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ENDORSEMENT FUMBLE? COWBOYS OWNER JONES, EX-COACH JOHNSON SHAKE THINGS UP

By Published on .

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally bid happy trails and good riddance to coach Jimmy Johnson last week, but it's too soon to tell whether their ugly ego battle has tarnished or enhanced endorsement opportunities.

The brash and hot-headed duo was responsible for resurrecting America's team and guiding it to back-to-back Super Bowl wins. The former college roommates split for good after Mr. Jones made comments to reporters about replacing Mr. Johnson. But whether their relationship as endorsers will change remains to be seen.

The pair appeared last fall in a spot for athletic footwear marketer Apex One. The commercial from Partners & Shevack, New York, had Mr. Johnson picking up some hitchhiking Cowboys players bound for the Super Bowl. Mr. Jones also wants a ride-but the coach leaves him in the dust.

"We could do a sequel to build off that, perhaps with the new coach, or maybe we'll focus on another team's trip to the Super Bowl. Who knows?" said David Venneri, public relations-advertising manager for Apex.

"It would be really wild to use both Jimmy and Jerry, but Jimmy has more potential. He's the most colorful coach since Ditka," said David Burns, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service.

Calls to the agents for Messrs. Johnson and Jones were not returned.

Only an elite few NFL coaches have enjoyed corporate spokesman status. And endorsements by NFL team owners are practically unheard of.

New Cowboys coach Barry Switzer received high marks from sports marketing experts for being a colorful personality.

"I think Barry could pitch like Cy Young," said Alan Friedman, editor of Team Marketing Report.

However, Mr. Switzer does bring some baggage to the job. He coached the University of Oklahoma team for 16 years and won three national titles, but left in 1989 amid allegations of NCAA violations.

Will controversy hurt the Cowboys' marketable America's team image?

"Fans are conditioned to look past management squabbles," Mr. Friedman said. "As long as the Cowboys keep winning, they'll be OK."

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