Connors endorses Thera-P magnets in Homedics ads

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Tennis great Jimmy Connors began to use magnetic therapy pain relief in 1997, which is why he's agreed to star in a campaign for Homedics, makers of Thera P Magnetic Wave product line, this July.

The national print and radio effort from Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, promotes the two-year-old line. Thera P products, such as ankle and knee wraps, are said to use magnets to stimulate blood flow and the body's natural healing process.

Spending was not disclosed. Homedics, whose other products include foot baths and relaxation systems, spent $978,000 on all its advertising in 1999, according to Competitive Media Reporting, down from $2.7 million in 1998.

The print ads, to run in publications such as People, Newsweek, O, The Oprah Magazine and U.S. News & World Report, feature a seated Mr. Connors with a racquet -- and Thera P products wrapped around several body parts. Arrows point to body parts, such as a wrist or ankle, while text cites tournaments during which Mr. Connors first felt pain.

REMAINS ACTIVE

Mr. Connors began to use magnetic therapy in 1997 when a friend suggested he try a magnetic mattress pad to ease his sore back. When executives at CME learned that Mr. Connors believed in the treatment, they contacted his agent, and soon after inked the endorsement deal.

CME executives were attracted by Mr. Connors's determination to remain active even after his best tennis days were behind him. The 47-year-old Mr. Connors, who won the U.S. Open and Wimbledon tournaments in his heyday, continues to play on the Senior Tour.

"While he is best known as a tennis pro, he has in recent years taken up golf, and he's an active walker," said a CME spokeswoman. "He personifies an individual who wants to stay in great shape."

For its Thera P products, Homedics targets athletic people from the ages of 35 to about 60.

Mr. Connors joins a recent trend of retired athletes doing ads for pain-relief products. Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan pitches American Home Products' Advil, while former hockey great Wayne Gretzky appears in ads for McNeil Consumer Healthcare's Tylenol.

"It makes sense," said Sheila Casserly Clary, president of Celebrity Focus, which matches marketers and celebrities. "Often, the target market for these products skews older, and [former athletes] might have been the favorites of the target."

Homedics bills itself as a leader in the growing magnetic therapy segment, which it claims generated $150 million in sales in 1999.

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