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AS BARRY BONDS LIMPS AWAY, TEAM ADS HAIL HIS RETURN

Sports Marketing Authority Calls San Francisco Giants' Situation a 'Little Embarrassing'

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- The San Francisco Giants not only have to rethink batting strategies now that slugger Barry Bonds is out of the lineup for the indefinite future. They also have to rethink its advertising play, which was centered on the star outfielder.
Photo: AP
Barry Bonds in Scottsdale, Ariz., two days ago.

On crutches
This week, as an unhappy Mr. Bonds, clinging to crutches following knee surgery, discussed his uncertain future, Giants' pre-season TV spots aired around the local news. In one spot, themed "The San Francisco Giants are back," Mr. Bonds was shown going around the bases in reverse motion, ending up at the plate from where he hit a home run.

Four local radio spots in the campaign also venerated Mr. Bonds. Each "fantasy" radio spot, which aired primarily on sports programs, sounded as though the listener had tuned into the middle of a broadcast with Mr. Bonds at the plate. In one, an opposing pitcher is crying because he was likely to throw the ball Mr. Bonds would hit to break Babe Ruth's home run record. In another, opposing outfielders were in San Francisco Bay trying to catch Mr. Bonds home run balls.

Along with a bum leg, Mr. Bonds is also grappling with other awkward issues, including the alleged use of steroids, reported grand jury testimony involving an alleged former mistress and an Internal Revenue Service review of his finances.

'A little embarrassing'
Some experts don't think the Giants shouldn't give Mr. Bonds the hook just yet. "I think it's too early to pull those spots," said Bob Dorfman, executive vice president and executive creative director at independent shop Pickett Advertising and an authority on sports marketing. He said Mr. Bonds likely will return to the game to "break those home run records." At some point, however, with the steroid scandal and other issues, "it does get a little bit embarrassing," he said

"The whole mix isn't about Bonds,” said one executive involved in the baseball team's advertising. He pointed out that some ads feature pitcher Jason Schmidt and first baseman J.T. Snow and said new spots for the season are expected to be shot next month.

Focus on fans
Like Major League Baseball and a number of other teams this season, the Giants might be better off focusing on the fans, this executive added. Other advertisers participating in baseball sponsorships also need "to figure out how to stay involved in the game," he said.

Executives at the Giants, and their agency, MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners West, either did not return calls or declined comment.

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