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Phoenix Suns star Charles Bark-ley may be considering retirement from pro basketball, but he's working overtime on his off-court endorsement career.

The next two months will see a blitz of new marketing efforts featuring Mr. Barkley, including campaigns for Hyundai Motor America, Gillette Co.'s Right Guard, McDonald's Corp. and Nestle Chocolate & Confec-tion's Baby Ruth candy bar.

Coordinating Mr. Barkley's marketing ventures is New York-based talent agency J. Michael Bloom & Associates, whose recent entry into sports marketing has been compared to Creative Artists Agency's un precedented foray into ad vertising.

Bloom fi nalized Mr. Barkley's deal with Hyundai earlier this month. He will appear in a spot, making its debut in February, created by Backer Spielvogel Bates.

Gillette will feature Mr. Barkley in two new commercials from N W Ayer that resurrect the "Anything less would be uncivilized" campaign for Right Guard antiperspirant.

McDonald's will use Mr. Barkley in a Super Bowl commercial created by Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, and Nestle will introduce a spot next month from Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor, New York, that supports a six-month sweepstakes promotion for Baby Ruth.

Mr. Barkley signed with J. Michael Bloom in 1989 and is the backbone of the agency's burgeoning sports division, which in the past month signed two of the National Basketball Association's most talented and marketable rookies: Chris Webber of the Golden State Warriors and Jamal Mashburn of the Dallas Mavericks.

Traditionally, athletes are represented by business agents or sports marketing companies. Although it is unprecedented for a talent agency to have such a major presence in the sports marketing industry, Marc Perman, talent agent-legal counsel with Bloom who oversees the division, said it shouldn't be considered unusual.

"It's a natural," he said. "We are experienced in finding and negotiating commercial deals for celebrity actors; now, we're doing the same for celebrity athletes."

So far, the sports marketing industry has been impressed with Bloom's entry into the field.

David Burns, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service, said it's "unusual" for entertainment agencies to get into the sports endorsement field because "it's not that profitable for them and because they approach it from a different direction, treating sports celebrities like movie stars, which doesn't always work."

Mr. Barkley had been making an estimated $3 million a year in endorsement income, most of it from Nike. The new deals-plus royalties from the soon-to-be-published book, "The Wit & Wisdom of Charles Barkley"-could double that figure, Mr. Perman said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Barkley will be the subject of a 30-minute special on the afternoon of the Super Bowl, Jan. 30, between telecasts of two NBA games on NBC. The special will serve to promote Mr. Barkley's as yet untitled video about his career, to be released this spring.

Until now, endorsement success eluded Mr. Barkley because of his reputation for being abrasive on and off the court. But winning last year's NBA most valuable player award and appearances in high-profile ad campaigns have made him a hot commodity.

"People have begun warming up and enjoying Barkley for who he is. Jordan was sugar, and Barkley is salt, and salt has its own flavor and appeal," said Brian Murphy, editor of Sports Marketing Letter.M


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