When the heroic duo were in their respective grooves last year, breaking Major League Baseball records, experts predicted the two would garner major endorsements that would lift them to perhaps $10 million to $20 million each in marketing deals.
Messrs. Sosa and McGwire did revive an ailing MLB, hurt in 1994 by a season-ending strike that left fans apathetic. But the sum total of both players' ad efforts as a result of that has been more like a bunch of doubles and triples than fence-clearing long balls.
Mr. Sosa is now said to be pulling in about $9 million to $10 million a year in endorsements, according to his marketing rep and industry executives, while Mr. McGwire has signed up for significantly less -- about $3 million, according to executives.
"I'm a bit surprised by how little there has been," said Tom George, senior VP-athlete marketing for sports agency Advantage International, McLean, Va.
MCGWIRE'S LOW PROFILE
For Mr. McGwire's part, the low-profile status is much of his own doing. People close to the player said his focus is on baseball and little else; he earns $9 million in annual salary from the St. Louis Cardinals.
What remains for marketers are charity-type promotion deals or marketing agreements that don't require a lot of his free time.
For instance, Starbucks Coffee Co. is donating $5,000 to a local child's literacy group for each home run he hits.
Last year, during the race for the home run record, Messrs. McGwire and Sosa appeared in a MasterCard International "Priceless" TV commercial, from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, but it required no work on either's part because existing footage was used.
Mr. McGwire's biggest commercial pact is a two-year deal with Nike for him to wear the company's baseball shoes; it has a value of about $3 million, according to industry estimates. Smaller deals for Mr. McGwire include one with Oakley sunglasses, Rawlings Sporting Goods Co. (for baseball bats), Champion Nutrition International and an ad in the National Fluid Milk Processors Education Program's "Got milk?" print campaign.
Mr. McGwire's point person on marketing deals, Jim Milner, who operates a marketing company in Long Beach, Calif., refused to comment.
Lack of an all-out marketing approach by Mr. McGwire has hurt the selling of Messrs. McGwire and Sosa as a tandem.
"Mark McGwire had the key to both of these guys making bigger endorsements," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports, Chicago, which secured Mr. Sosa for a role in a TV commercial for his client, Kmart Corp.
"It's hard to imagine Sammy doing too much better," said Mike Leonard, president of Integrated Marketing Solutions, Chicago, which handles marketing efforts for Mr. Sosa. "But I've been surprise that more companies didn't approach us in using both players."
Mr. Sosa has been much more aggressive.
Major deals include an agreement with McDonald's Corp., in which he has appeared in two national TV spots; a pact with Spanish-language TV network Telemundo that involves on-air endorsements (being a host on a possible TV show is being considered); and a shoe deal with Fila USA.
Others include ties with Fuji Photo Film USA; Chicago clothier Bigsby & Kruthers; a comics book deal; an agreement with memorabilia company Total Sports Concepts; a cereal called Slammin' Sammies from Famous Fixins'; and an endorsement with sunglass marketer Native Eyewear.
"Before, Mr. Sosa wasn't on the top list of [sports] endorsers; now he is in the top five," claimed Mr. Leonard.
Executives said previously the top baseball endorsers were Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr., who each earn around $8 million per year. As a comparison to more strongly marketed basketball players, Shaquille O'Neal and Grant Hill each have earned $12 million to $15 million in their peak endorsement revenue years, according to industry estimates.
The king of all athletes/endorsers, Michael Jordan, still posts nearly $40 million in annual revenues.
Though both Messrs. Sosa and McGwire may have missed out on opportunities, all is not lost.
"You see this with Sampras and Agassi; you saw this with the Celtics and the Lakers in the '80s," Mr. George said. "The only thing left is to battle head-to-head again for the home-run crown. There would be a lot of excitement if they