Building Brand Bautista and addressing “the question”
Heading to the office Monday morning I noticed a poster of José Bautista on a wall inside the Cooksville GO station.
In it he’s pitching Booster Juice, which is a sort of Smoothie King of the north — 300 outlets nationwide peddling fruit smoothies and a healthy lifestyle.
Besides being impressed at the poster’s linguistic correctness (they included the accent over the “e” in José), another thought popped into my head:
The guy leads the majors with 54 homers last season, backs it up with 37 and counting this season while also boosting his batting average by more than 50 points and leading the majors in OPS, and all he can wring from those big numbers is a sponsorship from Booster Juice? Shouldn’t a player who just broke the record for All-Star Game fan votes be pulling down big-time endorsements by the dozen?
But the great thing about being a reporter, whether you’re in sports or in business, is that when these questions arise you can pick up the phone and find the answer, then share what you’ve learned with a few million readers.
What I learned this week is that marketing Bautista hasn’t been simple but, according to his agent, the Booster Juice ads aren’t the sum total of an effort to sell the Bautista brand. Instead it’s the first in what agent Alex Radetsky says will be a series of increasingly high-profile endorsement deals for Bautista.
I also learned that the campaign’s slogan — Bats right. Throws right. Lives right — was a playful but purposeful jab aimed at the people who for the last year have floated innuendo that Bautista used the other kind of Juice to boost his home-run totals.
As I mentioned in the article, it’s a little like Ben Johnson’s hilariously atrocious commercials for Cheetah Energy Drink.
For Bautista’s sake, I hope the TV spots Booster Juice have planned are better than both the Cheetah commercial, and the painful Joey Bats the Mobster ads that have been inducing cringes at MLB ballparks all summer.
I can almost hear the director giving Bautista instructions between takes.
“Can you give it a little more Goombah this time, José? Thanks!”
While Bautista is in no danger of winning an Oscar, some folks think he does run the risk of the “Lives Right” ad campaign exploding in his bearded face if he flunks a drug test. And yes, if you get caught with steroids after telling the world — or at least Canada — that you’re committed to healthy living, you’d better use that Booster Juice to wash down a Palmeiro-sized helping of crow.
I can understand some people’s continued skepticism.
Baseball has never seen a guy so old (Bautista was 28 in late 2009, when the homers began to fly) reshape his game so dramatically. Bautista has hit 91 homers since the beginning of the 2010 season, even though his highest previous single-season total was 16.
That’s pretty strong circumstantial evidence that a guy fiddles with syringes in his free time.
But as Score Media baseball blogger Andrew Stoeten points out in this concise and gut-bustingly funny post, there is equally convincing evidence — both concrete and circumstantial — that Bautista competes clean.
Bautista is a lot of things — infielder, outfielder, pitchman, bad actor.
But he has never struck me as Barry Bonds arrogant or Roger Clemens dense.
And to use steroids while selling healthy living in a brand new national ad campaign, he’d have to be both.
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