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Bo’s Injury Could Affect Lucrative Endorsement Career

March 19, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ Everybody probably has heard by now that Bo knows ..., but what if Bo can’t?

A hip injury led baseball’s Kansas City Royals to release Bo Jackson Monday, throwing into question the athlete’s status as a two-sport superstar. Jackson, an outfielder for the Royals, also is a running back for the Los Angeles Raiders.

After an examination of his hip, Jackson said Monday he thinks he can play baseball this year, and his doctor didn’t even rule out a return to football.

But if he can’t play one or both sports, some top sports talent consultants say it could hurt his lucrative career as an advertising pitchman.

Jackson may be as well-known for his ″Bo Knows ...″ series of ads for the athletic footwear company Nike Inc. as he is for his play for the Raiders and Royals.

The Nike ads for multi-use athletic shoes have helped build Jackson’s reputation as a super-athlete by casting him as someone who can play almost any sport - except maybe hockey - at a level even the pros appreciate.

Nike spokeswoman Liz Dolan said Monday that no matter what the doctors advise Jackson to do about his hip, it won’t affect his contract with Nike.

″We have never canceled a contract with an athlete due to an injury,″ she said. ″Unfortunately, injury is part of sports and we understand that.″

She specifically denied a report that Jackson’s contract with Nike requires him to play two sports. Talent negotiators say Jackson has probably made more than $2 million for his association with Nike over the past few years.

Over the past two summers, the Nike ads made the phrase ″Bo knows ...″ a symbol of unquestioned performance.

The phrase is so well-known that Jackson never missed a beat by using it in a commercial for a telephone company to show he ″knows long-distance.″

A soft drink maker borrowed the versatility theme in a recent ad that finds Jackson auditioning with his booming version of the brand’s latest theme song.

But will the commercial offers end if Jackson’s hip injury cuts his career short, reducing Bo to more average proportions?

Some top talent consultants who advise advertisers on which athletes to use in their advertising say it depends on how serious the injury is.

Marty Blackman of the New York-based consulting firm Blackman and Raber said if Jackson’s injury keeps him out of baseball for a month, it won’t hurt his marketability at all and the publicity may even help.

But if Jackson is restricted to playing only one sport, Blackman said, ″It certainly diminishes his superman aura.″

The worst scenario, Blackman said, may not necessarily be if Jackson were forced to give up both baseball and football.

″If he can’t play, that forces him out tragically but at least he’s on top. Probably in the long run, the worst case is if he becomes a journeyman player,″ Blackman said.

David Burns, who heads Burns Sports Celebrity Service in Chicago, said he doubts that any advertisers will end their contracts with Jackson if he is out all year and it is clear it is only for a year.

″If he is out period, I do think the advertising will stop,″ he said.

Lloyd Kolmer, who heads the celebrity brokerage Lloyd Kolmer Enterprises in New York, said Jackson’s injury forces any companies thinking of signing him for new commercials to put their plans on hold.

He said if the injury keeps him out permanently, Nike will probably continue using Jackson until his current ads run their course and will then start featuring other athletes in its commercials.

Kolmer said the appliance brand Hamilton Beach once continued using football star Joe Namath in ads for its popcorn popper even after the quarterback suffered a knee injury that left him on crutches.

While Jackson’s injury may seem to directly relate to his viability in selling athletic shoes, Kolmer said he could imagine ways that Nike could use Jackson in its ads anyway.

It could show Jackson wearing Nikes while rehabilitating his hip, Kolmer said, and possibly in a humorous way ″take the ‘S’ off his chest.″

Nike hasn’t yet decided what commercials it will use this summer, but spokeswoman Dolan said it expects that ads with Jackson for cross-training shoes will be among them.

″What is super about Bo hasn’t changed. If anybody can get over something like this, Bo can,″ Ms. Dolan said.

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