Thanks to the exposure from his high-profile court battle with the PGA Tour, Casey Martin makes a decent living through endorsements. But if not for the PGA Tour, Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling could have meant even more to the disabled golfer.
While Martin sports Nike's logo on clothing from head to toe, the PGA Tour prevents Martin from affixing a sponsor's logo on the golf cart he uses -- whether he is competing in a PGA Tour or Buy.com Tour event. The ability to reap revenue from a logo-littered cart would give Martin a business advantage over his cart-less competitors.
Martin renewed his endorsement deal with Nike in January, just five days before his case -- PGA Tour Inc. vs. Martin -- was heard by the Supreme Court. The original deal with Nike paid Martin a reported $50,000-$75,000, plus an undisclosed bonus for earning his PGA Tour card for the 2000 season. Under his new deal, he now uses Nike's Precision Tour Accuracy golf ball.
Martin's other primary sponsor is Hartford Life Insurance, the disability and life insurance arm of The Hartford whose logo appears on Martin's bag. Terms of that deal are not available.
But what if Martin could NASCAR-ize his golf cart with logos of corporate sponsors?
If Martin was in contention in a PGA Tour event and he had his cart all swooshed up, Nike would likely receive a full minute of exposure per round given the magnitude of Martin's story, said Eric Wright of Joyce Julius & Associates, a sponsorship evaluation firm.
Wright said the four total minutes of exposure throughout the tournament would be worth about $450,000 in equivalent advertising time to a company prominently displayed on the cart. If Martin wasn't fairing well in a PGA Tour event, advertising on Martin's cart would be worth closer to $150,000 in equivalent advertising time, Wright said.
In 1998, Martin and his agent, Chris Murray, had talks with E-Z-GO, the nation's leading golf cart manufacturer. But negotiations broke off when E-Z-GO learned the brand of cart Martin would ride for each tournament varied from course to course, E-Z-GO spokesperson Ron Skenes said.
But the revenue streams are expected to last only as long as Martin's disabled right leg holds up, according to one sports marketing expert.
"Endorsers can exploit Martin's gains for a brief period of time," said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports, a sports marketing firm. "But like any athlete endorsing a product, it still comes down to how well he plays."
Williams said Casey Martin remains a risky investment for sponsors, and draws a comparison between Martin and Olympic cyclist Lance Armstrong.
"You never know when Casey's condition is going to make it impossible for him to play and you never know if Lance's cancer will relapse," Williams said. The stakes are significantly higher for Armstrong, however, as the U.S. Postal Service recently plunked down more than $20 million to sponsor the Armstrong-led U.S. Cycling team over the next three years.
To date, Martin's $6,433 earnings this season rank him 115th among Buy.com Tour golfers. Since 1998, he has earned $309,694 on the Buy.com and PGA Tours.
The fine print: Struggling to find just the right words to describe your feelings on the outcome of Tuesday's Supreme Court ruling? Apparently, not the Supreme Court Justices. Here are a few of the words they used in their 49-page ruling on PGA Tour Inc. v. Martin: "United Air Lines," "HBO's Sopranos," "bakery," "grocery store," "Tiger Woods," "hardware store," "Mary Queen of Scots and her son James," "laundromat," "funeral parlor," "zoo," "watery filth," "Yankee Stadium," "Knights of Columbus," "King James II of Scotland," "designated hitter," "Mark Twain" and "Kafkaesque."
The fine print II: The last sentence of the case reads: "The year was 2001, and 'everybody was finally equal.' " The original quote is from Kurt Vonnegut's "Harrison Bergeron," a short story in "Animal Farm and Related Readings." However, the year was actually 2081. The story is about a futuristic society in which people are required to wear handicapping devices to hinder them. The story's hero, Harrison, described "as a genius and an athlete," tears off the device on national television in order to set a new precedent. Harrison is then promptly shot to death.
Straight from the horse's mouth: The ties between Casey Martin and Tiger Woods extend to their days as roommates while on the golf team at Stanford University. Both are now teammates of another sort, sharing a common sponsor -- Nike -- as professional golfers. Yet Tiger Woods was conspicuously silent throughout Martin's high-profile court battle with the PGA Tour.
"It would've been great for him to take a greater stand, but I wanted to do this without pulling any strings," Martin said Tuesday. Turns out Martin may not have had complete backing of Woods after all. On Wednesday, Woods said he believes walking remains an essential element of the game. "We (Woods and PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem) think that we'd like to be able to govern our own sport. But sometimes it just doesn't work out that way."
Woods did say, with the dispute now settled, that he hoped "To see Casey now be able to go out there and play and get some peace and quiet without having this over his head. I think it's going to be beneficial for him."
Responding to rumors Nike steered Woods from the controversial subject, Nike spokesperson Scott Reames said: "Suggestions that Nike was trying to silence Tiger Woods regarding his position on Casey Martin's case against the PGA Tour are completely without merit."
It's not about the money: Colts owner Jim Irsay paid $2.43 million for the original manuscript of Jack Kerouac's novel "On the Road" in a Christie's auction last week. Irsay's late father, Robert, bought a majority stake in the Los Angeles Rams in 1972 for $19 million, before swapping the franchise with Baltimore Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom.
Mantlepiece? Mickey Mantle's 1955 AL Championship ring, a Roger Maris 1961 game-used hat and a ball used in Maris' 61st home run game is up for bid in American Memorabilia's 1961 New York Yankees 40th anniversary auction. The phone and Internet auction started two weeks ago and closes on Thursday.
Bidders can submit bids until late Thursday at www.ami21.com or call (800) 430-0667.
As of Wednesday afternoon, bidding had topped $25,000 for Mantle's ring, the Maris cap was at $4,600, and the ball had reached $1,000. Billy Beans of American Memorabilia said he believes with the interest generated by HBO's movie "61*," the Mantle ring could sell for as much as $100,000, while the Maris ball could to go for $10,000.
Image is everything: After Philip Morris, the parent company of Marlboro, agreed to take its cigarette brand's logo off the garage, pit signs, uniforms and the team Penske cars for last Sunday's running of the Indianapolis 500, Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Gil de Ferran finished first and second in the race. The "delogofication" of the cars cost Marlboro hundreds of thousands of dollars in exposure time, although Marlboro didn't walk away empty-handed.
The controversy was worth a brief television conversation, several fence climbers on the Castroneves crew could be seen with Marlboro logos and both drivers wore their Marlboro-patched hats when they got out of the car. The National Association of Attorneys General asked Philip Morris to reduce its marketing presence in the race because of the Master Settlement Agreement of 1998, which restricts a tobacco brand's sponsorship to one team on one circuit. While CART drivers started getting back in the Indy last year, the race is still technically an IRL-sanctioned race.
Formula One tobacco-endorsed cars could be hurt as well, reportedly as soon as 2004, by a proposed ban on cigarette advertising by the European Commission. The commission will draft a new proposal Wednesday to ban tobacco sponsorship of major sports teams. Marlboro endorses Team Ferrari, who has F1 defending champion Michael Schumacher.
On the block: An autographed Topps card of recently canned Marlins manager John Boles with a piece of a base used in the Marlins' 2000 season opener is up for bid. Top bid as of midday Wednesday is $6.59.
Be all you can be: Each Monday through Thursday, military personnel can walk up to the box office at Yankee Stadium and get a free ticket by showing their military ID.
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.email@example.com . He can be seen on ESPNNEWS each Wednesday afternoon and his "Money Talks" each Sunday morning on SportsCenter.
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