CONSTRUCTING A LEGEND SINCE 1919
A Marketable Commodity
Selling Babe Ruth to America
     Babe Ruth's success on the field created success off the field. Fans flocked to see him play and he became a national icon. With his fame, it was only natural that Ruth lend his name to big money advertisers. Business was booming in the 1920s and people had more money to spend than ever. As new products were introduced into the marketplace, what better way to guarantee success than attaching the name and face of a hero to the item?

     Ruth happily accepted many advertising offers. He endorsed everything from cereal to Girl Scout cookies to soap. He had his own line of candy bars and pushed "Babe Ruth" brand All-American, all-cotton underwear though he only wore custom-made silk undershorts. He appeared on advertisements for Old Gold cigarettes despite the fact that never smoked anything but cigars. Eventually, Ruth's endorsements became so plentiful that he had to hire a business manager and an accountant in order to keep track of all the money he was making on the side.

     Advertising kept Ruth on the public's mind almost as much as newspapers did. They may have even been more integral to his heroic image. Take, for instance, ads for Murphy-Rich Co. Soap:

Home Run Soap

This ad emphasize Ruth's prolific home run hitting. They identify the Babe with the home run, as if the two were inseparable. Numerous other ads doing the same and helped solidify the Babe's stature as the great home run hitting of all-time even through his sub-par seasons.

     Many of Ruth's advertisements were directed to children. Ruth's love for children helped him become an idol for youth's everywhere and companies quickly jumped on Ruth's magnetic personality. This Wheaties ad summarizes how the Babe was used to sell products to children:

The breakfast of Champions

The ad preaches that you should eat Wheaties to be like the Babe. What child could argue with that?

     Perhaps the greatest advantage Ruth's publicity through advertisements had over his publicity in the press is advertising's focus on only his triumphs. He was a champion and the king of the long ball but never the adulterer or the gluttonous eater. Draw ads like the Murphy-Rich Co. soap ad enhanced his physical features to make him look more imposing than ever. He always had a child-like grin on his face. The Babe Ruth of advertising was free from Babe Ruth's real life vices. Constant exposure to this image of Ruth no doubt mitigated the effect the press had when it disclosed Ruth's latest transgressions. Therefore advertising not only publicized the Babe, it helped polish his image.


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