For years, Nike and Reebok have paid top dollar to such NBA superstars
as Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neill to promote their basketball
shoes. NASCAR drivers hit the track as walking billboards carrying
almost more sponsor logos than their uniforms can support. Now, it
appears, the marketing trend has gone to the dogs – literally.
USA Today reports that canine boosterism is becoming a big marketing
business as dog shows and events proliferate on television. Lisa
Flowers, an AT&T service manager from Columbus, Ohio, recently sent
Dilemma, her border collie, trotting onto the field to star in ESPN’s
“Great Outdoor Games,” set in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Dilemma wore a
black bandana bearing the Stihl logo, a custom-made Equinox Champion
jacket and an orange Natura collar. In return, Dilemma brings home a
$1,000 fee from each sponsor (along with an extra $1,000 bonus for any
gold medal won) and all the dog food she can eat from Natura.
Merial, a joint venture of Merck &I Co. and Sanofi-Aventis SA,
recently signed other contenders, including Hamlet, a Jack
Russell terrier, a frisbee-catching mutt named Calvin and a dozen other
dogs to wear blue bandanas promoting Frontline flea and tick control at
this year’s “Great Outdoor Games, which were watched by more than
850,000 homes during the July 13-17 broadcast on ESPN and ABC.
Not only to dogs supply relatively low-cost advertising, but unlike
some of their human counterparts, they don’t give their sponsors
migraine headaches by taking steroids, brawling with fans or getting
caught up in sex scandals.
“They’re so sportsmanlike,” said Shadd Field, president of DockDogs,
which sponsors a competition measuring how far a dog can jump off a
dock ino a pond. “Even when they lose, they just wag their tails and
are happy to be out there.”