Jeter Tribute Caps Career as Most Marketable Baseball Player

New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter gets a Nike Inc.-sponsored tribute during tonight’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game, capping his career as the sport’s most marketable athlete.

Just before Jeter’s first at-bat, Nike will commemorate his final season with a commercial featuring a range of celebrities and fellow athletes tipping their hats. The ad, called “RE2PECT,” has already gained a following on YouTube, attracting about 3 million views. It also serves as a showcase for other stars with Nike endorsement deals, including top moneymakers Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.

Jeter, 40, was the first athlete to sign with Nike’s Jordan Brand, a clothing line developed by the basketball star. Other than Michael Jordan himself, Jeter has had more Jordan Brand shoes than any athlete. He also has forged deals with Gatorade, Ford and Gillette over the years, earning him annual endorsement revenue that Forbes magazine estimates at $9 million.

“In a sport that is very regional in nature and has been racked by performance-enhancing drug controversy, Jeter has managed to rise above it all, enjoy national acclaim, remain scandal-free, appeal to every demographic and epitomize grace and class -- all while playing for a team that many non-New Yorkers view as the ‘evil empire,’” said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco. “No baseball player ever has been, or maybe ever will be, as successful at moving product and enhancing brands as Jeter.”

Jordan Reigns

Jordan, 51, is still Nike’s highest-paid athlete, even more than a decade after his retirement as a player from the National Basketball Association. He made about $90 million last year from his partnership with the Beaverton, Oregon-based company, according to Forbes magazine. Woods, who has 14 major championship victories as a golfer, gets more than $20 million a year from Nike, Forbes estimates.

Still, Jeter ranks above any other baseball player in endorsement deals. He’s also had the top-selling jersey in the MLB’s online shop this year.

Jeter, who is playing his 20th season as No. 2 for the Yankees, will bat in the leadoff spot for the American League team in tonight’s All-Star game. The five-time World Series champion, who is making a $12 million salary in his final season with the Yankees, first signed with the Jordan Brand in 1999. He also has a deal with watchmaker Movado Group Inc.

Celebrity Salutes

In the latest Nike ad, Jeter steps up to the plate at Yankee Stadium and gets saluted by fans and well-known New Yorkers, including former mayor Rudy Giuliani, rapper Jay-Z, film director Spike Lee and ex-Yankees manager Joe Torre.

While baseball isn’t a major source of Nike revenue, Jeter’s upstanding reputation has been an asset to the company, said Jim Andrews, a senior vice president for content strategy at the sponsorship consulting firm IEG. Many of Nike’s other top stars have struggled with adversity off the field. That includes a public divorce for Woods and ties to gambling for Jordan.

“Jeter plays an important role for Nike,” Andrews said. “He stands apart from some of Nike’s other endorsers -- such as Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Joe Paterno, and even to some degree, Jordan -- in being universally admired and respected, without any taint of scandal or controversy.”