Collins is the first active pro player of a major U.S. sport to come out as gay, but there is still no openly gay player in the NFL, NHL or in MLB, said Robert Tuchman, president of sports and entertainment marketing company Goviva.
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"These folks will always have the first-mover status and that always helps when you have brands that want to get behind you," Tuchman said. In addition, he said, extra bonus points will go to the first All-Star athlete to come out.
It remains to be seen who comes out next in other sports. Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, said the NBA front office has a good record for conveying best practices to its teams for reacting to real-time PR events, good or bad.
It will be interesting to learn if other teams feel a sense of urgency to develop a plan if their own players come out, Swangard said. "The NFL should be talking about it," he said.
Regardless how it's handled from the media and marketing side, a decision like the one Collins made is likely to be a personal one and not a contrived gimmick to sell something.
"I don't think this was ever about that," Swangard said.
Although Collins has played pro basketball for 12 years, his name-recognition was so low that marketing firms had not even bothered to include him in consumer surveys.
"Up until now, there wasn't a great deal of interest in him," said Henry Schafer, the executive vice president of Q Scores, which rates the consumer popularity of celebrities and brands. That changed Monday when Collins voluntarily disclosed he was gay in a "Sports Illustrated" cover story.