Along with the widespread recognition achieved by many professional athletes comes substantial “publicity rights,” which can be cultivated for financial benefit. In short, publicity rights protect a person’s name or likeness from being used by others for commercial gain, unless that person grants permission. As such, publicity rights are generally regarded as a tangential aspect to traditional intellectual property rights like patents, trademarks, copyrights or trade secrets. Indeed, there can even be a certain overlap of publicity rights with other IP rights, particularly with trademark rights – such as when a person’s name is linked to a specific product or service.
Increasingly, professional athletes and other types of celebrities are cashing in on their personal brands by lending their name or likeness not only via traditional endorsemets, but also by promoting their own unique brands. While the general practice of promoting one’s own brand of apparel, fragrances, restaurants,etc., is well established, celebriteis appear to be applying the concept to a variety of less traditional items such as alcoholic beverages or even candy. In one example, pro golfer John Daly formally adopted his name for use on “JOHN DALY” alcoholic beverages, apparently following the lead of his fans. In another example, pro tennis player Maria Sharapova is marketing a new candy product called “SUGARPOVA.”
Perhaps this evolution of marketing strategies will continue towards even more obscure goods and services as pro athletes and other celebrities witness the success of their entrepreneurial peers.