1980s vs. Today: Endorsements   

Updated: June 5, 2008, 12:48 PM ET

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The 1980s vs. Today
Was the sports world better back in the 1980s? Or are we better off today? Page 2 has the answers, specifically looking at …

Weinreb: Comparing/contrasting cheating in the '80s versus today

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Lakers vs. Celtics

The endorsements of the 1980s weren't much different from the ones in the decades before, dating back to the Babe Ruth era. A few select athletes who shone in the sports spotlight connected with corporate America and really cashed in.

Pros: The '80s saw the beginning of athletes' working well in TV commercials. The decade kicked off with Mean Joe Greene throwing that kid a jersey in the tunnel, and that still remains many fans' favorite sports-celebrity commercial of all time. O.J. Simpson got better at running through airports, Magic Johnson's smile sold everything from Converse to KFC, and a parade of former athletes argued over "Tastes great" or "Less filling!" To top it all off, the decade finished with Bo Jackson knowing it all, a hugely successful ad campaign.

Cons: The marketing of the era didn't ask athletes to go too far out of their comfort zones, keeping them in their unis and near the sports venue. The production was very simplistic, and hardly any athletes said anything. Most of the spots were attempted humor or put athletes in goofy situations. Some players even pitched tobacco products, a modern-day no-no.

Peyton & Eli Manning

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

A couple of the most popular endorsers right now.

Athletes have worked so well at selling over the years that a billion dollars is spent annually for their endorsements. Companies are foaming at the mouth to sign the next big name, but many times fans are left wondering what that person has done.

Pros: Strength, power and intensity are parts of the commercials today. Sure, many are light and fun, but athletes are showcased more as icons of success and hard work than people just clowning around. The Eli Manning is "unstoppable" campaign comes to mind. Eli Manning, unstoppable? Who would've said that in Week 1 last season? Turned out they were right, at least for that year. Computer technology also has pushed things along for the better, and we see more surprises. Kobe jumps a car, Shaq races in the Derby -- the modern-day spots are much more creative.

Cons: The quest for athlete endorsements is so huge now that many unproven commodities are entering the national spotlight. Specifically Brady Quinn. Has anyone sold more on the national stage by doing less on the field? Sorry, no offense, Anna K. The products themselves are getting a little weird, too. Ballplayers selling Viagra? Talking foot odor? Please.

VERDICT: I'm a sentimental guy, but to me, the current days are better. Sure, it's strange to see Peyton Manning call timeout and then sell us phones and a credit card with a great interest rate. It's even stranger when we return to action and he's intercepted by a guy who sells a different phone the following commercial break. You could say that the corporate hold on athletes and sports is crushing the little-guy fan, but athletes' pitching products will never change. From Babe Ruth to Bob Knight, it has worked. So is it better for the fan now? Probably. Commercials always will manipulate us, so why not be manipulated by someone drafted with the 22nd pick?



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