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Baker Street
September 12, 2017

Would you buy a Coke from this Man?


As of this writing, the 2017 NFL season is well underway — and Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed. Clearly superior on the field to many of the 64+ NFL QBs currently earning paychecks, the anthem-kneeler is apparently too controversial for the league’s top brass — though they don’t seem to have the same problem with domestic abusers, sexual assaulters, drunk drivers, drug cheaters or air pressure manipulators.

Kaepernick — this close to winning a Super Bowl ring, and only recently one of the game’s most marketable stars, selling for Nike, Beats by Dre and Jaguar, among others — is now too polarizing to even pitch a spiral. A marketer today would have to be crazy to sign him to an endorsement deal, right?

Well, maybe not.

True, if you’re Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Visa or most any other major, well-established brand, you risk alienating a significant percentage of your customer base by aligning with a controversial athlete like Kaepernick. And given the current political state of our country, it appears this controversy isn’t going away anytime soon.

But what if you’re a brand new fashion or cosmetics company, looking to make a splash with a Time Magazine cover boy whose physique’s been featured in an ESPN Magazine Body Issue. Or you’re an up-and-coming sports performance brand who could use the hard-working athlete in a dramatic “If the call comes, I’ll be ready” training campaign. Or you’re Ikea and might consider running an ad for your full line of seating products, headlined “Why kneel when you can sit?” (Okay, maybe a “no” on this one.)

Of course, the best way for a controversial jock to get back into the public’s — and Madison Avenue’s — good graces, is to play well and win, win, win. You know how we love our winners in America.

Maybe a company like Rakuten has the right idea. They’re paying the  extremely winning Golden State Warriors a whopping $20M a year to display their logo on a 2.5-inch patch on the NBA Champs’ game jerseys. Funny, that’s about the same yearly sum that Nike will reportedly pay RusselI Westbrook for the next 10 years to promote their Jordan Brand.

Are these deals worth it? For Nike, it’s a long-term partnership with a highly visible personality who’s not only a superstar on the court, but a fashion icon off — coolly representing a product line named after a legend who most call the best ever, but one that today’s teen demographic probably never saw play live.

As for Rakuten, the Japanese tech holding company is hardly a household name in the US, and will surely benefit by associating with arguably the world’s hottest sports franchise right now. And because it’s a team deal, not an individual player sponsorship, Rakuten doesn’t have to worry about a misbehaving or overly-political jock blowing their investment.

But total Warriors domination could get old real quick for non-Bay-Area fans. Rakuten could be investing in a team that a growing number of people consider an evil empire.

And even if Westbrook should win the next five consecutive NBA titles and MVPs, what if he, heaven forbid, starts kneeling for anthems?

Dorfman on Sports, Sports, Sports Marketing

June 2, 2016

Who You Like In The NBA Finals: Nike or Under Armour?


Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 1.03.45 PM
The 2016 NBA Finals pits the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a much-anticipated rematch of last year’s Finals, won by the Warriors. But there’s another big-time battle happening in this series. The shoe-off between Nike and Under Armour. Athletic apparel giant Nike recently signed Cleveland’s king, LeBron James, to a lifetime endorsement deal. But up-and-comer Under Armour has on their team the Warriors’ Stephen Curry, the NBA’s MVP the last two years, and the game’s most thrilling player since Michael Jordan. Who’s going to win the merchandise match-up?

I recently offered up my opinion in a story for CBS News:


Dorfman on Sports, Sports, Sports Marketing

February 28, 2014





The 2014 Winter Olympics Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report

Though the Sochi star power was so-so, the US medal haul disappointing and the time change kept live events out of prime time, the Games prevailed over the controversies, some new stars emerged and NBC’s ratings proved solid.

But now that these Winter Games are over, and the majority of Americans return to ignoring skiers, skaters and curlers for the next four years, do any of our athletes have what it takes to stay golden on Madison Avenue?

Here’s how this judge scores them on marketability:


Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin. The Sochi Olympian with the biggest upside, Shiffrin was golden in the slalom–and on camera. At just 18 years old, immensely talented, pleasantly attractive and surprisingly poised, she’s the closest thing to a Winter Olympics “It Girl” to come out of Sochi, and could be a medals and marketing force for the next two or three Winter Games. The youngest American to win gold in Sochi, Shiffrin could sell beauty, fashion or any health-related product, and if Lindsey Vonn returns to compete in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, their rivalry could make for a fun McDonald’s ad, as they “ski-off” for a box of McNuggets. Shiffrin’s gold medal—and future promise—is likely worth $1M a year in new marketing opportunities. Call now, bring a big checkbook, and plan on a five- to ten-year deal.


Ted Ligety
Ted Ligety. Ligety saw heavy time in Olympic ads for VISA, Citi, P&G and Kellogg’s, and fared well in all. And as the only US male to win alpine gold, in Sochi, he takes over for a likely-to-retire Bode Miller as the poster boy of men’s alpine skiing. At 29, Ligety could still be a factor in Pyeongchang, and a viable endorser through 2018. As founder of his own ski accessories company, Shred Optics, Ligety could work well pitching business products and services. And he really deserves his own Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor: Ligety Split.
Meryl Davis & Charlie White
Charlie White & Meryl Davis. Only four Americans are leaving Sochi with a pair of medals; ice dance gold medalists White & Davis are two of them. With their Disney action figure looks, grace on ice and charm on camera, they make a lovely product-pitching pair, and their solid resume already includes P&G, Kellogg’s, AT&T and Ralph Lauren. White & Davis are the perfect couple to star on the next season of Dancing With The Stars, play themselves in a live-action Disney skating flick, and turn their ice dancing “twizzles” into an ad for Twizzlers.
Shaun White
Shaun White. The Flying Tomato turned into ketchup after falling out of the medals in halfpipe, and he didn’t win any friends with his last-minute withdrawal from the slopestyle event. And while some critics say White has gotten too corporate for his sport, no one comes close to his broad demographic appeal, marketing power and worldwide familiarity. His poor performance in Sochi may not win him any new ad deals, but it’s unlikely he’ll lose any of his $13M in annual endorsement income. And should he choose to compete in Pyeongchang, his comeback attempt could the most marketable story of the 2018 Games.
Sage Kotsenberg
Sage Kotsenberg. Sage took gold in slopestyle, and man, does he have style. He chews gum during his routines, has popularized the term “spoice,” and his pre-race meal of onion rings, chocolate and chips should have junk food companies making a beeline for his door. With his Jeff Spicoli-style appeal, Kotsenberg could pitch anything from Axe deodorant to Domino’s pizza, Bubble Yum to Beats by Dre. And thanks to the X Games and Dew Tour, Kotsenberg should stay top of mind with the extreme sports demographic until the 2018 Games, where Sage will once again be the rage.
Julia Mancuso. The most decorated female alpine skier in US Olympic history, Mancuso was overshadowed by Vonn in Vancouver and by Shiffrin in Sochi. But Mancuso—with talent, charisma, staying power and ESPN Body Issue-quality looks—is no marketing slouch. Put her in her trademark tiara, hanging out with the Burger King, eating Green Giant vegetables in an ad titled “Princess and the Peas,” or sparking the return of Imperial Margarine’s famous “crown” campaign. Or team her up with Vonn & Shiffrin, racing for the last can of Coke or last Chicken McNugget.


T.J . Oshie
T.J . Oshie. America’s favorite hockey player after Team USA’s OT triumph against Russia. But the magic dissipated when his squad failed to medal. But now that’s he’s a household name and face, expect more off-the-ice ops for Oshie.
Jamie Anderson
Jamie Anderson. One of eight kids, the hippie-esque Anderson took gold in women’s slopestyle, calming herself the night before with candles, incense, meditation and yoga. She’s also been known to hug a tree before every event. A good choice for any product with an “all-natural” message.
Bode Miller. Winning bronze in the Super-G, and being driven to tears in an interview following, turned the divisive Miller into a sympathetic character. And now he can add the title “Oldest Olympic Medalist in Alpine Skiing History” to his resume, which could lead to deals with Ben Gay, Advil or Metamucil. His lovely wife Morgan—who garnered heavy camera time in Sochi—adds to the pair’s model-esque appeal. At 36, Miller’s Olympic days are likely over, but a try for the Pyeongchang Games at age 40 would make a fascinating ad story.
Kaitlyn Farrington. Cowgirl Farrington’s parents sold off their livestock to finance her Olympic dreams, and it paid off with her gold in snowboard halfpipe. And qualifies her for a Got Milk or American Beef Council campaign.
Andrew Weibrecht. Alpine skier came from nowhere to medal in Vancouver, then did it again in Sochi. Possible choice for any product that comes through when it matters most.
Lauryn Williams. Williams now has a Winter Games silver medal to go with her Summer Games gold. Worthwhile choice for any product that’s big on versatility.
Lolo Jones
Lolo Jones. Lolo now has a Winter Games disappointment to go with her Summer Games disappointment. But she remains one of the most recognizable, attractive and interesting female athletes in any sport, and a worthwhile choice for any beauty or fashion product. Or, given her avowed sex life plans until marriage, Virgin Airlines.
Joss Christensen, Nick Goepper, Gus Kenworthy. Swept the medals in skiing slopestyle, and will land next on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes boxes. The threesome should market themselves as The Three Sochigos and pitch anything from fast food to airlines to mobile phones. And Kenworthy’s adoption of five Sochi stray dogs could land him a deal with Purina.
David Wise. The antithesis of the typical extreme athlete, Wise is married, a father and serves as a youth pastor. A wise choice for any conservative marketer looking to sell family values to the extreme sports demographic.
J.R. Celski. Apolo Ohno has proven that even a Winter Olympian in an obscure sport can be marketable, if you’ve got enough medals, looks and charisma. Unfortunately, Celski is lacking in all three. But his bloody crash from a few years ago, show often during the Sochi broadcasts, could make for an interesting Band Aid spot.
Erin Hamlin. The first American to ever medal in singles luge. Of possible interest to any product that goes well with ice.
Iouri Podladtchikov. The upset gold medal winner in snowboard halfpipe is nicknamed iPod, and should be paid royalties by Apple every time it’s mentioned.
Noelle Pikus-Pace. Appealing silver medalist in skeleton was one of only three moms on the US team. Good choice for any family-oriented product, Pace Picante sauce, or starring in a new reality series: “The Real Housewives of Winter Sports.”
Johnny Weir & Tara Lipinski. The most popular figure skating pair in Sochi—and they weren’t even on the ice. As Bob Costas suggested, they ought to have their own show. Perhaps something like “Fashion Police” meets “Wide World of Sports.”
Hannah Kearney. Expected to repeat as gold medalist in moguls, only earned bronze, and was clearly disappointed. But the intense knee-jarring action of her sport could qualify her for a deal with any maker of joint cream.
Sarah Hendrickson. A medal favorite in the inaugural women’s ski jump event, Hendrickson fell short. But she’s only 19, and could help your product fly high during the 2018 Games.
Maddie Bowman. Gold medalist in ski halfpipe sported a nose ring and a cold sore that could earn her a Blistex deal.
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen. Norwegian biathlete became the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time. Of possible interest to any maker of metal polish.
Jason Brown. No figure skating medal for the extremely likeable Brown, but at 19 years old he’s the ponytail to watch in 2018. Especially if you’re trying to sell shampoo.
Yuna Kim. Unfavorable Russian judging may have cost the South Korean her 2nd consecutive figure skating gold. But with the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, redemption is only four years away.
Adelina Sotnikova. Favorable Russian judging may have helped the Russian land her surprise figure skating gold. But with the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, revenge is only four years away.
Steven Holcomb. Overcame a degenerative eye disease—and a suicide attempt—to medal in both 2-man and 4-man bobsled. Good choice for an inspirational biopic, speaking tour, or ad campaign with a “never give up” message.
Olga Graf. Bronze-winning Russian speedskater unzipped her suit after her race, forgetting she was wearing nothing underneath. Good choice for Victoria’s Secret.
Bob Costas
Bob Costas. Of possible interest to any pinkeye medication, or–if his red eyes were actually due to hanging out with the Jamaican Bobsled Team–any munchie product.
Matt Lauer & Meredith Viera. As super subs for Costas, they deserve Subway sandwiches named after them.
Dutch Speedskaters. With 23 medals among them, a worthy choice for a “Got Gouda?” ad.


US Speedskaters. With zero medals among them, a worthy choice for a “Wanna get away?” ad from Southwest Airlines.
Kate Hansen. Luger Hansen wins the gold medal for attention getting, thanks to her pre-race dance video and her “cry wolf” viral video hoax with Jimmy Kimmel. Possible future as a TMZ correspondent.
Johnny Quinn. Bobsledder wins the silver for attention getting, after smashing through the jammed bathroom door in his Sochi housing unit. Of possible interest to Home Depot or Black & Decker.
Shani Davis. See often in McDonald’s ads, biting onto a gold medal and into a Chicken McNugget. But after his disappointing Sochi performance, it’ll be strictly McNuggets.
Gracie Gold. Could’ve been America’s new Ice Queen, but only managed a silver in the team skate. Try again in 2018.
Ashley Wagner. See Gracie Gold.
Kelly Clark. Too easily confused with Kelly Clarkson the singer.
John Daly. Too easily confused with the golfer.
Bill Demong. The Nordic combined gold medalist in Vancouver got lots of prime time exposure in the Sochi telecasts via his VISA ads. Unfortunately, no one in America knows—or cares—what Nordic combined is.
Lindsay Jacobellis. After hotdogging her way out of a gold medal in Torino in 2006, snowboarder Jacobellis sought redemption–but crashed out in Vancouver in 2010 and again in Sochi in 2014. Of possible interest to Advil or Nuprin.
Jeremy Abbott. Gave the middle finger to everyone who called him a choke—after choking in both the team skating and men’s singles skating competitions. Of possible use in a PSA on the Heimlich maneuver.
Katie Uhlaender. Missed a skeleton medal by .04 second. Of possible interest to any precision timepiece maker.

Hannah Teter. Teter tottered.


Bob Dorfman is Creative Director at San Francisco’s Baker Street Advertising, and a nationally recognized sports marketing expert whose insightful and pithy punditry has been featured on ESPN, Fox, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, CNBC and NPR, and in Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly, Sporting News, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other major media. Since 1989, he has been writing his Sports Marketers’ Scouting Reports on the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and the Summer and Winter Olympics.

To contact Bob: 415-659-3929 (office)
415-308-9606 (mobile)

Dorfman on Sports

November 5, 2013

Legends are Born in October, but what about Pitchmen? Will any BoSox or Cardinals score on Madison Avenue?


The 2014 World Series went six compelling games, the ratings were solid, the beards full, and the performances—and umps’ calls—memorable.

But what does it all mean for the endorsement fortunes of the Red Sox and Cardinals’ players? Do any of them have the clout to lead major campaigns, or the power to compel consumers to buy? Is baseball too regional a sport for advertisers seeking athlete pitchmen with national appeal? And with so many jocks embroiled in scandal, and a social media landscape that amplifies every indiscretion into major news, are marketers willing to risk big bucks to tie their products to these guys?

Here’s how this sports marketing expert rates the product-pitching talent:



David Ortiz.  The Series MVP now has three rings, a new 2014 Chevy Silverado, and a Hall of Fame resume. One of the game’s most recognizable and well-liked players, Big Papi is perhaps the only one from this Big Show who could carry a national campaign.

His current endorsement income is in the neighborhood of $3-4M a year, and could see a $1M yearly bump following his remarkable Series performance at the plate. Not even an alleged positive test for PED’s revealed in 2009 has done much to damage his appeal. Look for him to show up on talk shows, cereal boxes, milk mustache ads, maybe even a trip to Disney World in the near future. Lethal to opposing pitchers, yet lovable to fans, Big Papi’s got the power to pitch power tools, muscle cars and trucks, or given his girth, any fast food. A good choice to reach the booming Hispanic market, too. And his “This is our f’ing city” quote could be the tagline for any local Boston ad campaign. The way he hit in this Series, Fox ought to add him to all future promos for their new show “Almost Human.”



Dorfman on Sports

June 25, 2013

Dribbling for Dollars: Which Miami & San Antonio players will score on Madison Ave?


A player on the championship Miami Heat team can expect to score a low six-figure bonus payout, a shiny new $30,000 ring, and bragging rights for a lifetime.

But that’s small change compared to the millions of dollars in endorsement deals, speaking engagements, appearance fees, memorabilia sales, reality show gigs and other marketing opportunities that this Finals triumph can unlock.

So which Heat players—and Spurs, if any—have the best shot at scoring big on Madison Avenue? Who gets the Wheaties box, trip to Disney World, milk mustache, talk show gigs, guest spot on Dancing With The Stars?  Here’s how this ad guy rates the commercial talent:


LeBron James.  Already the NBA’s most marketable player, King James’ second consecutive ring and Finals’ MVP award could add another $5-7M a year to his current $40M in yearly off-the-court income. Sports Illustrated just ranked him the world’s most influential active athlete.


And he’s not just a pitchman, he’s a businessman—with ownership stakes in the Liverpool soccer club, PureBrands, Cannondale bikes, and more. After last summer’s Olympic Gold in London, James has been busy building his global brand, especially in the booming Asian market, signing deals to pitch Dunkin’ Donuts and the NBA2K14 video game in China. Seen during Finals commercial breaks in ads for Beats by Dre headphones and 2K Sports’ NBA2K14 video game—his first game cover ever—James also scored congratulatory ads from Nike and Samsung, and could make a trip to Disney World, nab more work from current clients Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Samsung and State Farm, and earn heavy rotation on talk shows, award shows, and in social media.


The LeBron brand is global, his celebrity transcends his sport, and his appeal crosses all demographics. Except, perhaps, the Cleveland market. And at 28, he’s got plenty of big years—and ring opportunities—ahead. And though his marketing dance card is very full, there are still openings for automotive, financial institutions, men’s fashion and grooming products, Eau de LeBron cologne, King James’ Triple Double BBQ Sauce, Gentleman James bourbon, and more. LBJ has been taking himself very seriously these days; might be nice to see his sponsors inject a little more humor into his ads, as Sprint does with Kevin Durant, Kia does with Blake Griffin, and Nike did with The LeBrons. But if you want King James to pitch your product, it better be a multi-year deal for a global brand and/or an equity stake. And you better have at least seven figures to offer.




Dwyane Wade.  With three rings, two cute kids (co-stars in his Dove for Men campaign), and one hot girlfriend (actress Gabrielle Union), it’s no wonder D-Wade pulls in $12M a year in endorsement earnings. He’s a familiar name and face to even the most casual hoops fan, a style icon, and an engaging personality.

Dwyane Wade Dove Commercial

His current Gatorade spot with Kevin Durant is one of the year’s best  (more…)

Dorfman on Sports

May 1, 2013

Does Coming Out Make Jason Collins More Marketable?


It shouldn’t have been such a big story.

But because one’s sexual orientation is a hot button in America, and because professional sports is well behind the social tide in the acceptance of gays in the workplace, Jason Collins’ coming out as the first openly gay active male athlete in a major team sport was a monumental event.

It not only turned a largely-unknown, lower-tier NBA player into a household name, hero and role model, it may have also turned him into a highly bankable commodity. With the buying power of the LGBT demographic estimated at nearly $800 million, there’s no shortage of companies that may be interested in linking their brands to Collins’ aura.


Dorfman on Sports, Feature, Sports

August 15, 2012







The 2012 Summer Olympics

Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report 

The ratings were huge, the drama compelling, and Team USA’s medal haul led the world. But now that the London Games are over, and most Americans return to ignoring swimmers, sprinters and gymnasts for the next four years, do any of our athletes have what it takes to stay golden on Madison Avenue? (more…)

Dorfman on Sports, London 2012, Sports