The Pop History Dig

“Celebrity Gifford”
1950s-2000s

This Vitalis hair tonic ad featuring Frank Gifford ran in “Sports Illustrated” magazine, October 1959 – and likely other publications as well.
This Vitalis hair tonic ad featuring Frank Gifford ran in “Sports Illustrated” magazine, October 1959 – and likely other publications as well.
Athletes in modern times – especially as they become celebrity figures – are often recruited to do advertising for any number of commercial products. Some-times they are also sought out for political endorsements or as spokespersons for various social causes. A few also make their way into the media or Hollywood, extending their celebrity beyond their active sports careers.

Frank Gifford, a talented football player for the New York Giants in the 1950s and 1960s, became a popular figure in the New York city metro area and nationally both during and after his active playing career. Gifford not only became a familiar face in magazine and TV advertising, but also one of the first professional athletes to successfully venture into TV sports broadcasting. Well beyond his playing days, Frank Gifford would extend his celebrity for many years as a sports announcer, first for CBS on radio and TV, and later for ABC-TV’s popular Monday Night Football program.

Gifford’s notice as a public figure, in fact, would span nearly six decades, during which he became a pitchman for dozens of products – from shaving cream and hair tonic to clothing lines, as well as a celebrity draw for CBS Radio and ABC-TV.

Frank Gifford, No. 16, in action as New York Giants battle St. Louis Cardinals, 1960. Photo, George Silk/Life.
Frank Gifford, No. 16, in action as New York Giants battle St. Louis Cardinals, 1960. Photo, George Silk/Life.
An All-American college player at the University of Southern California (USC), Gifford was drafted by the New York Giants in 1952 and excelled there for 12 seasons, becoming an All-Pro performer and a popular sports icon. In the 1959 hair tonic ad above, Gifford is shown in his Giants football attire, being subject to “the white glove test” for the “greasless Vitalis” hair product. Vitalis Hair Tonic, produced by Bristol-Meyers from the 1940s, became a popular hair treatment for men, and advertising using celebrities helped boost sales. Says the ad’s copy:

“…Frank Gifford, New York Giants, All Pro halfback, has dry, stubborn hair. Creams and cream-oils threw it for a loss… plastered it down, left greasy stains. Now Frank signals for Vitalis. No more grease-down hair, no more messy stains. Vitalis took the grease out of hair tonic. Put in V-7, the greasless grooming discovery. It keeps your hair neat all day, leaves no greasy stains as leading creams and cream-oils do. And Vitalis protects against dry hair and scalp, fights embarrassing dandruff… Try Vitalis yourself….today!

1996: Sportscaster celebrities Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Bob Costas appear in “milk mustache” ad campaign.
1996: Sportscaster celebrities Al Michaels, Frank Gifford, and Bob Costas appear in “milk mustache” ad campaign.
Flash forward forty years to the late 1990s and Frank Gifford is still found in commercial ads. Here, at right, he appears in a “milk mustache” magazine ad that ran in 1996 and 1997 – part of an ongoing campaign sponsored by the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board using celebrity figures to help sell milk.  In the ad, Gifford is flanked by fellow TV celebrity sportscasters, Al Michaels left, and Bob Costas right.  Gifford would share broadcasting time with these and other colleagues during his 27-year career in sports broadcasting. More on Gifford’s sportscasting history a bit later.

Even in his college days as a gridiron standout at the USC, Frank Gifford received national notice in general-circulation and sports magazines, including Life magazine which featured a photo sequence of one of Gifford’s touchdown runs against the University of California in a famous November 1951 game.

Magazine and newspaper coverage during his college and pro careers helped keep Frank Gifford in the public eye.  And owing to his good looks and landing in the New York media market, Gifford would have continuing good fortune, not only in advertising, but also in TV and film.  In his earlier years, as a student in California, Gifford landed some bit parts in Hollywood films, including appearances as a football player in That’s My Boy in 1951 and The All American, with Tony Curtis, released in 1953. He also appeared in Sally and St. Anne and Bonzo Goes to College, both in 1952, the latter a sequel to the Ronald Reagan film, Bedtime for Bonzo.

Dec. 1956: Frank Gifford with TV show host, John Daily, taking questions from celebrity panel trying to guess Gifford’s line of work on quiz show,“What’s My Line?”
Dec. 1956: Frank Gifford with TV show host, John Daily, taking questions from celebrity panel trying to guess Gifford’s line of work on quiz show,“What’s My Line?”
In December 1956, after he had been with the Giants for a few seasons, Gifford appeared as a guest contestant on the then-popular TV quiz show, What’s My Line?, where a panel of four celebrities would ask a series of questions trying to determine the guest’s occupation.  Broadcast out of New York, the show had a national following.  When Gifford signed in on the chalk board as he came on stage that evening for What’s My Line — as was the usual procedure for that show – he used the name “F. Newton Gifford.”

After a few rounds of questions, and some excitement over Gifford’s youthful good looks by actress panelist Arlene Francis, the panel figured out he was Frank Gifford, football star of the New York Giants, who earlier that day in fact, had a banner performance with four touchdowns in a game against the Washington Redskins.

1950s: New York Giants star halfback, Frank Gifford, being interviewed in mock locker-room halftime scene in TV ad endorsing Florida orange juice.
1950s: New York Giants star halfback, Frank Gifford, being interviewed in mock locker-room halftime scene in TV ad endorsing Florida orange juice.
Also in the mid-1950s, Gifford appeared in a TV commercial for Florida orange juice in his Giants uniform.  In this appearance, the spot was set up with some newsreel footage of Gifford catching a pass for a touchdown.  The scene then cut to the locker room, supposedly at “half time,” where star Frank Gifford was partaking in his half-time refreshment, a glass of Florida orange juice.

An announcer with microphone then appears, and begins interviewing Gifford, commending him on his first half play, then launching into the virtues of Florida orange juice, with Frank making a few comments before the scene cuts to the announcer making a final appeal for Florida orange juice.

Frank Gifford in a Vitalis Hair tonic ad that appeared in Life magazine, November 25, 1957.
Frank Gifford in a Vitalis Hair tonic ad that appeared in Life magazine, November 25, 1957.
An earlier Vitalis hair tonic ad from 1957 featured Gifford in “before and after” photos, as shown at right. “Frank Gifford’s hair looks like this after a New York Giants football game…” — says ad’s copy on the first photo, showing Gifford in his game face and roughed-up playing attire, hair tousled.  Then comes the “after” photo showing a cleaned-up, well-groomed Gifford in coat and tie, as the caption adds – “…like this after Vitalis.”  A headline running across the page beneath both photos continues the Vitalis pitch: “New greaseless way to keep your hair neat all day…and prevent dryness.”

The ad’s copy also quotes Gifford pitching the product as follows: “I don’t know which is worse for your hair – a hot helmut or a hot shower,” says halfback Frank Gifford.  “I get plenty of both so I always use Vitalis.  My hair stays neat, and Vitalis isn’t greasy.”  Then the ad copy continues: “The secret is V-7.  This new grooming discovery is greaseless, so you never have a too-slick, plastered-down look. Along with V-7, new Vitalis blends refreshing alcohol and other ingredients to give you superb protection against dry hair and scalp – whether they’re caused by wind, sun or you morning shower.  Try new Vitalis with V-7 soon (Tomorrow, for instance.).”  Then for the housewife contingent, two smaller photos show a lady holding a pillow, one soiled, the other clean, with appropriate captions: “Does your husband use a greasy tonic that stains pillowcases like this? Greaseless Vitalis leaves pillow cases clean – like this.”

1958: Gifford sweater ad.
1958: Gifford sweater ad.
1965: Jantzen swimwear ad.
1965: Jantzen swimwear ad.
1960s: Gifford, beach wear.
1960s: Gifford, beach wear.
1962: Jantzen sweater ad.
1962: Jantzen sweater ad.

Gifford also became a model for the Jantzen brand of clothing during the 1950s and 1960s. Jantzen, a company founded in Portland, Oregon from a small knitting business in the 1910s, grew to become a world wide operation by the 1930s, known mostly for women’s swimwear, but by the 1950s, had also established a mens’ line of clothing.  From 1957 through the late 1960s – during his playing years and after – Frank Gifford appeared in dozens of clothing, sportswear, and swim wear ads for the Jantzen brand.  In the early round of these ads, Gifford appeared by himself, usually donning sweaters.  In other Jantzen ads, Gifford appeared with one or more fellow professional athletes, including: Bobby Hull, ice hockey player; Jerry West, basketball star; football competitor, Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers; and others.  In the 1965 Jantzen swim wear ad, above right, Gifford appears in a beach scene with a surf board and three others – John Severson, a surfer and then publisher of Surfer magazine; Boston Celtics basketball star, Bob Cousy; and Terry Baker, then a famous former quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon State University.  Other Jantzen swimwear and/or beachwear ads in this period also included Gifford with one or more other athletes, as seen in the 3rd photo here bottom left, with Gifford in the foreground and the others in the background.  In the 1962 Jantzen sweater ad at bottom right, Gifford is seated reading a mock headline about his running back rival, Paul Hornung (who won the MVP award in 1961), while Bob Cousy and pro golfer Ken Venturi stand behind him.

September 1962: Frank Gifford of the New York Giants, featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
September 1962: Frank Gifford of the New York Giants, featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Being a football star, Gifford remained in the public eye as newspaper and magazine stories were written about his play.  In September 1962, as the New York Giants were having one of their best seasons with Gifford’s help, he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.  During his 12 seasons with the New York Giants, Gifford as a running back had 3,609 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns in 840 carries.  As a receiver he had 367 catches for 5,434 yards and 43 touchdowns.  And finally, throwing the ball, Gifford completed 29 of the 63 passes for 823 yards and 14 touchdowns, the most among any non-quarterback in NFL history.  He made eight Pro Bowl appearances during his career and also played in five NFL Championship games.  Gifford’s biggest season may have been 1956, when he won the Most Valuable Player award of the NFL, and led the Giants to the NFL title over the Chicago Bears.  Gifford also played in the famous December 1958 championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts – a nationally-televised game that went into sudden death overtime, a game which many believe ushered in the modern era of big-time, television-hyped, pro football.

1966: Frank Gifford featured in CBS Radio ad.
1966: Frank Gifford featured in CBS Radio ad.
After his playing days ended, Gifford became a full-time broadcast commentator for NFL games, first on CBS radio and later, CBS television.  Gifford’s broadcasting career had actually started in 1957 while he was still playing halfback for the New York Giants.  He was a commentator for CBS on the NFL pre-game show and joined the CBS staff in 1961 as a part-time sports reporter.

In 1964, Gifford retired from his successful football career with the Giants and remained well-known and well-regarded in the New York area and nationally.

In 1965, CBS hired him full time to cover pro football, college basketball and golf.  Gifford stayed with CBS for six years – and as the CBS Radio ad at left shows, the network wasn’t shy about using his football celebrity to lure listeners and sponsors.

Another CBS Radio ad that ran in the 1960s had Gifford featured with three other CBS Radio personalities – Art Linkletter, Amy Van Buren of “Dear Abby” fame, and commentator Lowell Thomas – “Four Good Reasons to Turn to Your CBS Radio Station,” as the CBS ad tagline put it.

 
 
Film & TV

Frank Gifford, foreground, plays Ensign Cy Mount, shown here injured, in the 1959 James Garner film “Up Periscope.”
Frank Gifford, foreground, plays Ensign Cy Mount, shown here injured, in the 1959 James Garner film “Up Periscope.”
Earlier in his career, while still a prominent football star, Gifford landed a few minor film and TV acting roles.  In the 1958 WWII film, Darby’s Rangers, which starred James Garner, he appeared as one of a number of young soldiers.

Gifford had a named role in another James Garner film, Up Periscope in 1959, a WWII submarine drama in which Gifford played Ensign Cy Mount, and is shown in one scene (at right) propped up on a stretcher, shirtless and wounded.  In television, Gifford appeared in the Shirley Booth sitcom Hazel for a 1963 episode titled, “Hazel and the Halfback.”

1968: Alan Alda, left, visits with Maxine and Frank Gifford, right, in a scene from the film, “Paper Lion.”
1968: Alan Alda, left, visits with Maxine and Frank Gifford, right, in a scene from the film, “Paper Lion.”
In 1964, Gifford made a second appearance on the TV quiz show, What’s My Line?, this time as a celebrity panelist asking the questions.  In 1965, Gifford was approached to play the lead role in a Tarzan film, but that role later went to Mike Henry.

In 1968, he and his then-wife Maxine appeared in the film, Paper Lion, based on the 1966 nonfiction book by American writer George Plimpton, who spends time as a player with the Detroit Lions to do an insider’s account of how an average American male might fare in professional football.  In the film Alan Alda played Plimpton and Gifford and his wife appeared as themselves in one scene as shown at left.

As a CBS sportscaster, Frank Gifford landed some notable interviews, here with Mickey Mantle in 1966.
As a CBS sportscaster, Frank Gifford landed some notable interviews, here with Mickey Mantle in 1966.
During Gifford’s broadcasting years with CBS Radio and TV, he interviewed a range of celebrity athletes and coaches, not only in football, but also in other sports.  In June 1966, he interviewed New York Yankee great, Mickey Mantle, then nearing the end of his career.

Gifford, reportedly, did not think much of Mantle, though he did figure into a bit of early Mickey Mantle baseball lore. That story involves a long home run Mantle hit as a Yankee rookie when he was 19 years old – a home run rumored to have traveled 550 feet or so.

In a May 1951 spring training game played at the University of Southern California, Mantle hit two home runs – one of which cleared the fences there and kept on going, landing in the middle of an adjacent football field, according to Gifford, who was then in spring football training with his college team on that field.

Gifford & Vice Lombardi, pre-Superbowl I, January 1967.
Gifford & Vice Lombardi, pre-Superbowl I, January 1967.
In January 1967, Gifford landed a big pre-kickoff interview at the first Superbowl game between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.  On the field, Gifford interviewed Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi for the nationally-televised game.

As a former New York Giants running back, Gifford had played under Lombardi when Lombardi was the Giants’ offensive coordinator under head coach Jim Lee Howell, helping lead the Giants to their 1956 championship.

Howell was from an earlier football era and used the single-wing formation. Lombardi helped modernize the Giants’ attack by introducing the T-formation.

1970: Frank Gifford interviewing Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson following Superbowl IV.
1970: Frank Gifford interviewing Kansas City quarterback Len Dawson following Superbowl IV.
Gifford also had a notable post-game interview following the famous 1967 NFL championship game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, the game leading up to Superbowl II.  Played at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin under frigid conditions — a game known as the “ice bowl” — the Packers won the game with a famous running play behind the blocking of famed Packer lineman Jerry Kramer.

At the game’s conclusion, CBS announcer Gifford got the go ahead to go into the losing Cowboys’ locker room for on-air post-game interview – a practice unheard of in that era. Gifford sought out Dallas quarterback Don Meredith, who Gifford knew, for his thoughts on the game.  The Meredith interview, emotional but thoughtful, received considerable attention, and would later become a factor in Meredith’s own broadcasting career.  In the photo at right, Gifford is shown interviewing quarterback Len Dawson of the Kansas City Chiefs following Superbowl IV.

A Frank Gifford pro football guide book, from 1968.
A Frank Gifford pro football guide book, from 1968.
By the late 1960s, Gifford’s name also began appearing on annual football guide books – Frank Gifford’s NFL-AFL Football Guide For 1968 (shown at left), and a similar volume for 1969,  were published by Signet Books.  The guides featured rosters, schedules, and forecasts for the upcoming pro seasons, with team summaries, description of the playoff system, and other football information.

Also in 1969, there was a book about Gifford written by William Wallace – Frank Gifford: His Golden Year, 1956 – the year Gifford won the most valuable player award, then known as the Jim Thorpe Memorial Trophy. The Wallace book included an introduction by Gifford’s former Giants’ coach and then famous Green Bay Packer leader, Vince Lombardi.

The book came at a time when Gifford – then retired from the game since 1962 – was building a following as “one of the better sportscasters on WCBS-TV,” as Kirkus Reviews described Gifford in a short summary of the Wallace book (see “Sources” section at end of story for cover photo of this book).

 

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“Gifford’s Gigs”
Ads, Film, TV, Books, Etc.
1950s-2000s

 

1970s: Frank Gifford appearing in a Dry Sack sherry ad.
1970s: Frank Gifford appearing in a Dry Sack sherry ad.
1956: What’s My Line?, TV Guest
1957: Vitalis Hair Tonic
1957: Wilson Sporting Goods (football)
1957: Jantzen sweater ad (wearing beret)
1958: Jantzen Sportswear – sweater
1958: Film: Darby’s Rangers, bit part
1959: Vitalis Hair Tonic Ad
1959: Film: Up Periscope
1960: Paris Belts (w/16 pg booklet)
1960: Wards Boots (hunting)
1960: Book: The Frank Gifford Story
1961: Jantzen Sportswear /ski sweater
1961: Jantzen ads (w/ Bob Cousy, others)
1962: Sports Illustrated Cover, Dec 12
1962: Jantzen Ad – Snorkeling in Kauai
1962: Jantzen Sportswear w/Cousy, others
1962: Jantzen Sweater w/ K. Venturi, Cousy
1963: Guest Star, Hazel TV Show
1963: Jantzen Sweater w/ Hornung & Cousy
1964: What’s My Line?, TV Guest Panelist
1965: Jantzen Swimsuits
1965: CBS Radio Ad w/other hosts
1966: Jantzen Hawaiian Beachboy Tights
1966: Jantzen Sportswear w/ D. Marr, Cousy
1966: CBS Radio Ad – NY Giants No.16
1966: Jantzen Swimtrunks w/B Hull, others
1968: Jantzen Spoken Here w/ Don Meredith
1968: Film: Paper Lion, bit part, himself
1960s Radio Spots – Leukemia PSAs
1969: Book: Frank Gifford: His Golden Year
1971: TV: Monday Night Football (to 1997)
1971: TV Guide Cover w/Cosell & Meredith
1975: Dry Sack Sherry Ad
1976: Book: Frank Gifford on Courage
1977: Playboy (Nov), Frank Gifford Profile
1978: Planters Nuts Ad
1978: Riddell Ad, soccer shoes
Screenshot from a Planters Nuts TV ad featuring Frank Gifford.
Screenshot from a Planters Nuts TV ad featuring Frank Gifford.
1979: Dry Sack from Spain
1979: Planters Mixed Nuts
1982: TV Ads: Planters Nuts
1984: GQ, Cover
1984: Nabisco Brands, w/Bobby Orr
1984: Nabisco Brands, w/D. Meredith
1991: Buick “Super Drivers” Sales Brochure
1993: Book: The Whole Ten Yards
1993: TV: Carnival Cruise w Kathie Lee
1996: “Milk Mustache”w/Michaels & Costas
1996: Film: Jerry Maguire, bit part, himself
2008: Book: The Glory Game
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Not a complete list.

 

Monday Night Football

Frank Gifford, right, joined “Monday Nigh Football” broad-casters Howard Cosell, center, and Don Meredith  in 1971.
Frank Gifford, right, joined “Monday Nigh Football” broad-casters Howard Cosell, center, and Don Meredith in 1971.
In the 1970s, Frank Gifford’s media star began to shine a lot brighter when he became a member of ABC-TV’s Monday Night Football broadcast team.  But before exploring Gifford’s role there, a little history on the origins of the Monday night program.

The idea for televising professional football games on Monday night had first started with NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle.  Rozelle had experimented with one non-televised Monday night game in September 1964 when the Green Bay Packers played the Detroit Lions in a game that drew a sellout crowd of 59,203 to Tiger Stadium, the largest crowd ever to watch a professional football game in Detroit up to that point.  Rozelle then followed up with a few televised Monday night games in prime time over the next four years – two NFL games on CBS for the 1966 and 1967 seasons, followed by two AFL Monday night games on NBC in 1968 and 1969.  But neither CBS or NBC would sign a contract for a full season of televised Monday night games, as they feared a disruption of existing programming.

Roone Arledge is credited with helping make “Monday Night Football” an entertainment spectacle and a financial success.
Roone Arledge is credited with helping make “Monday Night Football” an entertainment spectacle and a financial success.
ABC, then the lowest rated of the three broadcast networks, and also not entirely enthusiastic about the idea, nevertheless agreed to a contract after Rozelle threatened to go to the Hughes Sports Network, a move that would have caused some ABC affiliates to abandoned ABC on game nights.

After the ABC deal was made, ABC producer Roone Arledge – who had already created ABC’s Wide World of Sports in 1961 – began to see big potential for the Monday Night Football program.  Arledge is credited with turning the program into an entertainment and sports broadcast “spectacle” – expanding the regular two-man broadcasting team to three members; using twice the usual number of cameras to cover the game; using shots of the crowd, cheerleaders and coaches as well as closeups of the players; and instituting lots of graphics and technical innovations such as “instant replay.”

The first ABC Monday Night Football game – between the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland – aired on Sept. 21, 1970.   Advertisers were charged $65,000 per minute (a fraction of what they now pay ).  The broadcast was a smashing success, collecting an eye-popping 33 percent of the viewing audience.  Those numbers pleased the program’s early sponsors, such as the Ford Motor Company.  Monday Night Football was on its way.

1971: “Monday Night Football” broadcast team of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford.
1971: “Monday Night Football” broadcast team of Howard Cosell, Don Meredith and Frank Gifford.
The first broadcast trio for Monday Night Football included Howard Cosell, Keith Jackson, and Don Meredith.  Frank Gifford had been Roone Arledge’s original choice for the third member of the broadcast team, but Gifford was then still working with CBS.  But Arledge was a friend of Gifford’s and a golfing buddy.  Gifford suggested that Arledge offer Meredith the job, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback.

By 1971, however, Gifford replaced Keith Jackson as the play-by-play announcer on Monday Night Football (this trio is shown on the TV Guide cover at left).  Thus began a nationally prominent role for Gifford that would last more than two decades in one role or another at Monday Night Football.  Gifford, in fact, would become the longest-serving member of an ever-changing cast of characters on the Monday Night Football broadcast team – ranging from Alex Karas and Fran Tarkenton for periods in the 1970s, to O. J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Dan Dierdorf, and Michaels in the 1980s.  In 1987, Gifford and Al Michaels – who had done the show as a twosome for two seasons – were joined by Dan Dierdorf.  This Monday Night Football trio would last for 11 seasons, through the end of the 1997 season.

There were some memorable moments in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth, as on December 9, 1974, when the unlikely pair of former Beatle John Lennon and California governor Ronald Reagan entered the booth.  Lennon was interviewed by Howard Cosell and Gifford was talking with Reagan, who later proceeded to explain the rules of American football to Lennon as the game went along, though off camera.  Six years later on December 8th, 1980, during the Monday night game between Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, it would be Howard Cosell who announced a news bulletin to a stunned nation that John Lennon had been assassinated that night in New York city by gunman Mark David Chapman.

Frank Gifford, circa 1970s.
Frank Gifford, circa 1970s.
August 1988: Gifford on the field prior to a Miami Dolphins - Washington Redskins game.
August 1988: Gifford on the field prior to a Miami Dolphins - Washington Redskins game.

In later years, there was some probing of the Monday Night Football empire, as a book by Marc Gunther and Bill Carter titled Monday Night Mayhem, reported that with Roone Arledge in control, the show was making lots of money for ABC, and its principals were treated well, with parties, limousines, and more.  But by 1985, Monday Night Football was sliding in the ratings, beaten on occasion by Farrah Fawcett movies on NBC and other shows.  Roone Arledge by then had moved on, and in the following year in the wake of the Cap Cities takeover of ABC, new management arrived.  Gifford was moved out of his play-by-play role, replaced by Al Michaels.

But through it all, Gifford had a loyal following of viewers who liked him because of his low-keyed style, projecting a straight-arrow kind of guy, honest and sincere. Still, Gifford had his share of critics, some charging that he wasn’t critical enough of the players. “I don’t pay attention to the critics,” he said in a 1987 Los Angeles Times interview.  “I have to please the audience… I know what I am.  That’s more important than reading what others think.  I know this game. I’ve always studied it, and I continue to do my homework.”  Gifford added that he probably spent more time preparing to televise a game than he did preparing as a player.  But the critics persisted, some calling his style boring or that he was too much of a company man.  “I’ve been accused of being everything from [plain] vanilla to being a shill for the National Football League,” he said in a 1994 interview with the Christian Science Monitor.  “Some people think that you can’t be doing a good job unless you are bombastic and critical…. I don’t know where that concept ever came up in journalism.”  As for the “star” quality that may have come to the Monday Night Football broadcasters, Gifford sought to disabuse viewers of that notion.  In a September 1994 interview with Mark Kram of Knight-Ridder newspapers, Gifford explained that “the success of Monday Night Football has little to do with the announcers in the booth.” Rather, as Gifford then put it: “We are a success because football is the No. 1 sport in America, and that Monday evenings give people a chance to extend the weekend.  I, as an announcer, can only reflect what has been placed on the stage, so to speak.  We do not create it.”

Feb 1984 “GQ” cover featured Frank Gifford with story: “Gifford Keeps His Balance.”
Feb 1984 “GQ” cover featured Frank Gifford with story: “Gifford Keeps His Balance.”
Gifford also appeared on other ABC sports programs, including Olympic Games coverage from 1972 to 1988, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and he also did various sports personality profiles and TV specials.  Gifford also put out another book in 1976 – Gifford on Courage: Ten Unforgettable True Stories of Heroism in Modern Sports – written with Charles Mangel.  This book included profiles of sports figures, among them: Herb Score, Rocky Bleier, Charley Boswell, Don Klosterman, Floyd Layne, Charley Conerly, Y.A. Tittle, Dan Gable, Willis Reed, and Ken Venturi.

Gifford continued to be of interest as a sports celebrity and television personality, occasionally featured in magazines, such as the February 1984 GQ cover story shown at left (GQ, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, is a publication of the Newhouse family-owned Condé Naste publications).  The GQ story was written by Frederick Exley, who had been following Gifford’s career since the days when both were students at USC.  In television, Gifford sometimes appeared as a guest or a guest host on non-sports TV shows, including ABC-TV’s Good Morning America, where he met his third wife, Kathie Lee Johnson, a popular TV host.  The two were married in 1986 and would have two children together.  Throughout the late 1980s and the 1990s, millions of morning-TV viewers who watched ABC’s Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, would often hear Kathie Lee Gifford’s descriptions of life at home with her sportscaster husband and their two children.  Gifford and his wife also appeared together on TV occasionally, as they did when hosting the nightly wrap-up segments on ABC during the 1988 Winter Olympics.

Frank Gifford’s 1993 auto- biography.
Frank Gifford’s 1993 auto- biography.
In 1993, Gifford published his autobiography, The Whole Ten Yards, with help from Newsweek’s Harry Waters.  Kirkus Reviews called the book “a measured, straightforward, good-natured piece of work…”

In the book, Gifford includes profiles of his former Monday Night Football colleagues Howard Cosell, Don Meredith, Dan Dierdorf and Al Michaels, calling Michaels at one point “the best play-by-play man in the business.”  There are also profiles of Vince Lombardi, Paul Brown, and former teammates Sam Huff, Y.A. Tittle, Charlie Conerly, and Kyle Rote, as well as opponents such as Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, Chicago Bears tight end, Mike Ditka, and Philadelphia Eagles linebacker, Chuck Bednarik.

The book also covers Gifford’s reminiscences of late 1950′s New York nightlife – all of which help to paint an engaging portrayal of New York football and its related social profile during that era.

June 1997: People magazine featured the Giffords on its cover following the affair.
June 1997: People magazine featured the Giffords on its cover following the affair.
In 1995, Frank Gifford was given the Pete Rozelle Award by the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his NFL television work. But two years later, in May 1997, some of the luster of Gifford’s career and celebrity became tarnished after it was revealed that he had an affair with a former airline stewardess, Suzen Johnson. A round of negative press followed, with magazine and tabloid front-page coverage, including a June 1997 People magazine cover story shown at left with photo and headline that read, “Kathie Lee’s Crisis, Will She Stand By Her Man?”

A November 1997 Playboy story also ran with Suzen Johnson on the cover. And some New York media talk shows and radio programs — including Howard Stern’s radio show, which had engaged in a running critique of Kathie Lee Gifford for years – also covered the story. Stern at one point threatened to air tapes of the tryst until the move was blocked in court. It was later revealed that The Globe, the North American supermarket tabloid that originally broke the story, had arranged to have Gifford secretly videotaped being seduced by the former flight attendant in a New York City hotel room.

Tagline for ABC’s 20/20 show on the Gifford affair: “Love. Fidelity. Broken Promises. Staying together, Kathie Lee and  Frank Gifford talk about it all for the first time. Exclusively with Diane Sawyer.”
Tagline for ABC’s 20/20 show on the Gifford affair: “Love. Fidelity. Broken Promises. Staying together, Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford talk about it all for the first time. Exclusively with Diane Sawyer.”
In follow-up stories, ESPN and others reported that The Globe tabloid had paid Johnson $75,000 to lure Gifford to the room, while The Atlantic placed the amount at $125,000. There was also an appearance by Gifford and Kathie Lee on ABC-TV’s 20/20 show in May 2000 when the couple was interviewed by Diane Sawyer, with Frank admitting the tryst was “stupid” and Kathie Lee offering grudging forgiveness. The Giffords had faced controversy before, in 1996 when a clothing line sold by Kathie Lee was accused of using sweatshop labor. Kathie Lee Gifford subsequently worked with government regulators to investigate the situation and she also worked to support and enact laws to protect children against sweatshop conditions.

Such incidents aside, however, the Giffords, throughout their careers, have been involved with various charities and social causes. Frank Gifford had served as chairman of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of New York and in 1984 the society established a $100,000 research grant in his name. And Kathie Lee Gifford regularly makes appearances at fund raisers and events for the non-profit organization ChildHelp, which works for the prevention and treatment of child abuse.

Still, the 1997 stewardess affair was a major blow to the Giffords and to Frank Gifford’s image. In 1998, following the incident, Gifford was given a reduced role on the Monday Night Football pre-game show. Boomer Esiason, 36, then the Cincinnati Bengals’ quarterback, quit active play to join the show. After that, and with 22 years of serving as a sportscaster there, Gifford left Monday Night Football, though he would continue to have other TV work. And on other projects, he focused on football history.

In 2008, Frank Gifford, with Peter Richmond, published “The Glory Game,” about famous 1958 game.
In 2008, Frank Gifford, with Peter Richmond, published “The Glory Game,” about famous 1958 game.
In 2008, Gifford published with Peter Richmond, The Glory Game: How The 1958 NFL Championship Changed Football Forever. Gifford’s account of the famous sudden-death overtime game between the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts in which he and 14 other later-elected Hall of Fame players and coaches did battle. Gifford acknowledged that he had two costly fumbles in that game, but he also caught a pass for a key touchdown that had put the Giant’s in the lead, 17-14. Gifford was at the center of a crucial 3rd down play with less than three minutes remaining in that game. The Giants, then at their own 40 yard-line, needed four yards for a first down, which would have given them the game, as with a new set of downs they could have run out the clock. But on the 3rd down play, Gifford got the call, running the ball outside for a gain before he was tackled, though sure he made enough yardage for the first down. In the play, there was some added commotion and distraction, as Colts lineman, Gino Marchetti, was calling out in pain after he had broken his ankle. Referee Ron Gibbs, who spotted the ball amid the concern over Marchetti, placed it short of the first down marker, and the Giants were forced to punt. That gave the Colts a chance to tie, and ultimately win, the game, which went into sudden death overtime. But in his book, Gifford writes: “I still feel to this day, and will always feel, that I got the first down that would have let us run out the clock. And given us the title.” Gifford would later learn that the referee involved also believed he likely had made a bad spot.

See also at this website, “Bednarik-Gifford Lore,” a story which tracks the football backgrounds of the two pro players who met in a famous gridiron collision in November 1960 that changed both their lives. For other sports stories at this website see the Annals of Sport category page, or for other story choices, see the Celebrity & Icons page or the Madison Avenue page. Thanks for visiting — and please consider supporting this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 5 January 2014
Last Update: 5 January 2014
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Celebrity Gifford: 1950s-2000s,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 5, 2014.

____________________________________



Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover photo from Don Smith’s 1960 book on Frank Gifford, published by New York’s G. P. Putnam's Sons.
Cover photo from Don Smith’s 1960 book on Frank Gifford, published by New York’s G. P. Putnam's Sons.
CBS Radio ad of the mid-1960s featuring Frank Gifford as one of the network’s notable on-air personalities.
CBS Radio ad of the mid-1960s featuring Frank Gifford as one of the network’s notable on-air personalities.
1969: Cover of William Wallace’s book on Frank Gifford’s “Golden Year” of 1956; paperback edition.
1969: Cover of William Wallace’s book on Frank Gifford’s “Golden Year” of 1956; paperback edition.
June 1969: Sportscasters Pat Summerall & Frank Gifford (c), listen as Joe Namath (r) announces his retirement from pro football at his Bachelors III nightclub due to dispute with the NFL over his ownership of the club. On July 18, he announced he sold the bar and was coming back out of retirement. Click photo to visit Namath story.
June 1969: Sportscasters Pat Summerall & Frank Gifford (c), listen as Joe Namath (r) announces his retirement from pro football at his Bachelors III nightclub due to dispute with the NFL over his ownership of the club. On July 18, he announced he sold the bar and was coming back out of retirement. Click photo to visit Namath story.
June 1983: Christopher Reeve, Frank Gifford & President Ronald Reagan at White House reception & picnic for Special Olympics program, Diplomatic Reception Room.
June 1983: Christopher Reeve, Frank Gifford & President Ronald Reagan at White House reception & picnic for Special Olympics program, Diplomatic Reception Room.
July 1985: Joe Namath, left, Roone Arledge, center, with Frank Gifford at news conference announcing Namath’s joining "Monday Night Football." AP / M. Lederhandler.
July 1985: Joe Namath, left, Roone Arledge, center, with Frank Gifford at news conference announcing Namath’s joining "Monday Night Football." AP / M. Lederhandler.
Nov 29, 1990: Kathie Lee & Frank Gifford with former Vice President Dan Quayle at ASA Hall of Fame dinner.
Nov 29, 1990: Kathie Lee & Frank Gifford with former Vice President Dan Quayle at ASA Hall of Fame dinner.
Frank & Kathie Lee Gifford with their son, early 1990s.
Frank & Kathie Lee Gifford with their son, early 1990s.
Jack Cavanaugh's 2008 book, "Giants Among Men."
Jack Cavanaugh's 2008 book, "Giants Among Men."
13 Oct 1963: Frank Gifford of the New York Giants about to catch a pass from quarterback Y. A. Tittle in game against the Cleveland Browns played in New York.
13 Oct 1963: Frank Gifford of the New York Giants about to catch a pass from quarterback Y. A. Tittle in game against the Cleveland Browns played in New York.

“Rough Day in Berkeley: A Zany Season Reaches Climax As Southern Cal Tips California Off Top of Football Heap,” Life (with photo sequence of Frank Gifford’s 69-yard run), October 29, November, 1951, pp. 22-27.

“Landry, Gifford and Rote to Pass For Giants in Game With Redskins,” New York Times, Sports, December 3, 1952.

“Revamped Giants to Face Steelers; Gifford Shifted From Defense to Offense for Contest at Polo Grounds Today,” New York Times, November 15, 1953.

“Gifford Drills 2 Ways; Giants’ Back Again May Play Dual Role Against Redskins,” New York Times, November 19, 1953

“Gifford at Quarterback For Giants in Workout,” New York Times, July 25, 1956.

“Conerly’s Pitch-Out to Gifford Rated as Key to Team’s Victory,” New York Times, October 29, 1956.

Louis Effrat/Ernest Sisto, “Giants Beat Eagles and Move into a First-Place Tie… Strong Defense Helps Giants Win …Conerly Passes Click; Gifford Makes Catch…,” New York Times, October 29, 1956.

Gay Talese, “Gifford Sandwiches Football Between Sidelines; Giants’ Top Ground Gainer Also Is a Movie Bit Player,” New York Times, November 4, 1956.

Louis Effrat, “Gifford Scores Three Touchdowns as Giants Beat Redskins Before 46,351; New Yorkers Win at Stadium, 28-14 Giants Avenge Earlier Loss to Redskins and Virtually Clinch Conference Title,” New York Times, December 3, 1956

Louis Effrat, “Giants Gain Title in East, Checking Eagle Team, 21-7; Capture Division Honors for First Time in 10 Years as Gifford Paces Attack ..,” New York Times, December 16, 1956.

“7 Giants Chosen on All-Star Club; Conerly and Gifford Among Players Named for Bowl Football Game Jan. 13,” New York Times, December 18, 1956.

“Gifford Named in Poll; Back Is Voted Pro Football’s Most Valuable Player,” New York Times, January 8, 1957.

William J. Briordy, “Gifford Receives a Rise in Salary; Football Giants’ Star Back Accepts $20,000 – Grier Is Inducted Into Army,” New York Times, January 29, 1957

“Giant Eleven Sends Lions to Their First Shutout Defeat in Five Seasons; Patton, Gifford Pace 17-0 Success; They Get Giant Touchdowns on Long Runs as Lions Lose Third Straight; Lions Fail to Threaten; Conerly Passes Click,” New York Times, September 23, 1957

“Up Periscope,” Wikipedia.org.

“Frank Gifford in TV Series,” New York Times, Thursday, January 21, 1960, p. 63.

Don Smith, The Frank Gifford Story, New York: Putnam,1960.

William R. Conklin, “Star Back Signed by Radio Station; Gifford Retires as Player but Giants Hope to Keep Him in Advisory Post,” New York Times, Friday, February 10, 1961.

“Frank Gifford Rates The NFL Running Backs,” Sport, October 1961.

Robert M. Lipsytet, “Gifford Returns as a Player; Giants’ Halfback, 31, Gives Up Duties as Broadcaster; Back Holds 3 Club Records,” New York Times, Tuesday, April 3, 1962, Sports, p. 48.

“Pro Football May Seem Tame to Giant’s Gifford After Thrill of Making TV Ads,” Advertising Age, 34(25): 64.

“Paper Lion (film),” Wikipedia.org.

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Frank Gifford, “Inside Monday Night Football,” Argosy, October 1973, Vol. 371, No. 10.

Frank Gifford and Charles Mangel, Gifford on Courage: Ten Unforgettable True Stories of Heroism in Modern Sports, New York: M. Evans & Co., September 1, 1976.

Philip H. Dougherty, “Advertising; Palm Beach Using TV And Gifford…,” New York Times, Thursday, June 22, 1978, Business & Finance, p. D-17.

Bert Randolph Sugar (Author) and Frank Gifford (Foreward), The Thrill of Victory: The Inside Story of ABC Sports, Hawthorn Books, 1978, 342pp.

“Planters TV Ads: Nuts & Snacks, Frank Gifford 1970s-1980s,” Duke University Libraries, Digital Collections.

Frederick Exley, “The Natural” (article on Frank Gifford), GQ, February 1984.

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Martie Zad, “Frank Gifford: Monday Night Football’s Long-Distance Runner,” Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1987.

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Frank Gifford and Harry Waters, Jr., The Whole Ten Yards, New York: Random House, 1993,
285 pp.

Tom Stieghorst, “Men Are Targets Of Carnival Cruise Lines Advertisements,” Sun Sentinel, April 10, 1993.

Steve Nidetz, “Gifford Book Serves Up Vanilla – But With Lumps,” Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1993.

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Mark Kram, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, “They Were Giants During Their Playing Days And . . . They’re Still Giants In The TV Booth; Frank Gifford’s `Silver Spoon’ Image Belies His Childhood Out Of `The Grapes Of Wrath’,” Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1994.

Ross Atkin, “Energizing `Monday Night Football’,” Christian Science Monitor, December 22, 1994.

Jane Furse & George Rush, with Paul Schwartzman, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon & Phil Scruton, “Gifford Fling Bombshell Sleuth: I Was Asked To Tape Tryst,” Daily News (New York), Saturday, May 17, 1997.

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Alex Beam, “Tabloid Law,” The Atlantic, August 1999.

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“Frank Gifford” (interview), Archive of American Television, September 2006.

Jack Cavanaugh, Giants Among Men: How Robustelli, Huff, Gifford and the Giants Made New York a Football Town and Changed the NFL, New York: Random House, 2008.

“Frank Gifford on What’s My Line,”(aired 12/2/56), YouTube.com, Uploaded, March 8, 2009.

Poseidon3, “One for the Gifford!,” Poseidon’s Underworld, Wednesday, August 3, 2011.

“Frank Gifford Gets Lucky” (What Happens in the Huddle?), Lucky Strike cigarette ad, YouTube.com, Uploaded by thecelebrated misterk, July 13, 2012.

“In The News – Frank Gifford” (list of stories), Los Angeles Times.

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Frank Gifford Related Videos, Mashpedia .com.

“Planters Peanuts Commercial with Frank Gifford,” YouTube.com, Uploaded by spuzz lightyeartoo, October 3, 2011.

___________________________________

 


 

 

“Vuitton’s Soccer Stars”
June 2010

Louis Vuitton’s June 2010 magazine ad featuring soccer greats Pelé, Zidane and Maradona, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
Louis Vuitton’s June 2010 magazine ad featuring soccer greats Pelé, Zidane and Maradona, photographed by Annie Leibovitz.
     In 2010, continuing a long line of contemporary advertising using famous celebrities, luxury bag maker Louis Vuitton had photographer Annie Leibo- vitz do a photo shoot of three of the world’s most famous soccer stars: Pelé of Brazil, Diego Maradona of Argentina, and Zinedine Zidane of France.  The setting for the photo shoot and the ad, shown at right,  was the Café Maravillas, a typical bar in Madrid, Spain, where the three famous footballers are engaged in a spirited game of table-top foosball. 

     In the background of the ad are Louis Vuitton bags, one monogrammed with the initials “Z.Z.” for Zinedine Zidane.  The tagline for the ad reads: “Three great journeys, one historic game.”  Antoine Arnault, Vuitton’s media person at the time of the ad’s release, explained: “What true football fan has not dreamt of seeing these three living legends – Pelé, Maradona and Zidane – play each other?” 

     A series of the Vuitton ads with the famous soccer greats appeared in magazines and also online in the months leading up to the World Cup matches in June 2010, heading into the  championship games in South Africa.

Vuitton’s “soccer legends” ad appear- ed on the back cover of Time’s June 2010 World Cup edition.
Vuitton’s “soccer legends” ad appear- ed on the back cover of Time’s June 2010 World Cup edition.
     Time magazine featured the World Cup games on the cover of a special June 2010 edition, which also included the above ad on the magazine’s back cover.  Earlier copies of Time had run the same ad in the early front pages of the magazine.  Other magazines all over the world also gave the Vuitton ad similar play at about the same time. 

     Louis Vuitton, for those who may not know, is a venerable fashion brand that began in 1894.  Today it is a $2 billion company with 9,000 plus employees worldwide.  The Vuitton label is well known for its “LV” monogram found on most of its products, which include luxury trunks and leather goods, shoes, watches, jewelry, accessories, sunglasses, and books.  Vuitton is one of the world’s leading international fashion houses – and its ads in recent years have become well known for their celebrity and superstar subjects — Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Gisele Bundchen, Bono, Sean Connery, and Mikhail Gorbachev among them.  Other athletes, such as tennis stars Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, have also appeared in Vuitton ads, but with the soccer stars, Vuitton was reaching for a broader and perhaps, more “everyman” audience. 

Horizontal version of the Louis Vuitton “soccer greats” ad, also used for a related Louis Vuitton website campaign.
Horizontal version of the Louis Vuitton “soccer greats” ad, also used for a related Louis Vuitton website campaign.
     Getting the three soccer legends to appear in the same ad was something of coup, which Vuitton’s Antoine Arnault acknowledged, saying the company was honored to have them participate in its advertising campaign.  In addition to the magazine ads, Vuitton also had a dedicated website — louisvuittonjour- neys.com — where a featured conver- sation between the three players was included, in which they discussed their careers, recalled great matches they had played, and exchanged views on the world of soccer.  Part of the story line at the website had Pelé and Zidane challenging each other to a match of table foosball.  The ad, in any case, was likely a hit with soccer fans.  What follows below are three brief profiles of each of the famous soccer legends.


French soccer star Zinedine Zidane is regarded as one of the best to have played World Cup soccer.
French soccer star Zinedine Zidane is regarded as one of the best to have played World Cup soccer.
Zidane

     French soccer star Zinedine Zidane was born in 1972 to Algerian parents.  He grew up in the modest suburbs of Marseilles after his parents left Algeria.  Zidane played his first junior championship soccer at the age 14.  Today, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of World Cup soccer and has played for club teams in France, Italy and Spain.  France won the World Cup in 1998 with a team full of immigrant players, with Zidane becoming an icon, especially among the poor.  But French fans and players generally love him, not only for the 1998 World Cup but also the 2000 European Championship.  He retired briefly thereafter, but soon returned to the French national team in 2005.  He was captain of the French team in 2006, leading them in the World Cup Final where he won the Golden Ball as the tournament’s most outstanding player.  Alongside Brazil’s soccer star, Ronaldo, Zidane is the only other three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner.  Zidane, however, had a bit of controversy toward the end of his career in a famous incident in which he head-butted Italy’s Marco Materazzi in chest during the 2006 World Cup Final in Berlin, and was thrown out of the game.  Zidane maintained he was goaded by Materazzi, who had made a slur on Zidane’s sister, provoking Zidane’s action, which he later said was to defend “the honor of a Muslim woman.”  Zidane, who had retired with that game, performed three days of community service to meet his penalty, while Materazzi later apologized publicly to Zidane for his slur.  Although Zidane retired from professional football after the 2006 World Cup, he continued to play for the Real Madrid veterans team.

Zinedine Zidane.
Zinedine Zidane.
     In 2004, Forbes magazine named Zidane the 42nd-highest paid athlete in the world, with earnings of $15.8 million a year.  He has had endorsement deals with a number of prominent companies, including: Adidas, Lego, France Telecom, Orange, Audi, Volvic mineral water and Christian Dior.  Zidane’s endorsement deals have continued beyond his playing days, remaining a sought-after icon, especially in France, appearing in advertising for Danone, France Telecom, Generali insurance, and Grand Optical eyewear, among others.

     In retirement, Zidane has also participated in charity soccer events in various countries around the world.  In 2010 he was appointed as an ambassador for Qatar’s attempt to host the 2022 World Cup, a bid they won in December 2010.  Zidane was also appointed as a special adviser to Real Madrid’s first team in 2010.


Diego Maradona as a young “juniors” player in 1980.
Diego Maradona as a young “juniors” player in 1980.
Maradona

     Diego Maradona, born in 1960, rose from the slums of Buenos Aires to become one of Argentina’s most famous and controversial soccer stars.  He is widely regarded as one of the greatest football players of all time.  Over the course of his professional career Maradona set world-record contract fees for his soccer-playing abilities.  Playing for Argentina he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals.  He played in four FIFA World Cup tournaments, including the 1986 tournament, in which he captained Argentina’s team and led them to their victory over West Germany in the final.  He also won the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player.  In that tournament’s quarterfinal round, he scored two remarkable goals in a 2–1 victory over England, one of which has been described as a “spectacular 60-metre weave through six England players.”  In Maradona lore this feat is also known by many as “The Goal of the Century”.

Diego Maradona bringing championship to Argentina.
Diego Maradona bringing championship to Argentina.
     Maradona’s stardom in his Argentina homeland has risen at times to the “super-celebrity” level, something beyond mere sports heroism approaching idolatry, with some calling him “God,” the star having a near religious following in some areas.  The Houston Chronicle wrote of him in June 2010:

“To understand the gargantuan shadow Maradona casts over his soccer-mad homeland, one has to conjure up the athleticism of Michael Jordan, the power of Babe Ruth — and the human fallibility of Mike Tyson.  Lump them together in a single barrel-chested man with shaggy black hair and you have El Diego, idol to the millions who call him D10S, a mashup of his playing number and the Spanish word for God.”

Maradona as photographed in recent years.
Maradona as photographed in recent years.
     Maradona has also had stadiums named for him and he has hosted his own TV talk show.  His playing career, however, had it share of controversies.  He was suspended for 15 months in 1991 after failing a doping test for cocaine in Italy, and was sent home from the 1994 World Cup in the USA for using ephedrine. 

     After retiring at age 37 in 1997, he increasingly suffered ill health, gained weight, and battled cocaine addiction.  A 2005 stomach stapling operation helped control his weight and he overcame his cocaine addiction, becoming a popular TV host in Argentina.  Although he had little previous managerial experience, he became head coach of the Argentina national soccer team in November 2008, remaining there through July 2010.  In late October 2010, Puma, the athletic shoe and sports gear manufacturer, put on a major celebration for Maradona’s 50th birthday, also then introducing a new line of athletic wares in his name.


Pelé

 Pelé shown in action in 1958 World Cup soccer match.
Pelé shown in action in 1958 World Cup soccer match.
     Few athletes in any sport have reached the pinnacle of stardom and global recognition as that of Brazil’s Pelé, the singular name this world soccer star came to be known by during his playing years and for decades thereafter.  Pelé came to represent in soccer what Muhammad Ali was to boxing: an international icon who transcended his sport and his country.  Born in 1940 as Edison “Edson” Arantes do Nascimento, a child of Brazilian Portuguese decent, Pelé grew up in poverty in São Paulo.  He earned extra money by working in tea shops as a servant.  Taught to play by his coach, he could not afford a proper football, playing sometimes with a newspaper-stuffed sock tied with string, a grapefruit, or some other improvised “ball.”  Today, according to polls taken among football experts, fans, and former players, Pelé is consistently ranked as one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

Pelé, Brazil’s soccer legend, shown in some “Pelé Soccer” garb.
Pelé, Brazil’s soccer legend, shown in some “Pelé Soccer” garb.
     In 1956, Pelé joined Brazil’s Santos Football Club and stayed with the club through his retirement in 1974, helping them to nine championships in 18 years.  Pelé also played on four Brazilian World Cup teams, including the country’s three World Cup Champions in 1958, 1962 and 1970.  The 1958 final was perhaps his most famous match, when Pelé stunned the world scoring six goals, including two in the championship game to help Brazil win its first World Cup 5-2 over Sweden.  He was only 17 years-old at the time.  In his native Brazil, Pelé is hailed as a national hero, known for his soccer accomplishments and also for his vocal support of public policies to improve the social conditions of the poor.  When he scored his 1,000th goal he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil.

     In his career, Pelé scored 760 official goals, 541 in league championships, making him the top scorer of all time.  In total during his career, he scored 1,281 goals in 1,363 games – 12 in World Cup final tournaments.  During his playing years, he was known variously as “The King of Football,” “The King Pelé” or simply, “The King.”  Pelé retired in 1974.  However, in 1975, he came our of retirement to play in America for the New York Cosmos team of the new North American Soccer League (NASL).  Pelé was paid a $1 million per year when he played for the Cosmos, and some attribute his playing there with helping generate interest in America to make the NASL a going concern.  However, Pelé retired in 1977 after leading the Cosmos to the NASL championship.

Pelé shown making his famous “bicycle kick” in competition.
Pelé shown making his famous “bicycle kick” in competition.
     Given his world soccer notoriety, Pelé became one the world’s most formidable marketing forces and something of an international brand.  Prime Licensing, a company established by Pele’s friend and businessman, Jose Alves de Araujo, was set up to manage Pele’s various market- ing deals.  Prime Licensing managed a number of Pelé product endorsements and contracts, including those with Puma AG, Pelestation, QVC, and Fremantle Media, as well as Pelé brands Pelé L’uomo and Pelé Arena coffee houses.  In recent years Pelé has earned an estimated $30 million a year from his businesses and endorsements.  He has endorsed products from soccer balls, clothing, and equipment, to aPelé soccer video game.  Even though he has been retired for more than three decades, the name Pelé is still synonymous with world-class soccer to millions around the world.  And so, his appeal in advertising, especially running up to World Cup games in recent years, has made him one of the world’s top advertising personalities.  During the 1994 World Cup, he was featured in a Master Card ad with an orchestra performing the song “America.”  During the 2002 World Cup he earned millions doing ads for MasterCard, Pfizer, Petrobas, and Nokia.  According to one account, leading up to that event, Pelé appeared in 20 million mailings, 100 World Cup promotions, and at least a dozen TV ads.  Among other companies and brands he has represented around the world are: Time Warner, Procter & Gamble, Pizza Hut, Pepsi, and others.  But Pelé has also given a part of himself to good causes, including ambassadorial work for various bodies.  In the early 1990s, he was appointed a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment, and has continued working for good causes since then.


Vuitton’s Message

Pelé and Zidane at the photo shoot in Spain for the Louis Vuitton June 2010 ad.
Pelé and Zidane at the photo shoot in Spain for the Louis Vuitton June 2010 ad.
     Louis Vuitton, meanwhile, was generally praised for its “soccer legends” ad, some suggesting that bringing the three “soccer gods” together in one frame was enough by itself.  Others saw it as a statement for the cooperative spirit of World Cup games as much as it was one for hyping World Cup competition and singing the praises of three soccer greats.  Yet Zidane, Maradona, and Pelé have had their differences about the game – all in the spirit of good competition, of course.  But in the Vuitton ads at least, it’s only camaraderie and friendly competition that are projected.

A monogrammed Louis Vuitton canvas bag from the ad showing initials “Z.Z.”
A monogrammed Louis Vuitton canvas bag from the ad showing initials “Z.Z.”
     Louis Vuitton, of course, is in the business of promoting its “mongrammed luxury lifestyle,” as one observer described the company’s mission.  And using the World Cup and three big-name soccer celebrities to help do that – each offering an “everyman” appeal, given their respective roots – was certainly one way to help spread the Vuitton style, or at least the thought of it, to the far corners of the globe.  World Cup soccer, in any case, is big business these days.  As to which one of the three soccer greats – Zidane, Maradona, or Pelé – is truly the greatest of all time?  Well, that debate surely goes on, with national partisans in France, Algeria, Argentina, Brazil all having their favorite, no doubt – as do many throughout the world.

     Other stories at this website on advertising or sports can be found at those respective directory pages, or go to the Home page or Archive for additional choices.  Thanks for visiting. - Jack Doyle

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this Website

Donate Now

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___________________________________

Date Posted: 26 January 2011
Last Update: 28 September 2012
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Vuitton’s Soccer Stars, 2010,”
PopHistoryDig.com, January 26, 2011.

___________________________________


 


Sources, Links & Additional Information

Pelé embracing boxer Muhammad Ali during ceremony honoring Pelé, then with NY Cosmos, at Giants Stadium, N.J., Oct 1, 1977. In final game, Pelé played a half on each side: Cosmos 2, Brazil Santos 1.
Pelé embracing boxer Muhammad Ali during ceremony honoring Pelé, then with NY Cosmos, at Giants Stadium, N.J., Oct 1, 1977. In final game, Pelé played a half on each side: Cosmos 2, Brazil Santos 1.
Argentina’s Maradona vs. Belgium, 1982.
Argentina’s Maradona vs. Belgium, 1982.
In 1977, New York Cosmos players, from left, Chinaglia, Pele & Beckenbauer.
In 1977, New York Cosmos players, from left, Chinaglia, Pele & Beckenbauer.
Zidane vs. Renaldinho, undated.
Zidane vs. Renaldinho, undated.
Zidane & Pelé in one of the photos from the Annie Leibovitz / Louis Vuitton shoot, 2010.
Zidane & Pelé in one of the photos from the Annie Leibovitz / Louis Vuitton shoot, 2010.

Megan Baldwin, “It’s A Trend! Vuitton Taps Aging Soccer Stars For New Ads,” Styleite.com, April 23rd, 2010.

Sarah Deeks, “Vuitton Plays Ball,” Vogue.com (U.K.) April 27, 2010.

“Louis Vuitton,” Wikipedia.org.

Adam Tschorn, All The Rage Blog, “Louis Vuitton Ad Shoots For Goal With Soccer Greats Pele, Maradona and Zidane Facing Off in Foosball,” Los Angles Times, April 30, 2010.

Minor Matters Blog, “Soccer Legends: Pele, Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane,” The Times (South Africa), May 10th, 2010

“Zinedine Zidane,” Wikipedia.org.

Rob Hughes, “Algerian Immigrants, Priced Out, Have Hero in Zinedine Zidane : In Shadow of Stade, France’s Hidden Face,” New York Times, July 4, 1998.

Christopher Clarey, World Cup ’98; Zidane Captures a Missing Credential,” New York Times, July 13, 1998.

Rob Hughes, “Real World Record:$64.5 Million for Zidane,” New York Times, July 10, 2001.

John Vinocur, “Star Has Sainthood Thrust Upon Him: Spain Finds Zidane Good as Well as Great,” New York Times, August 2, 2001.

George Vecsey, Sports of The Times; “As Nets Fly, World Waits For Zidane,” New York Times, May 17, 2002.

Rob Hughes, “Soccer: Zidane’s Left Foot Slams Perfect Goal,” New York Times, May 17, 2002

Jere Longman, Doreen Carvajal, Soccer; “Zidane Is Silent; Family Suggests an Insult Provoked Him,” New York Times, July 11, 2006.

Peter Berlin, Soccer; “A Contrite Zidane Apologizes to the World,” New York Times, July 13, 2006.

Richard Owen in Rome, “Materazzi Reveals Reason Why Zidane Head-Butted Him,” The Times (London), August 19, 2007.

“Diego Maradona,” Wikipedia.org.

Nathaniel C. Nash, Soccer; Argentine Angst Grows as Maradona Tragedy Sinks In,” New York Times, April 30, 1991.

Sports People: Soccer; “A $4.5 Million Bid by Seville for Maradona,” New York Times, September 17, 1992.

Soccer; “Maradona Magic Helps Argentina,” New York Times, November 1, 1993.

George Vecsey, Sports of The Times, “Cup Watch: Here Comes Maradona,” New York Times, November 19, 1993.

Rob Hughes, “Diego Armando Maradona: The Sorrow and the Pity,” New York Times, July 1, 1994

Jen Bensinger, “Maradona Puts His Legacy On The Line At The World Cup,” The Houston Chronicle, June 8, 2010.

“Pelé,” Wikipedia.org.

Alex Yannis, “Pele (3 Goals) Is Whole Show as Cosmos Win by 3-0,” New York Times, May 16, 1977.

Alex Yannis, “Record 62,394 See Cosmos Top Rowdies; Pele Scores 3,” New York Times, June 20, 1977.

Alex Yannis, “57,191 See Cosmos Triumph As Pele Knocks In 3 Goals,” New York Times, June 27, 1977.

Alex Yannis, “Pele’s Legacy to His Fans: Nobody Did It Better,” New York Times, October 2, 1977.

Olgilvy & Mather, Paris, France, Press Release, “Pelé Maradona and Zidane: The Holy Trinity of Football for Louis Vuitton,” May 7, 2010.



 



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