Darren Rovell has a very interesting piece on his blog that describes the development of Jack Marucci‘s bat company, which has its products used by some of Major League Baseball’s best hitters. Marucci’s clientele includes Pujols, Howard, Ibanez, and Teixeira…hitters who come to mind when you think of “power swing”. I agree that it is interesting that Marucci has not paid any players to use his bats or endorse his product. There is no stronger endorsement than a person using a product out of pure choice, with no monetary consideration involved in the equation. It is also very rare that a professional would do this, and actually pay for the product (or have his team pay for it), instead of getting free product at a minimum (and possibly being paid to use the product, if it is a prominent player).
Not everyone has a product that players may willingly purchase, however. With that statement in mind, I thought that this was a particularly telling part of Rovell’s piece:
As for whether big hits by players using his bats help out sales?
“We see it,” Marucci said. “Someone watches Jason Werth hit a home run last night. They see our logo in the paper or during the replay -– HD has helped us a ton -– and they find us.”
So while Marucci does not pay for this beneficial publicity, the quoted passage says a lot about endorsements, in general. Players and fans have no idea whether Jayson Werth is paid to use the Marucci bat when he steps up to the plate, but they are paying attention to the equipment that successful players are using. This should be of use to companies deciding whether it is worth it to supply free equipment to players and their agencies of record, in exchange for the use of such equipment in the hope that someone will notice it and possibly make a related purchase, or at least spread word about the company. For the higher-end players, free equipment may not be enough, and actual payments to the player may be justified by the increase of exposure, especially in an era where practically everyone has an HD TV.