Sports Marketing and the Psychology of Marketing Communication

By Lynn R. Kahle; Chris Riley | Go to book overview

7
Magic Johnson and Mark McGwire:
The Power of Identification With
Sports Celebrities
Michael D. Basil
University of Lethbridge
William J. Brown
Regent University

In November 1991, Earvin “Magic” Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team held a press conference to announce that he had contracted HIV and was retiring from professional basketball. The news of his infection spread quickly, and instantly the world had a well-liked, high-profile celebrity who demonstrated that heterosexuals were at risk for AIDS. This appeared to be a potentially critical event in people's perception of the disease. The press quickly predicted that Magic would be immensely effective in conveying this risk to the public. They speculated that his charisma would personalize the concern to other heterosexuals who had otherwise rationalized that the AIDS risk was limited to gay men. Magic's immediate interviews with the press, public service announcements, and appointment to the President's AIDS Council reinforced this hope (Anonymous, 1992; Baker, Lepley, Krishnan, & Victory, 1992; Fumento, 1992).

In September 1998, Mark McGwire, closely pursued by Sammy Sosa, crushed home run after home run. In the end, both broke Roger Maris's 37-year home run record and became heroes in the process. In this case, the news media made two interesting facts known about McGwire: he is a strong advocate and supporter of child abuse prevention programs, and he used a muscle-building dietary supplement, Androstenedione (McGregor, 1998;

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