An Unforeseen Marketing Opportunity

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If they ever write a book about the golf career of Dean Wilson, they will have to begin with a simple phone call. Wilson's management company, Links Sports, received fthe call rom PGA Tour Player Relations mahout Sid Wilson (no relation to Dean) at 6:30 in the morning on the Tuesday of the week in which Annika Sorenstam would change the way the sports world looks at women athletes.
 
Sid Wilson had learned that the tour's computer had spit out the names of Dean Wilson and Aaron Barber, a pair of little-known tour rookies, as partners for Sorenstam in the first two rounds of the Bank of America Colonial. Normally the groupings aren't made public until noon on Tuesdays before tournaments. But Sid Wilson was giving Dean Wilson's people a heads up and a headstart.
 
Within minutes, the 'branding' of Dean Wilson was under way. Soon Dean Wilson would be wearing a 'Go Annika' button. Mike Biggs, the veteran public relations guy and former sportswriter who works with several of Links Sports clients, busied himself lining Wilson up for appearances on The Golf Channel, The Today Show and CNN at Night with Paula Zahn.
 
Before the week was over, according to Dennis Harrington of Sports Links, Wilson's Q-rating and marketability had quadrupled. Much of this had to do with Wilson's rugged good looks - he's a semi-dead ringer for Dean Cain, the guy who used to play Superman opposite Terry Hatcher on the television show - his winning personality and pure luck. The pure luck part was getting chosen to be in Sorenstam's group Thursday and Friday at the Bank of America Colonial.
 
Much of the dust has settled since Sorenstam missed the cut and Kenny Perry (another Links Sports client) took over on the weekend and dusted the rest of the field in the 'men's division' of that tournament. Sorenstam and Perry both won on their respective tours the week after Fort Worth. Wilson stayed home in Las Vegas out of the media glare.
 
But industry sources say Wilson's fee for doing an outing has risen from approximately $6,000 a pop to closer to $25,000. If you want to buy a corporate patch on Wilson's shirt, the space that used to cost close to $40,000 has jumped up to $100,000.
 
Harrington is trying to cobble a deal with Dole, the giant company famous for its pineapple back in Wilson's home land of Hawaii. Since Wilson recently bought a Corvette, the people at Chevrolet will be hearing from Wilson's people as well. Needless to say, the three companies Wilson already represents - Corel Software, Callaway Golf and Tommy Bahama - are tickled with the recent developments in Texas.
 
What the world saw in Wilson was a natural personality who embraced Sorenstam's quest. It also saw a guy good enough to make the cut and smart enough to go with the massive flow at Colonial Country Club.
 
Wilson and Sorenstam exchanged phone numbers (only for future golf dates; Sorenstam is happily married to David Esch) and don't be surprised if you see a made-for-TV, mixed gender silly season event that gets these two back in the same grouping before the end of the year.
 
Meanwhile Links Sports is preparing a 'media package' on Wilson that it will soon begin circulating among even more potential sponsors. But the company hasn't taken its eye off the ball.
 
'If Dean continues to play well, this will be a good thing,' Harrington says. 'But he must continue to play well. The golf comes first. We probably could have put a few more logos on him in Texas. But Dean's not like that.'
 
If they ever write a book about the career of Dean Wilson, they'll put that last part in there, too.