The New York Times recently reported that HeadBlade, a company that sells men's grooming products, had enlisted John Amaechi, the former professional basketball player who announced last month that he is gay, to be its spokesperson.
Amaechi is the first person to have played in the National Basketball Association to disclose his homosexuality.
Fifteen Minutes CEO and founder Howard Bragman, who helped Amaechi handle the media, says, "They used him because he's an interesting, articulate spokesperson for this product. A bald head knows no race, religion, or sexual orientation."
Todd Greene, HeadBlade CEO, told the Times that, in addition to Amaechi using the product, "he's African-American, a basketball player, and gay - all huge demographics for us."
Why does it matter?
Bragman notes that the corporate world has, in recent years, moved quickly to reach out to the GLBT marketplace.
"The big three automakers - about as traditionally conservative companies as you can get - all have programs in place to reach out to the GLBT marketplace," Bragman says.
The sports world, however, has been lagging in its response. "Gay [fans] are not really top of mind," notes Bragman, "but [sports leagues] would be truly naive not to realize that millions of gay and lesbian fans attend sporting events."
"If you look at the WNBA, where there has been a complete lack of respect for the large lesbian fan base, that really shows the sports world - particularly money behind [it] - is a very conservative place," says Cathy Renna, managing partner, Renna Communications, and former GLAAD news media director.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban predicted, however, that the first NBA player to come out while still playing would reap millions in endorsements.
1. A 2006 Sports Illustrated study found that 59.6% of NBA players would welcome an openly gay teammate. About 38% said they would not
2. NHL players were the most gay-friendly athletes, found the SI survey, with nearly 80% saying they would welcome an openly gay teammate
3. A Witeck-Combs Communications and Packaged Facts study projected the buying power of the GLBT community in 2006 to be $641 billion
4. A 2002 Witeck-Combs and Harris Interactive survey determined that 65% of fans would not think differently of athletes if they came out, according to OutSports.com
5. In 1994, just 19 of the Fortune 500 companies advertised their brands in gay media in the US, compared to 175 of the Fortune 500 companies in 2005, according to Rivendell Media, a gay and lesbian media placement firm