Trout, Harper are sports marketing forces

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
5:00
PM ET
Rookie of the year is a valuable award. It takes players who were heroes in their local markets and makes them national names. But never in modern history have there been two winners in a single year as marketable as Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

[+] EnlargeMike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels
Courtesy of BodyArmorMike Trout is touting BodyArmor, along with billion-dollar brands.
Trout has been more willing to do deals, signing sizable national contracts with Subway, Nike and beverage BodyArmor, while Harper -- aside from an expansive deal with Under Armour -- has played somewhat hard-to-get.

BodyArmor, headed by vitaminwater co-founder Mike Repole, picked Trout as its only baseball player endorser last year. The company already had signed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"We seeded our product to a bunch of players and Mike was one those guys that liked us," Repole said. "We liked the fact that we were both up-and-coming brands."

Trout has started to build a healthy endorsement portfolio, and Repole said the names he signed with legitimized his product.

"He has Nike and Subway, billion-dollar brands, on his roster," Repole said. "That just gives us credibility."

The company is willing to risk Trout won't have sophomore slump. BodyArmor is running a promotion for a fan to meet Trout, and the contest is being touted in thousands of convenience stores throughout the country. Trout figures to make at least three times his $510,000 salary in endorsements alone this season.

What Repole says he likes about Trout is that he's genuine. After he liked the product, he wanted to make sure that if he was putting his name on it, the product was as legitimate as it said it was. His father brought it to a nutritionist, who ultimately gave the OK. If there's one strange brand that sticks out in Trout's deals, it's J&J Snackfoods; Trout liked the deal because he grew up eating the company's SuperPretzel product.

Meanwhile, Harper has that one major deal: Under Armour.

"He transformed baseball for us," said Matt Mirchin, the company's senior vice president of global brand and sports marketing.

Under Armour has used Harper in several national spots, which have included his training regimen. In fact, the company believed in Harper so much they started shooting video of him immediately after they signed him. The company is now looking to sell a 60-minute piece on Harper, featuring his rapid rise to Major League Baseball, to a major network.

[+] EnlargeBryce Harper of the Washington Nationals
Courtesy of Under Armour Under Armour says it will invest more this year in rising star Bryce Harper.
While it's not a ton of in-your-face Under Armour, the branding is there.

Mirchin said the brand will invest in Harper more, especially as it became clear he would play more left field for the Washington Nationals this year.

"We didn't make it an Under Armour commercial," Mirchin said. "Though there [are] obviously close-ups on his cleats and batting gloves at times.

Plus, Mirchin said, "We bought signing in left field."

Trout and Harper quickly have grown into national names. Not only is Major League Baseball using them in its new marketing campaign titled "I Play," but the two finished fourth and fifth in jersey sales, behind only Derek Jeter, Ichiro and Josh Hamilton.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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