MCGWIRE, SOSA COULD RIDE HOME-RUN HYPE AS AD TEAM

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If major league sluggers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa both shatter Roger Maris' home-run record this year -- which seems increasingly inevitable -- they will be teamed not only in record books but in endorsement deals as well.

Neither will break endorsement records; it's estimated Mr. McGwire would pull in about $2 million in pacts if he passes the mark first.

MasterCard International last weekend joined Anheuser-Busch and Pepsi-Cola Co. in leveraging the home-run hype in ads. But MasterCard's spot, created by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, is the first one to feature both Messrs. McGwire and Sosa.

Mark Leonard, president of Integrated Marketing Solutions and agent for Chicago Cub Mr. Sosa, said the MasterCard pairing prompted him to call the agent for St. Louis Cardinal Mr. McGwire to talk about working together on other projects.

`EXPLORING OPTIONS'

"I picked up the phone and introduced myself to Robert Cohen [who handles Mr. McGwire] and talked to him about exploring options we could do together," said Mr. Leonard. "Ultimately, whether they appear together in [another] spot would be driven by the creative concept of the advertiser."

Mr. Cohen, an attorney, couldn't be reached for comment.

At press time, Mr. McGwire -- with 59 homers to Mr. Sosa's 56 -- was in the best position to break the 37-year-old record first.

Despite recent controversy about Mr. McGwire's use of a supplement banned by some sports leagues, several sports-marketing experts said the muscular redhead is more marketable than Mr. Sosa, who hails from the Dominican Republic.

"It's not a plus to be from a foreign country and speak with an accent," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service.

ALL-AMERICAN IMAGE

Fred Fried, exec VP-chief operating officer, Integrated Sports International, agreed Mr. McGwire's all-American image gives him an edge. "To achieve superstar endorsement status, Sosa has to actually win this race," he said.

Mr. Leonard said he believes Mr. Sosa, as a Hispanic player, has more potential opportunities than Mr. McGwire because he can be used in ads targeting both English- and Spanish-speaking consumers. McDonald's Corp. recently used Mr. Sosa in the Chicago market in such a way.

Mr. McGwire, who like Mr. Sosa has an endorsement deal with Nike, has said he won't shoot new commercials until the end of the season, and apparently turned down a number of offers. Mr. Sosa is concentrating on getting the Cubs into the playoffs, but could be open to shooting spots running in time for the playoffs, said Mr. Leonard.

If Mr. McGwire breaks the record, sports marketing experts say he stands to make up to $2 million in the next year, probably more if he does it first and alone. If Mr. Sosa breaks it first, he could make about $1 million, but between $500,000 and $750,000 if he follows Mr. McGwire. But experts say if both break the record and end the season with the same number of home runs, advertisers could have an advantage in negotiating.

The MasterCard commercial that broke during the weekend uses MLB footage of both players. A-B also used footage for its McGwire spot from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, in which the slugger sends a shot through the windows of a Bud blimp.

PEPSI STICKS TO SPONSORED TEAMS

Pepsi's spot by BBDO Worldwide, New York, in support of its "Pepsi Home Run Countdown" promotion, has footage of Mr. Sosa and other home-run leaders -- but not Mr. McGwire.

A Pepsi spokesman said the company has not yet received permission from Mr. McGwire, whose Cardinals are sponsored by Coca-Cola Co. The athletes in Pepsi's current spot play for teams sponsored by Pepsi.

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