|Friday, November 8
Updated: November 9, 4:14 PM ET
Sharpie plans to make its mark in commercial
By Darren Rovell
"Sharpie-gate" was missing one key player when Terrell Owens made headlines three weeks ago -- the permanent marker company itself.
Inspired by Owens, the San Francisco 49ers' controversial and outspoken wide receiver who pulled a Sharpie out of his sock to autograph a football after scoring a touchdown on Monday Night Football, the leader in the indelible pen market plans to debut a football-themed commercial beginning Sunday.
"Everywhere I went I was hearing stories," said Bob Daenen, brand manager for Sharpie. "When I watched football, they talked about it; when I listened to the radio, they talked about it. There was a real buzz."
Owens' antics and the resulting media coverage in the days following the game gave Sharpie huge national exposure. The fervor on television, radio and other media gave the company an equivalent advertising time worth about $500,000, according to Eric Wright of Joyce Julius & Associates, a sponsorship evaluation firm.
In the 15-second commercial entitled "Hand-off," which will run during games on Sunday and again on Monday Night Football, a high school coach tells his players in a pregame pep talk to leave their mark on the game, instead of on the football. The coach then holds out his hand as the players turn over the Sharpies they had stashed in their socks.
In the days after Owens' controversial play, Daenen said Sharpie would continue to focus on its other sports endorsements. It sponsors the Sharpie 500, the Winston Cup race in Bristol, Tenn., and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, who has taken the checkered flag in two out of his past three races and is currently fifth in the Winston Cup series point standings.
"At some point it became apparent that this would work great with our current campaign, 'How do you use your Sharpie?' " Daenen said. One of the new Sharpies debuting Dec. 1 is a metallic marker that is best used on dark surfaces such as footballs, he said.
Although no endorsement with Owens or any other NFL player is in the work, Daenen said the brand is constantly evaluating new opportunities. Owens was not disciplined for his actions, however NFL spokesman Greg Aiello has said that players would be should they pull similar stunts in the future.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org