Things that make me go hmmmm #2

Just got the new Softball Sales catalog in the mail yesterday. As usual, I paged through it even though it’s the same stuff I saw in the last 10 catalogs they sent me.

While I was in there, though, I was reminded about one of those things that makes me go hmmm. I always wonder why nearly every product that carries a player endorsement (such as a Jennie Finch or Jessica Mendoza bat) is a mid-level to low mid-level product?

If you were a top-level athlete, wouldn’t you want you name to be on the top of the line product? I know I would for a couple of reasons. One is I’d probably want to use a product that has my name on it, since by implication I’m saying I would. It would also be fun (and intimidating) to go to bat with a stick carrying my name. Another is what you’re associated with. I would hate to think that my name stood for “mid-level” performance when I’ve worked my whole life to become a top-level player. What’s the thinking — use the bat with Jennie Finch’s name on it unless you really want to do well, in which case you should buy this other bat?

The one company I’ve seen do it right, in my opinion, is Wilson. The Cat Osterman signature series is on the A2000, which is their top of the line glove. Sure, at $199 it’s out of the reach of most youth players. But on the other hand it gives them something to aspire to. I never owned an A2000 because by the time I could afford to buy one myself I’d quit playing. But if I had been serious, I would’ve wanted it — especially if one of the Williams brothers (Ted or Billy) had had his name on it too.

It just seems to me that if you’re a top-level athlete endorsing a product line, it should be a top-level product line. Let the mid-level stuff get endorsed by mid-level people.

I dunno. Maybe I just don’t understand marketing. No, wait — that’s my day job. I guess the real lesson here is be your own hero. If you want to be like Jennie, or Jessica, or Crystal, or any of the others, forget whose name is on the products and work your butt off instead.

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About Ken Krause

Ken Krause has been coaching girls fastpitch softball for nearly 20 years. Some may know him as a contributing columnist to Softball Magazine, where he writes Krause's Korner -- a regular column sponsored by Louisville Slugger. Ken is also the Administrator of the Discuss Fastpitch Forum, the most popular fastpitch discussion forum on the Internet. He is currently a Three Star Master Coach with the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA), and is certified by both the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and American Sports Education Program (ASEP). Ken is a private instructor specializing in pitchers, hitters, and catchers. He teaches at North Shore Baseball Academy in Libertyville, IL and Pro-Player Consultants in McHenry, IL.

Posted on January 15, 2009, in General Thoughts. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Ken,I always wondered that too. I coach a 10U team and some of the endorsed bats the girls first brought to the team were very cheap…Our team played in the PFX Tournament in Moline last fall & one of the girls asked Lisa Fernandez to sign her “Lisa Fernandez” bat…Lisa said “Girl, you need to get a better bat!” Ironic, but true.I have always assumed ther reason is manufacturers want to sell to the masses & draw rec league girls to their brand. The number of rec players far exceed the number of travel players. And the number of advertisers looking to sign the Jennie Finch’s of the world are probably few and select. So, to make a buck these ladies probably sign where ever they can…

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  2. You do bring up a good point, Bryan. The athletes probably have little say in it. I don’t blame them, really, for where their names end up. I think it’s good that anyone is offering them endorsement deals for anything. Maybe it starts there and moves upline later.I do wonder about the companies, though. I think they’re sending a mixed message. But maybe they don’t want the top of their line to be associated with a particular athlete, seeing as how the top players in the sport can change from year to year. Not that they don’t in other sports, but it’s easier to forget in softball than in the big money sports. As for the Lisa Fernandez bat thing, maybe it was her old Louisville bat line your player had. She’s endorsing Schutt now, with a top-of-the-line composite bat. So maybe progress is being made after all!

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  3. Interestingly I noticed that Mendoza does use her line of bats. My daughter even commented how “rad that would be to step into the box with your own name on your bat”. I also think I saw Finch use that pink rig she endorses in a NPF game. Not sure if she had a sweet stealth painted pink or not.

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  4. It definitely would be cool to step into the box with a bat that carries your name. Somehow I imagine the bat Finch is using isn’t the one they’re selling with her name, unless they put the graphics on a better bat.

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