In the latest issue of ESPN The Magazine, Tim Keown delves into the strange success of Fathead, those weird life-size poster things with the campy commercials. I don't understand the appeal, but that's kind of the whole point of the article: no one does, and yet they're immensely popular -- especially, it seems, with athletes who want to be featured (link requires ESPN Insider access):
One small scene, one peephole glimpse into the odd world of Fathead: In a New Orleans hotel lobby during the 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend, Kim Somerville, a marketing rep for Rasheed Wallace, met with two execs from Fathead, LLC. Somerville sold her client like a defense lawyer giving closing arguments in a capital murder case. She talked up Wallace's popularity as one of the NBA's dwindling number of true characters. She laid out evidence -- statistical and anecdotal, in PowerPoint -- before declaring her man ready to enter the rarefied air of life-size adhesive wall graphics.
But here's the greatest thing about Somerville's presentation: It didn't work.
Nothing against Wallace, or Somerville, but the Fathead decisionmakers said Rasheed would stay "under consideration." Where he remains to this day.
Yes, Somerville was right to equate Wallace's oversize presence with that of a larger-than-life Fathead wall graphic. And yes, her PowerPoint was thorough in describing how Wallace's personality would jump off a wall with passionate -- perhaps frightening -- fury. But at the time of Somerville's plea there were already two Pistons Fatheads, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups. And Fathead suits run the company on a gut-feeling formula that says too many Fatheads from one team will dilute the product. Billups' subsequent trade to Denver didn't help because his replacement, Allen Iverson, also has a Fathead. So the national nightmare of un-Fatheaded Rasheed Wallace continues.
Also of note: did you know that Fathead is headquartered in Livonia, MI? Until reading this article, I didn't. Apparently Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, bought the company in 2006 and moved it into the Quicken Loans building.