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Now that the U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team is drawing strong TV ratings and packing stadiums, its stars are easily scoring product endorsements. But some sports marketing executives aren't sure it will last.

New deals are anticipated for team captain Mia Hamm as well as Judy Foudy, Brandi Chastian and Kristine Lilly, particularly in the haircare and personal products categories.

Ms. Hamm already has endorsements valued at a combined $1 million, including work for PowerBar, a TV spot with Michael Jordan for Quaker Oats Co.'s Gatorade and a Nike spot that featured the team.


High ratings on ESPN and attendance for the Women's World Cup also have spurred preliminary interest in a women's professional soccer league, as well as for a world tour for the U.S. team.

Last week, a number of media executives, prospective sponsors and soccer officials had a meeting in Los Angeles to discuss a U.S.-based pro league.

Sports marketing observers contend the players' long-term marketability could be hindered by the poor track record of sustained interest in professional soccer leagues.

"The World Cup creates an Olympics-type of frenzy, but this is short-lived," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports.

Mr. Williams points to the men's World Cup soccer team, which had lackluster results trying to build on its 1994 and 1998 successes with the U.S.-based professional league, Major League Soccer. So far this year, the 4-year-old league has dropped to a 0.38 rating, or 286,000 homes, on ESPN from a high of 0.60 in its initial 1996 season.

Women's World Cup now draws significantly higher ratings. In its semifinal match against Brazil, the U.S. pulled in a 3.78 Nielsen rating, or 2.88 million homes-the highest-rated soccer telecast ever on ESPN.


But there's little doubt about the Women's World Cup players' potential in the short term, said Steve Lindecke, VP-director of client relations for sports agent IMG.

"The marketing will be pretty strong," he said. "They embody the spirit, drive and enthusiasm. And unlike the U.S. men, the U.S. women's team is successful as well as having an international star in Mia Hamm."

Sheryl Shade, president at Shade Global, who co-represents Ms. Hamm with Bober & Associates, said she expects a number of new deals for her client and the rest of the team, especially in haircare and personal products.


"When you are on the cover of USA Today every day, you cannot expect but for this to help," said Ms. Shade.

Ms. Shade said she believes the team will be highly marketable for the long term as the sport continues to grow. She said the women's team will gain visibility through next year, when it competes in the Sydney Summer Olympic Games.

She noted that existing International Olympic Committee sponsors could ink deals

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