Ward's appeal grows after stint on 'Dancing With the Stars'

| Friday, May 27, 2011

Steelers receiver Hines Ward is back in Atlanta getting some rest after a two-month stint on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." His business manager now is the busy one, as Ward created a name — and possibly a brand — for himself outside of football en route to winning the ballroom dancing reality show.

"My phone's been blowing up and so have my emails," said Andrew Ree, who is also Ward's attorney. "We've definitely gotten offers as I had hoped we would."

In addition to endorsement opportunities, Ree said he has been contacted by TV and movie production people. Ree declined to discuss specifics, but Ward apparently won more than the Mirror Ball Trophy when he beat out Kirstie Alley and Chelsea Kane in the "DWTS" finals earlier this week.

Ree hatched the idea of Ward going on "DWTS" as a way of broadening Ward's appeal. Ree's biggest challenge was selling it to Ward and "DWTS."

He succeeded on both fronts, and Ward did the rest, selling himself to nonfootball fans with the charisma and moves he displayed on the show's 12th season.

Bob Dorfman, executive creative director of Baker Street Advertising in northern California, said Ward couldn't have picked a better platform.

"It opens him up to a whole new audience," Dorfman said. "You start getting women watching, older people, a broader audience."

The key for Ward in maximizing the popularity he gained is to keep himself in the public eye, said Steven Levitt, president of The Q Scores Company in New York.

"If you strike while the iron is hot, you'll catch some new fans, endorsements, marketing opportunities," said Levitt, whose company establishes likability ratings for celebrities.

The year before Emmitt Smith won "DWTS," he had a positive rating of 21 percent and a recognition score of 60 percent, Levitt said. The numbers spiked to 31 percent and 71 percent, respectively, the year after Smith became the first NFL player to win "DWTS." His popularly has since leveled off.

Levitt has not calculated Ward's Q score, but one advantage Ward has over Smith in sustaining celebrity appeal: He is still playing whereas Smith was retired from the NFL when he went on "DWTS" in 2006.

"Emmitt was out of sight," Levitt said. "If (Ward) has a decent year, it's going to work in his favor because there are going to be people that say, 'Hey, I remember him. He's a great dancer.' "

Dorfman, who also publishes "The Sports Marketers' Scouting Report," agreed.

"There are a lot of (positives) on his side at this point," Dorfman said. "It's not like he's going to disappear. He also has a good back story."

Ward, MVP of Super Bowl XL, is active in many causes, including bringing light to discrimination biracial children face in Korea. Ward's mother is a South Korea native.

President Obama appointed Ward last September to the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Before he capitalizes on new opportunities, Ward will re-claim something he gave up in March when he started training for "DWTS."

"He's going to try to get some semblance of his life back," Ree said. "I'm very proud of him. He was very dedicated to the task at hand."

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