FEMALE ATHLETES FLEX THEIR MUSCLES
Are female athletes finally muscling in on the big endorsement bucks?
Sure, Nancy Kerrigan scored with Revlon and Reebok, while Katarina Witt hit gold with Coke and Danskin. And there’s Chris Evert and a handful of others, but the women’s endorsement game still lags way behind men’s.
Two such contracts have been signed recently at Benetton Sportsystem, a sports-holding company comprised of international sporting goods and apparel brands. According to Patricia Saraceni, director of communications, the company just signed fourth-ranked worldwide women’s tennis player Yanna Novotna, who plays for Czechoslovakia, to endorse the Prince line of apparel and equipment. Beach volleyball player Barbara Fontana will endorse Killer Loop surfwear, which includes visors, hats and shorts. The contracts begin at the end of January, said Saraceni. Novotna’s is a multiyear contract; Saraceni did not reveal the length of Fontana’s contract. In the case of Novotna, she endorses both Prince clothing and rackets. “She is the only athlete in our group that endorses equipment and apparel,” said Saraceni. The company’s goal, she said, is to have athletes endorsing all of its groups and to create promotional synergies between the apparel and equipment portions of the brands. Other Benetton Sportsystem brands include Nordica, Rollerblade, Ektelon, Asolo, Kastle and Nitro.
Danskin Inc. is also using an athlete in its marketing. Five-time gold medal gymnast Nadia Comaneci will appear on behalf of the company at the Super Show, Feb. 3-6 in Atlanta.
According to chief executive officer Howard Cooley, the company is hoping that Comaneci, who will be giving a gymnastics demonstration at the show, will attract attention to the company’s new athletic footwear line. The line is designed exclusively for women and is focused on aerobics and other sports, said Cooley.
Danskin and Comaneci have no long-term agreement at this time, but Cooley did not rule out the possibility. He cited their previous working relationship at Jockey, when the athlete appeared in ads for the company, most notably on a billboard in Times Square, and said they have become good friends.
“She is a very exciting person and she draws big crowds,” he said.
It’s going to be a cool time at the Super Show in Atlanta — literally. One of the new product lines being introduced is designed to keep the body cool during strenuous activities or in the face of intense heat.
The Hot Cooler & Chilly Gear product line, which is being introduced by DLG International of Sherman Oaks, Calif., includes bandannas, visors, cap liners and wrist/ankle wraps.
The wearer soaks the product in cool water for 15 to 20 seconds, pats it dry and puts it on. It works up to 24 hours without making a dripping-wet mess.
According to Linda Tobias, president of DLG, the product works through evaporation, but she would not divulge the patented fabric that creates the cooling effect. She claims the products reduce body temperature by 10 degrees.
Tobias said that to ensure quality, the products are made in the U.S. “We take a lot of pride in the fact that everything is made right here,” she said. Even so, she continued, prices are still competitive: Suggested retail prices range from $6.95 to $12.95. Tobias would not comment on sales projections.
Reebok Fights for Rights
For the past seven years, Reebok has actively supported efforts to improve human rights internationally, and last month it awarded five people — four adults and one child — its annual award.
The award recognizes people under 30 who work against great odds to improve human rights conditions in their communities. To support their work, The Reebok Foundation distributes $25,000 to a rights organization designated by each of the recipients.
This year’s recipients include:
Rose-Anne Auguste: This 30-year-old Haitian nurse worked in her native land to improve chronically poor health care for the needy.
Adauto Belarmino Alves: Alves, 29, is a gay rights activist and AIDS educator. He hails from Brazil, where for the past four years, he has been working as coordinator of the AIDS and preventive health project for the Institute of Religious Studies, which defends the rights of social minorities.
Dilli Bahadur Chaudhary: This 25-year-old educates and organizes fellow members of the Nepales Tharu minority to overcome their status as bonded laborers. As founder and chairman of the Backward Society Education Organization (BASE), he educates members of the lowest castes and bonded laborers about their rights.
Samuel Kofi Woods: Woods serves as the director of the Justice and Peace Commission in Liberia, where he fights for human rights in a country torn apart by civil war. The 30-year-old has launched a network of Justice and Peace Commissions throughout the country to monitor and investigate rights violations.
Iqbal Masih: Masih, 12, was awarded the Youth-In-Action award for his actions in helping to free bonded laborers. Himself a slave for six years, he suffered from beatings, malnutrition and long work days.
Award recipients are chosen annually by the Reebok Human Rights Board of Advisors, which includes such notables as former president Jimmy Carter; Kerry Kennedy Cuomo, executive director of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights; poet and journalist Rose Styron, and musicians Peter Gabriel and Sting.
The Sporting Life
Skiers aren’t the only athletes headed north these days. A growing number of sports nuts are camping out at The Equinox Inn in Manchester Village, Vt., where relaxing is permitted, but not encouraged.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel traces its history back to 1769 when The Green Mountain Boys and other revolutionaries met in the hotel’s Marsh Tavern.
Guests often start the day with a guided four-mile fitness walk along wilderness trails or hit the morning aerobics class. The spa, which offers Stairmasters, LifeCycles, Nautilus weight-training and other athletic equipments, is open 12 hours a day.
During the winter months, skiing, skating and snowshoeing are popular pastimes. Cross-country skiers test their skills on the nearby trails at Hildene, a 24-room Georgian Revival estate that was once home to Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Todd.
In warmer weather, visitors frequent the Equinox’s tennis courts, 18-hole golf course, fishing pond and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Rentals for horses, mountain bikes, kayaks and canoes are also available.
Golf architect Rees Jones designed the Gleneagles Golf Course to rival its sister facility in Scotland, the Gleneagles Hotel and Golf Resort.
Less enthusiastic athletes can give their credit cards a real workout by visiting the Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Ellen Tracy, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani or any of the other 54 outlet stores in town.