Even though he doesn’t spend much time in the public spotlight, Muhammad Ali is frequently mentioned as being one of the most recognized brands in the sports world.
In recent years, the licensing of the Ali name and image has been relatively sparse. A company called G.O.A.T. licensed his name for a line of health snacks, Everlast unveiled a Muhammad Ali collection, New Era did a limited edition hat this year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the boxer’s 1960 Olympic gold medal and two iPhone apps featuring photographs and his quotes were recently unveiled.
Thinking they could do more with the great brand, Greenlight, which controls the licensing rights of everyone from Einstein to Johnny Cash, the Wright Brothers to Steve McQueen, has now become the exclusive rights to Ali’s name, image and signature in Europe and Asia.
“Muhammad Ali is obviously one of the most transcendent personalities,” said David Reeder, Greenlight’s vice president. “Licensing his name and image has been mostly passive here in the US through Muhammad Ali Enterprises. We want to proactively go out and position him throughout the world, where I think he’s front and center more than he is here given his gold medal in Rome, his very historical battles around the world and his role as a human rights ambassador.”
Reeder says he envisions Ali appearing in commercials for high end luxury goods, including cars and financial service businesses. Ali recently appeared in a UBS ad. There are things that Ali’s managers will not agree to, which Reeder has been briefed about in advance.
“I think he could do a great job for a high end alcohol, a top shelf vodka,” Reeder said. “But we already know that he won’t do that. That’s only one category. This guy is so untapped.”
Reeder said that, especially given this year with Tiger, LeBron and Brett Favre, companies feel better about having deceased or retired athletes, who either can’t or are less likely to get in trouble versus today’s athletes.
“Ali’s reputation is pretty much set,” said Reeder, whose company will get a percentage of the deals he signs.
Reeder says that Ali’s participation in the ads or marketing itself of a program can’t really be a deal sealer. Ali, who turns 69 next month and suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, can’t be expected to make planned appearances.
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