While studying marketing at Oklahoma State University, he undoubtedly knew the product he'd soon be selling was ... himself. Just a few years after graduation, he was the world's hottest music star, on his way to becoming the biggest-selling solo artist ever. No doubt, Garth Brooks' PR savvy is as responsible as his showmanship and voice for the most commercially successful recording career of the past 15 years. I caught up with him at the Kansas City Royals' spring baseball camp in Arizona, where he's suiting up with the team to publicize his international children's charity, Teammates for Kids, which he cofounded in 1999. It's distributed millions to children's charities across the globe.
"We have 360 pro ballplayers involved in the charity, which is active in all 50 states, as well as in Europe and Canada," Garth told me. "What's great about it is that all the money is funneled back to the states and countries where it's raised, so there's a strong sense of community surrounding the entire effort."
Brooks, who was an accomplished college athlete, last played baseball in 2000. He can still play, but, now 42, he's mostly feeling the love of the game in his hamstrings.
"Man, what a difference those four years have made," he says. "The aches and pains move to new spots every day. And then they're joined by new ones."
The biggest pain Brooks suffers is likely writer's cramp; he signs autographs before and after each game, often for more than three hours. No fan gets left out. He engages in friendly conversation, poses for pictures, and personalizes each autograph. His genuine ability to connect with people creates a kind of one-on-one PR magic that all the agencies and ad campaigns in the world can't touch.
From the start of his career, Brooks demonstrated an uncanny understanding of how to present rock-style arena showmanship to a country-music audience - arguably making the greatest impact on a genre of music since Elvis exploded rock 'n roll in the '50s. Garth may have "Friends in Low Places," but he's got some in the highest places, too. There likely isn't a person on Earth Garth can't get on the phone. Promptly.
With star-struck fans watching his every swing at the plate, Brooks got hold of an inside pitch and drove it out of the park. Even though it was just during batting practice, a dozen adults chased down the ball like it was a game-winning World Series home run.
Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LA-based freelance publicist and writer