. "All four of them are more popular now . . . I think of them as old-fashioned type players. They like to play and people know that. And they are photogenic."
Experts say the fact that the economy is in such a deep recession undercut some of the players' opportunities. However, Jeff Hennion, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Dick's, said his company was delighted to have an opportunity to work with Rollins and Howard, the latter of whom also has an endorsement deal with Subway. While Dick's had not used Rollins before, the spot with Howard and Tampa Bay's B.J. Upton discussing what it takes to get the World Series was the second commercial Howard had done for the company. Previously, he was part of a campaign that showed pro stars giving tips to amateur players.
"Both Ryan and Jimmy are up-and-coming players," Hennion said. "Not only are they fresh faces on the national marketing scene, they are the type of athletes who would appeal to the audience we are trying to reach. Kids look up to them and appreciate the way they play in the field."
Interestingly, baseball players lag behind NFL and NBA players when it comes to landing national endorsement deals, though they generally do well regionally. According to Henry Schafer, executive vice president at Marketing Evaluations Inc., NFL and NBA players score higher than baseball players in terms of public awareness and commercial appeal. He added that the World Series does not have the same "aura" as the Super Bowl when it comes to elevating a player into the realm of national endorsements.
"When the Giants won the Super Bowl, Eli Manning jumped up to the level of his brother Peyton," Schafer said. "He became one of the top five sports personalities out there. That shows you the power of the Super Bowl."
Local marketing expert James Robinson agrees. "But baseball has also had some problems," said Robinson, managing director of Alliance Marketing Partners. "Historically, we have had labor strife, the steroid problem and so on."
So how do the Phillies rate?
Schafer says that they have gotten better since the beginning of last year, but that still only one in five Americans knows who Howard, Utley and Rollins are. Schafer says that Hamels has yet to be assessed, in part because he did not enter the national spotlight until the fall.
At the top of the scale insofar as overall public awareness is concerned is - surprise! - Tiger Woods, at 86 percent. The highest-rated baseball player is Alex Rodriguez, at 61 percent. Howard is at 26 percent, Utley is at 23 percent and Rollins is at 22 percent.
When it comes to familiarity and appeal - the Q score - Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps leads the sports personalities with a 34. Behind him are Woods (32), Michael Jordan (32) and Peyton Manning (31). The highest-rated baseball player is former Baltimore Orioles infielder Cal Ripken Jr. (26). The average score is 16. Rollins is just above it at 18, Howard is at 16, and Utley is just below it at 13.
"But each of them has shown a growth of two to three points, so the World Series has had an impact," Schafer said. "Of course, even low scores can be overcome by what a player does with his personality and how he handles himself in front of the camera."
Robinson thinks Phillies players have potential to continue to grow nationally. He said, "They are approachable, have charisma and are beyond scandal."
But here comes the "but."