On the heels of an MVP-calibre season in which he scored 65 goals, added 47 assists and led the Washington Capitals into an unlikely playoff berth, the 22-year-old's marketing representatives are close to announcing Ovechkin's first major sponsorship contracts.
In the works are deals with Ferrari and U.S. mobile phone company Verizon, says Konstantin Selinevich, who spearheads Ovechkin's off-ice business relationships. Selinevich says talks continue with others, including Coca-Cola. Just last month, the Wasserman Media Group, a powerful sports marketing agency in Los Angeles, was hired to buttress efforts to land endorsements for Ovechkin.
While the star already has sponsor agreements with Reebok's CCM brand, trading-card company Upper Deck and Hype, an energy drink, none has put much marketing muscle behind him. (Selinevich says that will change this summer when Reebok rolls out an Ovechkin clothing line.)
"It's been hard; in the past there have been some language-skills issues," says Selinevich, who has worked with Ovechkin since 2004. "Now, he's had such an unbelievable season that there is more interest, but we don't want him to be a walking billboard. You'll see some major deals this summer."
In Canada, companies typically covet Sidney Crosby, who demands about $500,000 a year from corporate partners, or pass altogether on the idea of a high-profile pitchman.
"I think there's a market for Alex," says Bob Stellick, a Toronto sports marketer. "His notoriety and awareness have increased dramatically. His enthusiasm and love for the game are what separate him from how people perceived some other players from Eastern bloc countries."
More on Selinevich from Washington Post, March 5, 2008:
Last year, Ovechkin's manager, Konstantin Selinevich, introduced him to Kapitonov, who has since relocated to the Washington area to work with Ovechkin for the foreseeable future.
By Tarik El-Bashir, Apr. 14, 2008 "Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green Cash In":
Here is a rundown of Ovechkin's bonuses:
He gets $984,200 in base salary and $2,850,000 in bonuses from the team. From the league, he'll earn $250,000 if he wins the Hart Trophy; $250,000 for winning the Richard Trophy; $150,000 for finishing first in points; $150,000 for finishing first in goals; $100,000 for being selected as a first team all-star; $100,000 for finishing first in points per game. If he wins the Hart, he'll earn a total of $4,834,200.