Playing for Keeps

Women Step It Up At the Pro Level

Lanktree pauses to note that even though she's sometimes involved in setting up the multi-million-dollar deals, the business has "gotten out of control." Advertisers, she says, spend too much on superstar endorsers only because they're afraid someone else will scoop them up, yet have no evidence that such celebrity hawkers actually help sell more product. "It's an unspoken conversation in our industry," she says, "but we all know that nobody has been able to draw any direct correlation between expenditure on endorsers and return on investment." In fact, she wonders sometimes whether the real reason the men in marketing pay, say, $8 million to Joe Montana is "so they can ask him to make a celebrity appearance at their golf outing and tee up next to him on the course."

Maybe it's the women who will bring the industry back to earth, entering the business without grandiose expectations. "We've gotten to a point where everything has to be blockbuster all the time," says Lanktree. "And something needs to turn it around. Maybe it's a good enough standard for a league to have people attend the sport and not lose money." She pauses. "But I've never heard anyone in the industry talk that way."

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