A few weeks ago, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote a very interesting article on Kevin Kiermaier. Topkin explored Kiermaier’s popularity and growing market allure. According to Topkin,
Starting small, Kiermaier is slowly getting the attention of local and regional companies that want to put his pretty face on their products — though not much, yet, nationally given the challenges inherent with playing in the Tampa Bay market.
Morgan Auto Group has featured Kiermaier in three TV commercials, with plans for more this year promoting its dealerships throughout the Tampa Bay area. The Clearwater-based company behind the Original Protein Water signed him — and gave him ownership shares — to help its major push into the sports drink field. Majestic sports apparel is spotlighting him in in-stadium and in-store signage and internet advertising. Eastbay sports equipment had him on the cover of its winter catalog. The LeBron James-run Uninterrupted media platform added him to its roster of athletes sharing video updates.
Biggest of all could be a deal under discussion with the Tampa-based PDQ chicken chain.
Considering Kiermaier’s beginnings as a 31st round draft pick from Parkland College, he is a great story and definitely marketable to part of Tampa’s demograph. As Topkin states, Kiermaier has “Midwestern values” and “model good looks”.
Basically, he is Ben Zobrist meets young Evan Longoria.
But there are problems marketing Kiermaier – the two biggest are his stats and his durability. Unless he has a Zobrist-like awakening at the plate, Kiermaier will never will an MVP. He may never make an all-star team.
Baseball history is littered with slick fielding center fielders. Players such as Devon White, Steve Finley (pre-bulk), Garry Maddox, and many others all sucked down fly balls and racked up the defensive accolades. Although most made an all-star game or two, none were overly marketable.
Kiermaier’s potential is limited by how complete his game is. Unfortunately, defense is not an overly marketable skill outside of baseball circles. The Rays can show clips of Keirmaier diving and running into walls, but as the old adage goes “chicks love the long ball”.
However, in the current state of the Rays, Kiermaier might be the most marketable position player on the team. Evan Longoria is now the steady hand and the leader – good for selling the brand but not really himself. Besides, he has Ducky’s and his other business ventures to be interested in.
Chris Archer is an interesting case. As a starting pitcher, he does not play everyday. But his allure is unmistakable. He participates in the Boys and Girls Club, he visits schools, and he has made an all-star team. But, like Kiermaier, Archer’s stats haven’t popped off the page recently. Few 19-game losers are the face of their team.
So Kiermaier is the face of the Rays these days. If it gets people buying merchandise and tickers, that’s not a bad thing at all.