By Terry Lefton, Staff Writer
Published April 25, 2016
Although Yogi Berra died in September, sports memorabilia executive Brandon Steiner is convinced it’s not over even when it’s over, at least as far as the 13-time World Series champion’s commercial appeal.
“Yogi’s beloved and we believe he’s evergreen,” said Steiner, from behind his desk at SteinerAccordingly, Berra’s family has signed a long-term deal with Steiner Sports, giving it exclusive rights to license Berra’s name and likeness for memorabilia, licensing, promotion and other commercial uses. The goal is to build a lasting “Yogi Berra brand,” because Berra is like Dunkin’ Donuts: Everyone loves him. The question is whether Berra can be kept as fresh as Dunkin’s pastries.
The relationship goes back years. Steiner is a longtime friend and business partner who reunited Berra with the Yoo-hoo brand in 1993 after a long separation from his most famous endorsement. Steiner also sat in the front row at Berra’s funeral.
For a catcher, Berra did a lot of pitching in his career. Aside from the celebrated Yoo-hoo hookup, Berra’s endorsements included a remarkable array of brands: Aflac, Ballantine Beer, Camel cigarettes, Pepsi, Stove Top stuffing, Visa and Entenmann’s pastries. As for publishing, Amazon already lists dozens of books by and about Berra.
Is there room for more?
“There’s only one Yogi,” Steiner insists.
Berra is the first of a group of legacy players that Steiner hopes to build into a consortium. Helping to ferret out those opportunities will be Ed Schauder, newly hired at Steiner as general counsel and executive vice president of licensing. Schauder’s previous projects include the 1969 New York Mets’ 25th reunion, and he is now tasked with building a licensing division at Steiner.
Schauder also knew and worked with Berra for years, and he sees opportunities in food, publishing, apparel and collectibles.
“We want to build and have a whole group of these players so that brands can do continuity programs,” Schauder said, offering Mickey Mantle and Derek Jeter as other examples.
Steiner had Berra under contract for collectibles the last three years of his life and has purchased much of the Berra family’s remaining memorabilia.
Consulting with Steiner on the project is former MLB licensing chief Howard Smith, who helped sort through items that included jerseys, contracts, passports and Berra’s American Legion ID card.
“It is such a rich collection,’’ Smith said. “The idea is to have a recurring business.”
An auction of Berra memorabilia is planned before the end of the year.