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AARP today announced that tennis star Martina Navratilova as its new “Health & Fitness Ambassador.”  A WSJ article on the deal explains why retired athletes are getting more popular:

While many of the richest endorsement deals still go to young phenoms like LeBron James, who has a seven-year, $90 million deal with Nike, former players are getting far more attention than they used to.

It is in part a reaction to the wave of recent scandals in sports, in which players have been caught up in everything from steroid abuse to a gambling ring that bets on dog fights.

Companies “don’t want to get into a situation where [they] want to get out of a contract,” says Jim Andrews, senior vice president of Chicago-based sponsorship-research firm IEG, a unit of WPP. “That is far less likely to happen with a proven entity.”

So, while it’s easier for AARP to pick a retired athlete who can relate to their older demographic, all the younger skewing brands are going to have to keep taking risks. 

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 If you build it, they will come.  At least that is what Dell and WPP Group are betting on.  After an intense review, the computer maker chose WPP Group to handle all of their marketing communications, in effect creating a 1,000 employee, $4.5 billion agency, code named “Da Vinci.” 

According to PR Week, “Publicis, Havas, Omnicom, and Interpublic Group all vied for the account, with Interpublic joining WPP as finalist.”

John Batelle: I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Casey Jones, Dell’s VP Marketing, as he’s gone through this process, and I’m certain that this new agency will create all sorts of fascinating new models.

Micropersuasion: It’s very easy to move an entire account from one agency to another across town and then again until you find the next big idea to replace the last one. So Dell will have to make sure this newco stays fresh and continues to pump out creative ideas.

The market seems to like the news, with shares of WPP Group already up in London trading.

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