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A Culture of Power Players

By Laura Gordon

The Big Four spectator sports of football, baseball, basketball, and hockey dominate the industry, while corporate sponsors such as Nike, Adidas, and Gatorade share success with superstar athletes.

The Big Four

In America, the four biggest spectator sports-football, baseball, basketball, and hockey-each have their own governing bodies: the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and the National Hockey League. These organizations are responsible for policy regulation, coordinating player, owner, and referee relations, and issuing awards to teams and players. They have also essentially become businesses in their own right, offering jobs to employees from PR executives to graphic designers.

The Power Players

Nike, Adidas, and Gatorade are by far the biggest sports companies that actively appeal to fans and sponsor athletes, with other sponsors as varied as Anheuser-Busch, Ford, Visa, and AT&T getting in on the action. (Just think of how many Budweiser commercials are aired on Super Bowl Sunday.) Companies will do anything to get their name read on national television, whether through billboards, water bottles, patches, or uniforms.

One huge source of revenue for athletes is endorsements. Superstars like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and Mia Hamm were vaulted to new heights of fame through advertisements, while savvy marketing agents and managers have been able to earn a pretty penny from their cut. These companies are also responsible for thousands of jobs, with Nike supporting as many as 26,000 employees.

Show Me the Money

Though ambitious but often clueless businessmen can sometimes squeeze every last cent out of successful players and teams, bear in mind that it is much easier to relate to athletes if you learn a little something about their sports. Complimenting your client on his latest jump shot probably won't help you if it was actually a fantastic three-pointer.


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