Thursday, April 9, 2015

Endorse This!

Looking for an attention-grabbing celebrity endorsement? Who better than a professional wrestler? Larger-than-life personas and appearances that usually stick out like a sore thumb when up against regular folk. Wrestlers are used to pumping out rhetoric that will make you want to spend your money on what they're promoting, and they often don't need more than one take to get their message out. It's no wonder that wrestlers have been chosen to go outside the squared circle to promote toys, food products, clothing, and more in the past couple of decades. Often, those appearances have created some fun promotional items in their own right.

It's interesting that the biggest promotional crossover of the 1980's involving wrestling took place without the endorsement of the WWF, just as the company was branching out into similar avenues. Indeed, Sgt. Slaughter becoming the face of Hasbro's G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toy line is the stuff that Madison Avenue dreams are made of. Although other real life names such as William "The Refrigerator" Perry and Rowdy Roddy Piper have become G.I. Joe figures since, Sgt. Slaughter is still the icon of the line. Many stories have gone around as to why Slaughter left the WWF as the deal was being done, but the one regarding a conflict of interest does make sense. Hasbro owned G.I. Joe while LJN produced the WWF figure line. Some LJN WWF figures made it into an ad for the mail-away 8 inch Sgt. Slaughter figure, but that was the extent of any crossover.

For not having as much merchandise as the WWF, the NWA held its own as far as promotional deals. My own personal favorite is the Mello Yello tie-in starring "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes. Although several can collections were produced featuring a variety of stars, Dusty was front and center in the advertising campaign at both the store and television level. When the charismatic star urged you to "Make The Mello Yello Move!," you listened! Dusty was no stranger to endorsements, plugging Stanback Headache Powders earlier in the decade. Life-sized cardboard Dusty's made their way to stores, and it's hard to forget "The Dream" and his "million-dollar smile" in the tv commercial for the promotion.

NWA endorsements didn't end when "The Dream" departed the organization and Ted Turner took over. You may remember Jim Ross endlessly mentioning Roos Shoes on NWA programming, and the company name even appearing on ring posts. Although the shoes may be long out of style, some of the promotional materials are still very cool. Roos obviously took the endorsement of the NWA stars very seriously and got their moneys worth by plastering the likenesses of Ric Flair, Sting, Lex Luger, and The Road Warriors in shoe stores nationwide. A variety of posters and cardboard standees came out of the promotion, featuring a WWF-level of stardom for the NWA wrestling stars.

Of course, no wrestler endorsement discussion is complete without mention of the legendary line, "Snap Into A Slim Jim, Ooooh Yeah!" Made famous by "Macho Man" Randy Savage, the initial commercials actually featured The Ultimate Warrior. Other WWF Superstars such as Bam Bam Bigelow and Diesel would assume the role when Savage left the company, but none could compare. The "Macho Man" eventually carried the endorsement deal over to WCW with him, where his then-girlfriend Stephanie "Gorgeous George" Bellars also got into the action. Tins, coolers, and more plastered with "Mach" and the Slim Jim logo are available from the long running promotion.

With John Cena and Fruity Pebbles and WWE's new partnership with TapouT, these deals continue to fill advertisers pockets, store shelves, and our consciousness today and far into the future. Did you save that very first Cena cereal box? I did. It's a great reminder that the stars and faces of our favorite pastime can continue to place right up there with celebrities of other genres. Who knows what a wrestler will endorse next? In the meantime...wash those Pebbles down with some Mello Yello, slip on your old Roos, snap into a Slim Jim, and tune into an old G.I. Joe cartoon. Maybe Andre the Giant singing about Honey Comb will come on during a commercial break. Then all would be right in the (wrestling) world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am trying to hunt down that ROOS standee, do you know where I can find one?