DES MONINES, Iowa - An enterprising individual or business could land permanent weekly advertising space with a prime location in front of a rapt audience for as low as $2,000.
The catch? It would be on the back of professional wrestler Levi McDaniel.
The 23-year-old Iowa resident has an auction on eBay, "Company Logo or Advertisement On Pro Wrestler Human Billboard Tattoo Twitter." The auction is due to end Saturday. As of press time, there have been no bidders.
McDaniel's selling points: He has more than 22,000 Twitter followers (@LeviMcDaniel), he regularly performs in front of large groups of fans, and there's a good chance of publicity.
"Let me be your mascot," McDaniel says in the auction.
An added bonus: He plans to give the money to family and charity.
He got the idea from Rock 'n' Roll Wrestling founder Buck Zumhofe, who, after noticing McDaniel's 40-plus tattoos, suggested the younger wrestler sell advertising space. McDaniel wasn't entirely sure whether Zumhofe was joking or not. But after considering the crowds he competes in front of in wrestling leagues like 3XWrestling, Midwest Wrestling Alliance and Canadian Wrestling Elite, he decided to try give it a try. The auction page says the tattoo will be on his back, but he said it could also be on a leg.
"A tattoo is a pretty big deal; it's on your body for life," McDaniel said. "We're always in front of people. I would think this is a pretty good investment if I was a company. It would be seen by so many people."
Joel Geske, an associate professor who teaches advertising at Iowa State University, isn't so sure. He's not even sure if tattooing advertising space on your body should be considered advertising, or whether it's more like product placement or something similar to sponsorship on a NASCAR vehicle.
"I know that in NASCAR if a particular driver has very loyal followers and they're driving the Tide car, then people will buy Tide (laundry detergent) because they have a loyalty to that personality," Geske said. "I suppose that if this wrestler had a very strong following and he uses Pepsodent, then his fans might as well. But the product has to be appropriate: If a wrestler is advertising body building materials, it might work. If the tattoo is for Gerber baby food, probably not."
Geske, who used to work as a creative director for an advertising company, said that the public is so bombarded by advertising messages that it takes a lot to make something stand out from the clutter. If the tattoo were being picked up by television cameras, it could pay off, but it might not be visible enough to wrestling fans in a gymnasium.
McDaniel wouldn't be the first professional wrestler to sell advertising space on his body via a tattoo. Professional wrestler Eric Hartsburg got a Mitt Romney "R" logo tattooed on his face after an unidentified Republican supporter paid $15,000 through an eBay auction. After Romney's loss, Hartsburg had the tattoo removed.
A number of athletes have used temporary tattoos to advertise companies or products during events. The online casino goldenpalace.com paid boxer Bernard Hopkins $100,000 to wear a temporary tattoo on his back during a championship fight in 2001. The same company also paid actors and athletes to wear their logo during the 2002 Fox special "Celebrity Boxing."
Todd Countryman is one of the owners of 3XWrestling, which will feature McDaniel in a match Nov. 22 at Baratta's at Forte, 615 Third St. Countryman said the fact that McDaniel trained in Japan (while he was stationed there in the Air Force) and his many tattoos mean he brings something unusual to the ring. He thinks McDaniel's idea of selling space on his body is just an added bonus.
"It's definitely an interesting idea, unique," Countryman said. "It gives Levi an extra gimmick and draws more attention to him. It could make whatever company decides to advertise on him seem more unique and draw a little more attention to him."
As for the money, McDaniel said he wants to give around 75 percent to support the family of his aunt Linda, who died of cancer this week, and the rest to a charity, perhaps the American Cancer Society. If he doesn't succeed, he plans to re-list the auction, and has already thought about selling more tattoo space on his body. Because the money would go to a good cause, he's not worried that he might end up sporting a tattoo that he regrets.
"If this works, I would like to do the next one with the money going toward the Wounded Warrior Project or some other group that supports veterans," McDaniel said.
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