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Where have you gone, Kevin Youkilis? Massachusetts advertisers lament loss of Red Sox likeable product pitchman on Astini News

by LISA van der POOL
Boston Business Journal

After eight seasons with the Boston Red Sox , Kevin Youkilis, aka "The Greek God of Walks," leaves behind more than a stellar hitting record and chants of "Yoooouk!"

Youkilis – who was dealt to the Chicago White Sox – also leaves a slew of lucrative local sponsorship deals including with car dealership chain Herb Chambers, the New Balance sneakers, Nantucket Nectars and Liberty Bay Credit Union.

Youk's abrupt exit to Chi-town brings up a dicey issue for local companies and the sports stars they ink promotional deals with: What happens to those contracts if a player unexpectedly leaves the team?

According to local marketing executives, most savvy companies will make provisions for such an event in the contract, so the sponsor is not on the hook to continue payments to the athlete – and so that athlete is free to sign on with different brands in their new city.

"In general, every contract is different, but you would have the ability as a sponsor to terminate the contract .¤.¤. in the event of a trade," said Martha Acworth, Salem Five Bank's chief marketing officer. Acworth says companies will also include a clause about terminating a contract if the athlete does something to damage their reputation.

She knows a thing or two about Red Sox player sponsorship deals. In 2008, Salem-based Salem Five inked a multiyear sponsorship deal with Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

The bank recently launched three new billboards for Interstate 93 that feature Pedroia with the headline, "Keep cheering, he's listening."

While Youkilis' exit from the team was speedy, in general, he's just the type of star that local companies look to sign deals with, said Acworth.

"Obviously, you're looking for an athlete who has long-term potential," said Acworth. "That's part of the bet you're placing when you select an endorsement .¤.¤. and (companies) have had a nice long run with Youk."

Athletes can make good money through sponsorships, from deals in the low five figures, to six figures, said Chad Caulfield, managing partner at the Boston-based advertising agency MMB.

Caulfield says Youkilis was such a likeable star, he may wind up signing a number of deals in Chicago.

"He's the kind of player who's easy to like," said Caufield. "He may not get anything the first year, but the second or third, if he gets close to where he was, he'll definitely have some opportunities."

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