With the looming onset of Arizona sports betting, it’s time for potential operators to craft their marketing campaigns. Those are likely to involve Arizona sports celebrities, which are primarily former athletes.
The competition for attention on sports betting apps in Arizona will probably be fierce, especially given the small distance between some of the retail sportsbook sites. Also fierce is the competition for a spot on a shortlist of the most marketable athletes who have a connection to Arizona. It’s as much about the name as it is the game.
Most Marketable Arizona Sports Celebrities For Sportsbooks
When it comes to this gig, whether an athlete was the greatest in her/his sport isn’t necessarily the most important thing. What future operators like Caesars Sportsbook are looking for are individuals who Arizonians will instantly recognize in connection to sports and view fondly.
For example, Luis Gonzalez is statistically one of the best players to ever put on an Arizona Diamondbacks uniform. The five-time All-Star led the National League in hits in his first season in Arizona. He also finished third in the NL MVP vote in 2001, when the Diamondbacks won the World Series.
However, Gonzalez’s marketability may not be as powerful as other Arizona athletes’. The athletes on the shortlist here not only have some athletic accomplishments but brand power of their own as well. In alphabetical order by last name, here are five athletes that companies like DraftKings Sportsbook might want to reach out to.
We’ll also leave out former Phoenix Suns great Charles Barkley, as he already signed a multi-year deal with FanDuel.
Born in Yuma in 1946, Culp played his college football at Arizona State, where he was a first-team All-American in football and also became the NCAA heavyweight wrestling national champion. The Denver Broncos took him in the second round of the 1968 NFL Draft.
Culp moved on to become the anchor of the Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive line, winning Super Bowl IV. He didn’t shy away from the spotlight during his career, taking part in the 1975 NFLPA Arm Wrestling Contest.
In 2013, the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined Culp. Culp has stayed in the spotlight since then, appearing in celebrity golf tournaments among other things. He never played for the Arizona Cardinals, as that franchise was in Chicago and then St. Louis throughout his career. Among football players with Arizona roots, he’s definitely among the greatest.
Doan isn’t an Arizona native but he has one memorable distinction when it comes to ice hockey. He was the last player from the original Winnipeg Jets franchise, which relocated to Arizona before the 1996-97 season. By the time he retired in 2017, he added several more accolades.
Doan was the longest-serving captain in the NHL prior to his retirement as well, serving in that role for the Coyotes from the 2003-04 season on. When he retired, he was also 10th in the league in points among players active at that time. Doan fell just short of being the Jets’/Coyotes’ all-time points leader, finishing his career a mere two points behind Dale Hawerchuk.
Doan still resides in Scottsdale. Among his off-the-ice exploits have been an appearance on the Canadian television series Mantracker. Doan was also a pallbearer at the funeral of late AZ Sen. John McCain.
Elliott’s story is like Culp’s in that he never played for the Arizona franchise for his sport but is an Arizona product. Born in Tuscon the same year that Culp began his NFL career, Elliott attended Cholla High School and then the University of Arizona. Under Lute Olsen’s tutelage, Elliott was the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year.
Elliott helped the Wildcats get to the Final Four while winning the Wooden Award and breaking the Pac-10’s all-time scoring record. He still ranks as Arizona’s all-time scoring leader for men’s basketball. Also during his collegiate years, Elliott was part of a FIBA gold medal team.
In 13 NBA seasons, most of which were spent with the San Antonio Spurs, Elliott won an NBA title and was an All-Star twice. Both Arizona and the Spurs have retired his No. 32 jersey number. Since his retirement from basketball, he has worked as an analyst for multiple networks.
‘The Big Unit’ might not just be the most recognizable Diamondback ever but arguably the most recognizable of all Arizona sports celebrities. He led Arizona to its first and, so far, only World Series title on the mound but did so in dominant fashion.
A 2015 Baseball Hall-of-Fame inductee, Johnson posted a sub-three earned run average over his eight seasons with Arizona. Johnson recorded over 2,000 of his near-5,000 strikeouts in a Diamondbacks uniform. He also won four of his five Cy Young awards with the D’backs.
Johnson now resides in Paradise Valley and is still employed by the Diamondbacks as a special assistant to the team’s president. He has made celebrity cameos on Franklin & Bash, Little Big League and The Simpsons. Among companies he has endorsed in the past are GEICO, Pepsi, and Right Guard.
Rumored to be the player whose silhouette is featured in the WNBA’s logo, Taurasi is arguably the greatest player in that league’s history. Taurasi has played her entire WNBA career for the Phoenix Mercury and it’s been an amazing one. Her list of accolades goes on forever, including:
- WNBA all-time scoring leader
- Rookie of the Year
- Three-time champion
- Regular-season MVP
- Three-time Finals MVP
- Nine-time All-Star
Taurasi has also won three NCAA championships, three FIBA gold medals, three Olympic gold medals, and seven Euroleague championships. Among product endorsements she has engaged in have been BodyArmor. This is one in which AZ sportsbooks might opt to wait, however. The trend has been to only contract with former athletes and Taurasi is still playing.
That wait might endure for a while, as Taurasi is seemingly ageless. In the meantime, any of the four men on this list would fill this role quite nicely.