Baseball great Yogi Berra is known as much for what he said as for how he played. His folksy, pragmatic observations about the game once included this one: “You’re either safe or you’re out. No two ways about it.”
iXP Corporation, a Cranbury-based provider of public safety and security solutions, has tapped into not just that sentiment, but also its source. iXP recently launched a three-year national advertising campaign featuring the New York Yankees Hall of Famer, in conjunction with Berra’s corporation, LTD Enterprises Inc., run by his three sons through the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair. According to iXP, the campaign will highlight a selection of apropos “Yogi-isms,” such as “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore,” “The future ain’t what it used to be,” and “If it’s an emergency, it’s usually urgent,” in a series of print and television advertisements.
LTD Enterprises also has granted permission for iXP to coin new Yogi-isms, so long as they are in the spirit of Berra.
The sayings also cannot besmirch Berra, whose public image is virtually unassailable. This, says Tom McManimon, is the main reason Berra was sought as iXP’s spokesman. McManimon is president of Stimulus Brand Communications, a Ewing-based advertising firm that helps iXP with its branding and marketing. McManimon says Yogi Berra stands for consistency and strength, a rare and dying quality in celebrity spokespeople these days.
Think, for example, of the red face Nike and Gatorade suffered when Tiger Woods’ tawdry lifestyle came to international light last year. “You have to be careful who you lunch with,” McManimon says. “Celebrities these days might smack you in the face.”
And just because they are legendary baseball greats is no guarantee of that. Think of the PR nightmare the city of Cincinnati endured for renaming a major downtown road Pete Rose Way only a few years before Rose was expelled from baseball over a gambling accusation.
Berra, on the other hand, is legendary for his grace, good humor, and solid character, McManimon says. He also is a symbol of success and achievement. Berra, after all, played on 10 World Series champion teams and was a coach for three other Series champs, all in New York. McManimon says that iXP wanted to align itself with a known winner, and one unlikely (especially at age 85) to become another scandal-age poster boy. “Yogi transcends baseball,” McManimon says. “He’s bigger than the game.”
The campaign features billboards on various high-traffic roadways in New Jersey — the first went up on the NJ Turnpike on May 10 — as well as a series of print ads featuring a contemporary Berra superimposed over an image from his playing days from the 1940s, ‘50s, and ‘60s.
The campaign will also feature posters and back-lit diorama panels in target airports nationally and on high-speed trains regionally. McManimon says certain major airports, such as JFK, already showcase the ads, and that posters have been placed in Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Airport because there is a security industry trade show happening there this week.
Television ads are expected to start this week as well, though McManimon says that Berra did not record any live footage for the spots. Rather, the ads will integrate the same elements as the print and poster ads.
iXP did not specify the cost of the campaign, but stated that it was a multi-million-dollar deal.
McManimon played a major part in the development of the Berra campaign, helping to research and craft the message and find appropriate outlets.
But getting Berra, he says, was iXP’s own doing. The company simply called the Yogi Berra Museum and set things up with Berra’s sons. “They didn’t think they were going to get him,” he says. “But [the Berras] were very willing to talk.”
McManimon has a long history of working with celebrities in advertising campaigns. After getting his bachelor’s from Providence College, he began work in the field in 1981.
He worked most of his early years at Bozell (a.k.a. Bozell and Jacobs) in New York, where he eventually became art director. He then became creative director at Gillespie (now MRM), headquartered on Princeton Pike.
With these agencies, McManimon worked with numerous celebrities that hail from New Jersey and its surroundings — Brooke Shields, Jason Alexander, Bill Cosby — as well as several New Jersey governors. Other than iXP, Stimulus counts Prudential Insurance among its client roster and is hoping to land a campaign with the USDA, he says.
The Berra ads are the first to feature a Hall of Fame athlete in iXP’s and Stimulus Brand’s history. But whether they use real Yogi-isms or new ones might not matter. After all, Berra once admitted, “I really didn't say everything I said."
iXP Corp., 1249 South River Road, Suite 100, Cranbury 08512; 609-409-7272; fax, 609-409-7623. Richard E. Dale, CEO. www.ixpcorp.com
Stimulus Brand Communications, 1 Currier Way, Ewing 08628; 609-538-1126; fax, 609-935-0870. Tom McManimon, president. Home page: www.stimulusbrand.com