Tony Hawk gains clout as pitchman

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Tony Hawk views himself as a skater, not a hawker, but these days he increasingly finds himself able to be both.

The 34-year-old skateboarding sensation will make a far bigger splash than ever before on airwaves this year, flaunting his extreme skills as the spokesman for both Frito-Lay's Go Snacks and Morningstar Foods' Hershey's Milk and Milkshakes. The two campaigns are both large-scale national media buys, estimated at $15 million each.

The family man and extreme-sport star's celebrity status has soared to heights only just shy of uber-spokesman Michael Jordan's-sparking Activision's wildly popular Tony Hawk Pro Skater video-game series, a virtual action-sports circus tour dubbed Boom Boom HuckJam, his own Birdhouse skateboard company and a deal for Quiksilver apparel. Mr. Hawk will also visit Toy Fair this week to push Art Asylum's launch of Tony Hawk Action Figures (complete down to the wedding ring he is unable ever to slip past his knuckle due to multiple finger fractures.)


Frito-Lay actually stepped up the launch of its ad campaign to coincide with Mr. Hawk's omnipresence on the Fox Network this past weekend both as a guest star on the 300th episode of "The Simpsons" and as marshal of the Daytona 500.

Although Mr. Hawk has endorsed H.J. Heinz Co.'s Bagel Bites since 2000 (a deal that runs through this year) the media budget for that brand was relatively paltry, just $6.5 million over the past three years, per Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. This year's much weightier marketing campaigns are expected to drive growth of the PepsiCo and Dean Foods units' brands and, according to Mr. Hawk, will help highlight the sport of skating and build a bigger, better Boom Boom HuckJam Tour, his biggest push right now.

Toby Purdy, senior VP-marketing for Morningstar, which for years has tied in to the X Games, said the two-year deal with Mr. Hawk will help expand its Hershey's milk brand because "he represents coolness-what kids and tweens aspire to be-in the right way."

Mr. Hawk's agent, William Morris Senior VP Brian Dubin, said, though, that Mr. Hawk's rise in the world of advertising has "not been quick." In fact, he said, "it's taken mainstream advertisers quite a while to realize who kids in America are paying attention to" because of their fixation with more traditional sports such as basketball, football and baseball.

Steve Bratspies, director of marketing for on-the-go snacking at Frito-Lay, acknowledged that sports like skateboarding have exploded over the last few years, and that Mr. Hawk's "astronomical" rise is even bigger than a lot of people from mainstream sports. Frito will feature Mr. Hawk in ads for Doritos Go Snacks and in its back-to-school promotion this August.


The foray into big-time endorsement deals comes, Mr. Hawk said, partly as a result of his growing clout (published reports cite the Hawk business empire as worth $250 million a year, and sales of his video game at over $500 million). "In the past, bigger companies wouldn't listen to our input as to how things would be marketed and presented," he said.

Not so now. Mr. Hawk was able to "nip in the bud" a suggestion of a stunt double for the Frito-Lay spots from Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, in which he performs street maneuvers he's not necessarily known for, and cut down to size the height of a banister he was to jump over for the main stunt. And, for the Hershey's spots, Mr. Hawk requested that Omnicom's DDB, Dallas, hire his former coach Stacy Peralta as director so they were "shot the right way and show skating in the right light."

After all, he said, "I don't want to be an actor guy or a celebrity or give motivational speeches ... I want the focus of whatever I do to be the skating."

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