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5/21/2007 12:49:00 PM
Strangest athlete endorsements
Back in the 1970s, Joltin' Joe DiMaggio became the nation's most recognizable coffee salesman.
By James Quintong, SI.com
Athletes have been spokesmen for products for years and some guys have made an art of appearing in many commercials, like Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning. While there seems to be more athlete pitchmen, they're also doing a good job of picking out the products they want to endorse without looking too silly -- fast food restaurants, soft drinks, athletic gear, video games, cell phones, TVs, cars, grooming products, etc. You want to believe an athlete would actually use the product he's endorsing or at least add legitimacy to an established company.
But sometimes athletes make decisions that definitely don't look that way, and that's where this list comes from. For a variety of reasons (from the product being pitched to the ad campaign used) athletes make endorsement decisions that have you wondering who needed the money more -- the athlete or the company.
Here are five of the most bizarre athlete product endorsements ever:
5. Michael Vick for AirTran. Promoting a major airline shouldn't make this list, but Vick found a way to do it. When Vick failed to show at a Capitol Hill function last month, he blamed the airline for a late flight that caused him to miss a connection. AirTran fired back at its spokesman, saying that it rebooked him on a later flight that he never showed up for. And that was after his incident earlier this offseason over a confiscated water bottle at the Miami airport. It is interesting that AirTran, the "discount" airline, was able to get Vick as its celebrity spokesman, while long-established competitor Delta went for Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur, an up-and-coming player but nowhere near as big a star as Vick.
4. Bill Clement for Deep Woods Off! Employing a shirtless, middle-aged guy sitting in a tent to encourage using a certain mosquito repellent to prevent West Nile virus is odd. Even stranger is the realization that the guy is Clement, the former NHL All-Star and well-traveled hockey announcer. Because when I think about bug spray, I'm thinking about a shirtless hockey announcer.
3. Phil Rizzuto for The Money Store. By the time The Scooter was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1994, he was better known to younger people as the long-time voice of the Yankees, the announcer in Meat Loaf's classic Paradise by the Dashboard Light and the spokesman for The Money Store, a mortgage lending firm. The very low-tech ads plus Rizzuto's distinctive voice made them a major part of the New York TV landscape in the 1970s and '80s. "Holy Cow! Do you need a second mortgage? Don't be a huckleberry. Call the Money Store!"
2. Joe DiMaggio for Mr. Coffee. Before George Foreman made a fortune with his namesake grills, DiMaggio put Mr. Coffee on the map in the '70s as the pitchman for the then-revolutionary coffee machine. A new generation of fans now looked at DiMaggio through a much different lens. He wasn't the Yankees legend with the 56-game hitting streak or even the guy who married Marilyn Monroe. He was the older gentleman extolling the virtues of drip coffee. So while DiMaggio insisted on being introduced as "The Greatest Living Ballplayer" at baseball-related events for the last 30 years of his life, it was inevitable that at least a couple of younger fans would call him Mr. Coffee, whether he liked it or not.
1. Muhammad Ali for d-Con. If Ali were an active boxer today, he might've challenged Jordan's endorsement power with his charisma. But back in the day, his brash, outspoken personality scared away many companies from hiring him as a spokesman. One of the few to take a chance on him was d-Con, a manufacturer of pest control products (mouse traps, roach sprays, etc). Ali was practically synonymous with d-Con during the late '70s and early '80s with his image gracing boxes of the product, supermarket ads and those gloriously cheesy television ads.
Those are my top five, but there are plenty of others out there. What are your picks for strangest athlete endorsements?
Forget the mortgage commercials, it was Jim Palmer's Jockey underwear commercials that were the hit. Which, of course, led to Rick Dempsey immitating Jim Palmer by wearing underwear outside his uniform and using his classic windup from the mound during a rain delay.
For downright bizarreness, consider Dennis Rodman for "Candies," a Liz Claiborne Cosmetic Fragrance. What about those Radio Shack ads that featured Howie Long and Teri Hatcher? And speaking of "Radio Shaq," who can forget Shaquille O'Neal who also appeared in Pepsi-Cola, Taco Bell and Burger King ads. Also don't forget Arnold Palmer, for the Orange Juice Campaign ('It's not just for breakfast anymore"), and Penzoil. "Frantic Fran " Tarkenton once hawked Tony Robbins Motivational Tapes. And last but not least, Tiger Woods endorsed TLC Laser Eye Centers.
I actually recall as a kid Willie Mays telling kids not to touch blasting caps. "If you see a blasting cap tell a policeman or a fireman, don't touch it." Thank goodness for that advice, it kept us from blowing off limbs due to all those explosives left randomly around the neighborhood.
A pensive Michael Jordan sitting on a chair selling the environmental virtues of Ray-o-Vac rechargeable batteries while a camera panned wildly around him. Does anyone have any idea what he was even saying?
Back in the seventies, Jerry West used to do commercials for Winston Tires. He'd appear in these really bare bones sets with Sam Winston, they'd do some bantering about the merits of Winston tires, and some cheesy jingle would come on and end the commercial.
Former Leaf's coach Pat Quinn for Nasonex nasal strips - "that'sd right, I'm a stripper" Also, have to disagree with the Joe Dimaggio/Mr Coffee inclusion on the list - with a handle like "Joltin Joe" coffee seems like a perfect fit
Fred McGriff for the Tom Emanski skills video series. Everyone that has ever watched ESPN or late night programing has seen the same commercial for 20 years. Nothing beats the Crime Dog wearing a powder blue hat and jersey telling us to be like him. You do know Tom's team was back-to-back-to-back AAU champions (whatever that means).
How about Jim Palmer Jockey Underwear? Back when hairy chest were the "in" thing. haha.
Funny and true story... to this day, at Christmas my mother always fills a stocking for everyone. One year, around '86 or '87 I went through my stocking, found a small rectanglur wrapped gift, shook it, and said out loud "Jim Palmer Underwear". I opened it and there it was... Jim Palmer Underwear! Everyone had a huge laugh.
Back in '85 I was a high school student working at Ross Dress For Less. One of the endcaps in the Mens area featured mens "fashion" underwear. Every nite it seemed half the underwear had been taken out of their boxes and it was my job to match underwear back with original box. I knew by heart every shape of mens underwear box and the exact sound they made when they were shaken back and forth.
So maybe I had the inside track, but was that great or what? Or maybe you just had to be there.
I was at a barber shop last week and saw Chauncey Billups on a poster hawking Tahitian Noni which is some rip-off Amway-tye nutrition drink... Bizarre that he would attach himself to such a rip off. I wonder how much money he got for that???
LaDainian Tomlinson for Caldera Spas here in San Diego. I went out and bought one just because of the commercial. By the way, soaking my banged up flag football body in that hot tub did not make me a Pro Bowl running back.
On a local sports talk radio section, there is Nate Newton (in all his glory) advertising for, of all things, a lawyer. You'd think that, if the lawyer were any good, he wouldn't have spent so much time in jail for his dalliances with marijuana distribution.
It always bugs me to see Jordan doing that stupid Hanes commercial (or is it Fruit of the Loom?) with Kevin Bacon. You know the one- where MJ (for some surreal reason) prevents his underwear-buddy from throwing out trash, catching car keys, or eating grapes... What the hell?
The one that always amazed me was the commmercial a few years ago with Derek Jeter and George Steinbrunner. George asked Derek how he could afford to go out dining and dancing every night and Jeter pulled out his Visa card.
Right, George, I can afford this because you pay me millions.
Once again, this is everything that is wrong with sports today. The legacy, if you will, of Curt Flood. True stars like Mantle and Dimaggio had to hawk products to pay the mortgage, while today's idiots can text message death threats, and fight pit bulls, while enjoying $15 million contracts
Jim McMahon for Addidas and Rozelle. Lastings Milledgs for "Bend Ya Knees". Barry Bonds for steroids. Mike Vick for the UDFC (Ultimate Dog Fighting Championship). Sammy Sosa for corked bats. Moises Alou for "homemade" soap. My favorite that was already said: Rafeal Palmeiros "other performance enhancing drug".