THE TELEMARKETER was a ringer. In the front row of a phone bank that resembled a telethon—its mission: beg beleaguered Miami Heat fans to buy 2008--09 season tickets—Dwyane Wade slipped into an operator's seat and played professional pitchman.
He was South Florida chic in a flamingo-pink sweater, ready to help out in a Heat marketing stunt last week, when team officials asked players to charm the last disposable dollar from callers.
"You've got to get tickets in your price range," Wade advised a man on line 1. With TV news cameras rolling, he was on his game. He brought a disarming persona, a half-moon smile and a bottle of Gatorade G2 to the table.
"When I was walking into the room," Wade said later, "Udonis [forward Udonis Haslem] was like, Uh-huh, I see the cameras, you're going to bring that Gatorade. I know what you're doing."
D-Wade knows product placement. He will be seen in only 51 games this season because of knee and shoulder injuries, yet he remains a commercial Zelig, with four national ad campaigns. Off the court Wade is everywhere—he's in 3,800 videos on YouTube—following the see-and-be-seen playbook of his Hollywood talent agency.
William Morris isn't just for John Travoltas anymore. Picking up the scent of big money in sports, the movie-star packaging factory is stayin' alive with supernovas such as Wade, who signed with the agency last year. (One of the agency's first big gets: Pete Sampras in 2002.) Wade digs life as a red-carpet invitee, as a telegenic cheek in the air-kiss world. You may even see him dressed in his seersucker best at next month's Kentucky Derby.
"I laugh if people say [I've gone Hollywood]," Wade explains. "Then I say, 'Y'all come with me.' I haven't gone Hollywood in personality. I've gone Hollywood in lifestyle."
But doesn't he know that Rodeo Drive is jinxed? Jocks flock to the L.A. talent agency at their own risk, hoping to parlay their athletic skills into sexy entertainment gigs or, as Wade envisions, into an entr�e into the "acting world."
The options are seductive, luring talent to William Morris and its fierce Hollywood rival, Creative Artists Agency. But while CAA has gone into the sports biz with traditional agents like former IMG symbol Tom Condon, who would never let a photo op interfere with the game, William Morris has shifted the emphasis: Players are entertainers first, athletes second. Maybe it's a coincidence, but one glossy sports client after another has hit the pop charts of visibility only to have the tripwire of overexposure leave the crossover phenom star-crossed.
Jinxed, I tell you!