Kobe Bryant’s legal problems could accelerate a trend by major companies to move away from using high-profile athletes as spokespersons in favor of animated endorsers, according to sports marketing expert Brett Boyle from Saint Louis University.
“That’s why they use a gecko to sell car insurance,” Boyle told New York Newsday. “No one is going to ask a lizard who they were with last night or what treatment center they checked into.
“There is a risk-return proposition for an advertiser who uses a celebrity, especially athletes. The return is your brand is associated with something that is successful in the field of play. The individual allows the brand to travel with them on the field of play.
“That brand may also travel with them into the jail cell. That’s the risk.”
Trivia time: Which NHL goalie played in 503 consecutive games?
Benched: The Great Phil Mickelson Pitching Experiment is over. The Detroit Tigers said they will not offer a minor league contract to the golfer.
Mickelson said he was disappointed, but understood.
“If I can get my velocity up, we may revisit this,” he said. “Golf is my No. 1 priority and always will be. Throwing a baseball is an important part of my workout program, so if I can get my speed to 85 mph or above consistently, I wouldn’t rule out trying this again.”
Speed demon: Four-time world rally champion Tommi Makinen was fined $203 this week after he admitted he failed to stop for police last April while traveling between stages of the Rally New Zealand.
Police said Makinen was clocked at 60 mph in a 30-mph zone. A police car followed Makinen with its siren on and lights flashing, which he ignored for more than a mile. When he finally stopped, Makinen told police he was running behind and feared he would have to forfeit the rally if he was late for the next stage.
Sure, that’ll work: “But officer, I’m a race driver in a hurry.”
Saucy starter: Last winter, Pittsburgh-based PLB Sports Co. signed Cleveland Brown quarterback Kelly Holcomb to endorse a line of mustard and barbecue sauces.
Since his signing as a pitchman, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that more than 500 bottles of Holcomb’s products have been bought weekly in the greater Cleveland area.
Brown Coach Butch Davis recently named Holcomb the starter, so look for more sticky fingers in town.
Racket wars: Mark Philippoussis waves off critics who say racket technology is ruining tennis. “I use a racket they stopped making six years ago,” he said. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball pretty hard with that.”
Philippoussis points out that he has worked all his life to perfect his huge serve: “All of a sudden, you’re going to take that away from me, give me a wooden racket or a wooden ball? That’s where it’s unfair.”
Trivia answer: The Chicago Blackhawks’ Glenn Hall, from Oct. 6, 1955 to Nov. 7, 1962 -- all without a mask.
And finally: From Sports Illustrated’s Bill Scheft: “The FDA has approved the Baltimore Ravens’ offense as an over-the-counter sleeping aid.”
-- John Weyler