Baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez is one of the sport’s most recognizable figures on one of the most famous teams, yet even as he makes millions of dollars playing, the endorsement deals just aren’t as lucrative as non-Latino players. And as a quarter of Major League Baseball’s players are Latino, it would seem odd that more of them aren’t starring in advertisements.
This appears to be the case for Latino MLB players however. Some have argued that while there are a number of successful Latino players in the MLB, many of them advertisers are wary to sign them for fear that their English skills may not allow the close fan-athlete connection advertisers are looking for.
Scott Becher, president of Sports & Sponsorships, a sports-marketing firm in Hollywood, Florida, said Latino player “are extremely marketable. The only challenge for some is their command of English. Adding, “Fans want to feel a connection to their favorite players, and eliminating a language barrier significantly accelerates that bonding.”
However it’s not always hesitation on the part of advertisers. Sometimes players are the one slow to accept endorsement deals.
Alex Gonzalez, shortstop for the Atlanta Braves, grew up in Venezuela. At 17, he was signed to the Florida Marlins. Gonzalez told NBC Sports that he, like many other Spanish-speaking players that come to the U.S., are wary to accept endorsement deals for fear that their English is not good enough to be on television.
“You might have guys come to you who say, ‘Hey, we want to do a commercial with you.’ But maybe you’re scared, because you don’t know how to speak perfect English to be on TV,” Gonzalez said.
But for players like Rodriguez, third baseman for the New York Yankees, English is not the barrier. A-rod was born and raised in the U.S. and speaks fluent English, but compared to other athletes, even his endorsements are minute.
Though he brings in $4 million from endorsement, pro golfer Jim Furyk, who only has one major win under his bet, brought in $9 million. Even “small-market” NBA player Kevin Durant raked in $14 million.
Once more, St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols is arguable the best player of the last decade, yet even he only makes $8 million from endorsements. And while these million dollar deals would seem like a lot to the average person, compared to the millions non-Latinos in baseball and other sports, it’s fairly low. Even for the Asian players
Whatever the reason for the lack luster endorsement deals, perhaps the up-and-coming Latino players will bring the group into the spotlight.
Young stars like Adrian Gonzalez with the San Diego Padres and Carlos Gonzalez with the Colorado Rockies are poised to become MLB’s star players as both Pujols and Rodriguez retire from the game in the coming years, as both are in their 30s.