National League Rookie of the Year winner (by unanimous decision) Kris Bryant seems to be a marketer’s dream — talented, young, handsome, and playing in a large market. But how much does that translate into dollars and cents and how much does Bryant care?
“He has great potential,” says Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based SportsCorp. “But there are a lot of ‘ifs.’ “Baseball has a seriously drug-addled past,” Ganis said. “The McGwire-Sosa campaign scared sponsors off baseball. Barry Bonds, you didn’t want to touch. And Alex Rodriguez. The exception has been Jeter, as clean as can be in the largest media market and a tremendous player on the game’s biggest stage. ”
Bryant is just 23, but he understands one of the basic marketing challenges. “Baseball is harder because the stuff they sell is not as marketable as, say, a pair of basketball shoes,” Bryant said. “You can actually wear those on the street. You can’t wear a pair of metal cleats walking around the mall.”
Although Bryant plays in the nation’s third-largest media market, sports-marketing analysts view baseball as a largely regional sport. Case in point, Bryant recently appeared in a two-minute ad for Lyft, an Uber competitor. Wearing sunglasses and a casual gray shirt, he chauffeured unsuspecting residents of Chicago around, talking baseball and joking that it’s “terrible” that the Cubs didn’t have a Bryant poster attached to Wrigley Field.
“I’m not sure who the third baseman is, but they have, who is it … Kris Bryant,” says one rider, while sitting a foot from Bryant. “He’s projected to kind of be a stud.” “No way,” says another rider after Bryant introduces himself. And this was in Chicago. “Very few baseball players are able to transcend their geography,” said Kevin Adler, CEO of Engage Marketing in Chicago. “Plus baseball skews a little older in terms of its fan base. The older demographic is valuable, but everyone wants the 18-34.”
Bryant uses Boras Marketing for his endorsement deals. His agent, Scott Boras believes another reason baseball players don’t make the big bucks in marketing deals like football and basketball stars, is because of the length of their season. “The NFL and NBA seasons have far more days off and down time than the Major League Baseball slate. Said Boras. The difference is the 162 (games), a lot of players are worn out.”
“Most baseball players make 99 percent (of their total income) on the field, says Boras. It’s what they enjoy. And they’re numb this time of year, particularly first-year players. Kris Bryant needs time to rest. The amount of endorsement work he’ll be doing will be limited. We’ll filter through these (proposals) and do very, very few.”
And chasing the spotlight doesn’t seem to be a priority or even a care to Bryant. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like being LeBron James,” he said. “Everywhere he goes, someone will recognize him. That would be tough. It’s nice to be a human being off the field, other than a just a baseball player.”
To follow Kris Bryant on Twitter check out @KrisBryant_23.