Friday, March 15, 2013

Athletes are Temporary; Brands are Enduring

Athletes are among the most popular celebrity endorsers. Associating high profile athletes with brands makes use of their popularity to build brand awareness. And, the endearing traits of great sports personalities can become associated with the brands they endorse. A great example is Gatorade's "Be Like Mike" campaign; it created a strong connection between Michael Jordan's unique athletic abilities and Gatorade's products. For the most part, associations people hold for athletes are relatively permanent. They do not change when an athlete retires. It seems that we prefer to remember athletes at their prime and hold onto the most positive memories and associations.

The fact that new brands are enduring helps explain a licensing agreement announced recently by Steiner Sports, a sports collectibles and memorabilia company. Steiner Sports is planning to develop a line of products that celebrate Joe DiMaggio, the New York Yankees legend. In his life after baseball, DiMaggio was perhaps best known for endorsing Mr.Coffee products. The licensing agreement with Steiner Sports is not the first for the DiMaggio brand; AriZona Beverage began selling a "Joltin' Joe" coffee product last year.

Although Joe DiMaggio has been deceased 14 years and has not played baseball in more than 60 years, his brand remains relevant in our culture today. Background provided by the official Joe DiMaggio website sheds light on his brand has endured. Three characteristics of the DiMaggio brand are particularly salient:

  • Joe = American Dream - Son of Italian immigrants who rose from a poor childhood to pinnacle of success in his chosen sport
  • Joe = Hope - His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 was refreshing to a country that has just emerged from economic depression and was about to go to war
  • Joe = Us - His story of hard work and following a dream is one that has been pursued by millions
In sports, athletes come and go; the average career for professional athletes is less than five years. Even most athletes that exceed the average fade away and younger players take their turn. But, certain athletes leave an impression that lasts far beyond their time on the field of play. Heroic accomplishments on the field coupled with an endearing personality off the field make athletes like Joe DiMaggio remarkable as product endorsers and relevant brands long after their playing days are over.