The top talent on nationally recognized sports teams are accustomed to signing multi-year, multi-million dollar deals. However, the recession has contributed to a slowdown in deals. And other factors are changing the endorsement 1136141_rugby_actionindustry.  For example, there’s the awkward problem of what to do with athletes who fall short of expectations – professionally or personally.

This situation has given rise to a new trend in sponsorships. Marketers are increasingly signing athletes for limited time campaigns. And they are using new technology to speed up the process of creating campaigns. A New York Times article highlighted how large marketers such as Ford are working with Brand Affinity, a new generation  company that connects athletes with  “advertisers seeking star power in more efficient, and affordable, forms.”

Brand Affinity’s CEO Ryan Steelberg calls athletes “human capital brands”. His business strategy has been to extend the traditional national sports star endorsement into regional and local markets. In this way, marketers can reach local consumers who can identify with a local sports star from minor league teams.

One big advantage for marketers is lower costs. And Brian Bos, spokesperson for the agencies that work for Ford Motor says this strategy “reduces risk and provides flexibility, because you’re not tied into long-term deals.”

If Brand Affinity’s business model and strategy continue to do well, consumers can expect to see more local and regional  celebrities appearing in short-term campaigns on media platforms as varied as Web sites, online video, billboards, and magazines.

[Source:  Elliott, Stuart. A Place Where Sponsors Sign Athletes, New York Times, 10.18.09]