Penguins' Crosby makes sure it ads up

Aware of being a role model, he won't endorse just any product


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Lots of young hockey players look up to and try to imitate Sidney Crosby.

But who might the Penguins star center be compared with on a different stage?

How about Oscar winner Tom Hanks?

"He's a lot like Tom Hanks," Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, said this week.

Brisson was talking about Crosby the "actor" for endorsement and promotional filmings.

"He's a dream for directors," Brisson said. "He'll read the lines. He's quick. He's very aware. It's a gift.

"When we shoot, the directors tell him he's easy to work with."

The Hanks reference, when relayed to Crosby Wednesday after Penguins practice at Southpointe, made him laugh.

But Crosby is serious about screening brands when it comes to signing endorsement deals.

"Whatever it is, if you form a partnership with a company, a brand, you have to agree with what they want and what they stand for," he said.

That includes his impact on impressionable children.

Crosby has deals with equipment company Reebok and Canadian sporting goods store Sport Chek. He also does ads for Gatorade and Tim Horton's, a mainly Canadian restaurant chain. In 2010, he had a deal with Dempster's, a Canadian bread company.

That lineup, as it stood in 2010, was analyzed as part of the research for a study that was published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics.

The study concluded that, while some high-profile athletes -- the NBA's LeBron James, NFL's Peyton Manning and tennis' Serena Williams were prominently mentioned -- endorse food and beverage products that are nutrient-poor and encourage unhealthy consumption among children, Crosby rated much higher.

Crosby's image and his influence when it comes to youngsters is important to him and is taken into account when he weighs endorsement offers, said Brisson.

"He's very conscientious about it," Brisson said. "He has to be comfortable. He has to like the product. He thinks about the time they're asking. It's important that he sends the right message.

"He's a role model."

The study produced an index that took into account an athlete's popularity and the level of healthiness of the foods and beverages the athlete endorsed. Crosby's rating was 76.3, much higher than Manning (28.9), Williams (32.4) and James (42.7).

At the time, among other brands, James promoted McDonald's and Sprite, Manning promoted Pepsi and Williams promoted Oreos.

Crosby's first endorsement was an apparel contract when he was 15 with Sherwood, which made wooden hockey sticks. Others followed.

One possible knock against Crosby would be the Tim Horton's partnership. The restaurant is much like a Canadian version of Dunkin' Donuts.

But not only does the ubiquitous Canadian chain sell other, more healthy foods, but it has a cultural status that goes far more than the food it sells.

"You think of youth hockey in Canada, you automatically think of Tim Horton's," said Crosby, who was a "Timbit" youth player and easily launches into a heartfelt spiel.

"Tim Horton's kids' camps are right across Canada," he said. "Once a year, they have all the proceeds from one day at every Tim Horton's store go toward the kids' camps, giving kids an opportunity to go to camp. They really care a lot about their communities.

"There are so many Tim Horton's everywhere in Canada that they're a big part of the community. It's pretty common for that to be the hangout after a hockey game or before a hockey game. It's kind of a staple -- you're stopping there on the way to the rink and on the way back from the rink. It's just part of growing up in Canada."

In addition, Crosby has an uncle and a cousin who work for the chain.

Many of the TV commercials Crosby shoots, such as for Tim Horton's, air mostly or exclusively in Canada, so Penguins fans don't always see them.

Each one requires a time commitment from Crosby, who can spend four to eight hours in a day shooting ads.

Although he has shot ads on non-game days during the season -- he does not have one scheduled for this week, which included three off days leading to a home game Friday against the New York Islanders -- Crosby prefers to take care of his endorsement commitments in the summer.

He has been on shoots in Pittsburgh, Toronto, Los Angeles and Halifax, near his hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.

The financial terms of Crosby's endorsement deals aren't available, but he has certainly made millions of dollars. And it could be untold millions more.

From early on, Crosby decided he didn't want his likeness splashed about too much.

"When he was about 16, he told me, 'I think we have enough right now. What do you think the guys in the NHL think of me? I'm not even playing there,' " Brisson recalled.

Now that he's a star in the NHL -- and currently leading the league with 17 points in nine games -- Crosby is in high demand.

"So many offers -- automobiles, financial, banking, nutrition, food, beverages, fast food," Brisson said. "He has been approached by all of them, but it's got to fit."

That includes the time commitment -- "At the end of the day, I'm a hockey player and I need to make sure that everything is balanced well," said Crosby, who is notorious for his work ethic and devotion to detail -- but it also involves a hard look at the products.

"If I had to describe how I am with that stuff, I'm selective," he said. "Very selective."


Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.

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