Puerto Rico has always had a soft spot for its outstanding athletes, including advertising and marketing executives who have recently been hot on the pursuit of one particular player, NBA Point Guard José Juan Barea.
Not oblivious to that, the Mayagüez native is turning the results of the avalanche of marketing offers into benefits for children in Puerto Rico’s underprivileged communities through the newly formed JJ Barea Foundation.
During an exclusive interview with News is my Business the unassuming professional hoopster said while lending his image to campaigns represents extra income for himself, especially in the off-season, he is also channeling some of the proceeds into the foundation that held its first public event Sunday.
“If I decide to endorse something, it’s because I like the product,” said Barea, who in recent years has locked in deals both in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland, where his star status increased exponentially during the playoffs and subsequent championship win of his Dallas Mavericks team earlier this year.
Local deals include a long-standing sponsorship agreement with T-Mobile — the first company to sign him up in August 2009 — Sprite and Puerto Rico’s Public Broadcasting Corporation, among others.
Most recently, Barea signed a promotional deal with Kraft Foods Puerto Rico to share the classic ritual of dunking the iconic cookie in a cold glass of milk with a family that will be selected later this year as part of the campaign.
“I also grew up enjoying Oreo and it’s still my favorite cookie. There’s no better way to bring joy to a Puerto Rican home than sharing Oreo’s flavor with the people that have supported me,” Barea said.
‘It’s another job’
“I’ve learned a lot over the years, one being that endorsements are like having another job. They represent another source of income for me, not as much as I make through my regular job, but they’re important because in this case, my foundation will also benefit,” he said.
Working for the NBA, where he saw his peers sign up for endorsement deals, motivated him to pursue his own as well. In Dallas, Barea has contracts with Supercuts and Converse, which supplies him with all of his athletic gear. He is also the “face” of the Multiple Dystrophy Association, through which he has a chance to advocate on behalf of children.
While there are no real statistics available to gauge the impact of sports marketing in Puerto Rico, it represent a $2.28 billion industry for U.S. athletes and sports organizations, according to IEG, the unit of advertising giant WPP.
JJ Barea Foundation is born
On Sunday, Barea’s namesake foundation made its debut after a year of planning and fundraising. It’s mission: to promote and develop initiatives that spur social productivity in all forms, whether through sports or cultural actitivies.
Unsurprisingly, the foundation chose a basketball court in one of the San Juan metropolitan area’s most impoverished communities to unveil its first donation: uniforms, balls, trophies and other items needed to make an upcoming volleyball tournament possible. More than 200 children and leaders of the Martín Peña Channel communities were on hand for the event.
“For me, the commitment to my island is paramount. Although I am a basketball player, I will support all sports because I think they are a tool for social change,” he said. “So it is with much love and passion that we want to contribute to this volleyball tournament so that these children become good citizens of today’s and tomorrow’s Puerto Rico.”
Barea again found support in T-Mobile for the foundation’s first donation, something he said is a positive collateral effect of his endorsement deal with the wireless carrier.