Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Some Celebrities Make More Dead Than Alive

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Some Celebrities Make More Dead Than Alive

Article excerpt

SUN CITY, Ariz. -- Babe Ruth's daughter Julia Ruth Stevens used to get a royalty check every few years, about $100 apiece from companies that felt guilty about using her famous father's image.

"Most people didn't bother to ask me for permission to use Daddy's name," Ruth Stevens said, "and there wasn't a lot I could do about it."

Then she hired an agent. The 80-year-old now collects more than $100,000 a year. Many dead celebrities have more earning potential as pitchmen now than when they were alive. With a campaign centered on a deceased star, advertisers don't have to worry about a scandal erupting around their key spokesman, and technology allows them to manipulate old images around new products. "The obvious advantages is that you have a very consistent image that's fixed in time that won't deviate from the message," said Mark Roesler, founder of CMG Worldwide, which represents Ruth Stevens. The Fishers, Ind.-based firm holds marketing rights to about 120 deceased stars, including Lou Gehrig, Jack Dempsey and Vince Lombardi, as well as some living former stars such as Jim Palmer and Johnny Unitas. Even though most of CMG's endorsers are dead, their support doesn't come cheap. Roesler said advertisers typically spend from $5,000-$15,000 to use a deceased celebrity in their campaign. CMG, with $15 million in revenue in 1997, keeps about half of that. "The common denominator with all of our clients is they weren't doing any business before they got involved with us," Roesler said. "It wasn't a tough sell when they saw what we did for some of the clients who were in similar circumstances." In 1995, CMG launched an aggressive campaign promoting Babe Ruth's 100th birthday. It raised more than $1.5 million from companies paying for the right to put his image on beer steins, coins, watches, even computer mouse pads. "I had no idea it would be as big as it was," said Ruth Stevens, who has a winter home in Sun City, Ariz. "This helped out tremendously, especially considering I was diagnosed as being legally blind when my mother died in the late `70s." While CMG said its revenue has increased 50 percent in two years, there could be even better years ahead as the company prepares a marketing blitz focusing on legends of the 20th century. …

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