Despite Season-Ending Injury, Giants Star Victor Cruz Scores Global Ad Campaign for Gap Factory

Brand stands by its man

Being sidelined by a dramatic injury isn't stopping New York Giants star Victor Cruz, who has landed a global endorsement deal with Gap Factory.

Cruz will serve as a “global ambassador” for Gap Factory, said Amondo Redmond, Gap Inc.’s global director of strategy and content. The Pro Bowl receiver will star in the retailer’s holiday ad campaign with supermodels Chrissy Teigen and Chanel Iman, with ads breaking this week.

Gap Factory signed the 27-year-old IMG client before he suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Philadelphia Eagles Oct. 12 that left him screaming in agony on national TV. It’s moving ahead despite knowing he won’t be able to do as much press. “His popularity and brand essence won’t change because of this injury. If anything it will continue to add to his portfolio,” Redmond said.

Cruz has starred in campaigns for Nike, Pepsi, Time Warner Cable and Hugo Boss. He said he’s developing his own clothing line called Young Whales. “It’s definitely difficult for NFL athletes to break into certain areas of fashion. I feel like I’ve done a good job,” said Cruz, who’ll hold his first HalloweenLand charity event in New York Oct. 25 to benefit the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.  

Starting Oct. 21, Cruz will star in 15 different Gap Factory print ads running in magazines such as GQ, People, Us Weekly, Cosmopolitan and Elle. He’ll also appear in online ads.

The American athlete’s image will also be displayed at Gap Factory’s 350 global stores. Cruz will appear on billboards and bus ads in New York, London, Paris and Tokyo. “That’s something we’ve never done before,” said Redmond. Cruz succeeds Matt Kemp of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers who starred in the fall ad campaign.

It's one of the first deals inked by an NFL player since TMZ released the horrifying video of Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice knocking out then-fiancée and now wife Janay Rice Sept. 8. The once-Teflon NFL has been under fire ever since from critics and Congress for its inept handling of a string of domestic abuse cases.

With the NFL criticized for its feeble response, league stars are not hot properties among advertisers. But Cruz (who speaks fluent Spanish) is in demand since he appeals to both mainstream and Hispanic audiences and plays in the media/marketing capital of New York.

The biggest problem for sponsors dealing with injured endorsers is an athlete on crutches can’t run or jump on production days. Due to their physical limitations, they also often can’t do as many press appearances, said sports marketer David Schwab, who links brands with celebrities at Octagon.

But the fallout from an injury like Cruz’s is not as bad as it would have been before the rise of social media. “Even if an [athlete] is not performing weekly, they still have the ability to grow their personal audience and relationships with fans via their 24/7 communications,” Schwab said.

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