Al Young has a big job as the leader of the South Florida Ford Dealership board. It’s a competitive car market here, and he’s working tirelessly to carve out Ford’s share.
The dealers have had nice growth in the past few years thanks to national marketing from Ford and improved, cool products that appeal to younger car buyers. And when it came time to bring aboard a product endorser in South Florida, who’s cooler than Dan Marino? He’s a South Florida legend as the Hall of Fame quarterback of the Miami Dolphins.
“It’s really special for me to be working with Dan now. He’s just a wonderful guy,” Young says from his office at Wayne Akers Ford in Lake Worth. “We have a lot of sponsorship deals with the sports teams here in South Florida and we always love being a part of that. Having Dan with us now, well, that’s just a perfect fit between a great brand and a great guy.”
Marino has been hawking products ever since he entered the NFL in the mid-1980s, doing commercials and product endorsements for more than a dozen companies through the years. It’s business, sure, but it’s mostly personal for Marino. He can work with anyone if he so chooses. But he doesn’t; he picks and chooses his business relationships closely, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s that way with Young and the South Florida Ford group. He’s enjoyed Marino’s company from the first time they met. And once Marino’s long-standing contract with Mike Maroone and AutoNation ran out, Marino jumped to work with Young.
“For me, a lot of my business dealings are about relationships,” Marino says. It’s certainly that way with Al Young. We met at a golf outing and really hit it off. We’d run into each other at events now and then and we always talked about doing something together some day, if the opportunity came up.”
In his first month as spokesman, Marino, who now drives a Ford Expedition (“and I love it”) made some public appearances for the Ford group – and there’s plenty of marketing to come. Young says he marvels at how well Marino works a crowd, always engaging with them and smiling.
Young and Marino each have an autistic child, and that common bond has always been a part of their friendship. For both of them, it’s not just guys with money throwing money at a charity. It’s more about spreading the word and helping as many families as they possibly can.
A pitchman for years
When Marino came to Miami as the Dolphins quarterback in 1983, he was an instant sensation. He took the Dolphins to the Super Bowl in his second season and set all sorts of passing records along the way. He immediately became the face of the franchise.
“I did some local endorsements right away, like with Arvida out in Weston,” Marino says. “And I was very fortunate that a lot of national things came my way fairly quickly, too. I did some work for a clothing company and there was a Pepsi commercial right after the Super Bowl. Joe Montana and I did that together, and it was fun. And then, of course, there was Isotoner gloves.”
Ah yes, Isotoner gloves. From the mid-1980s on for a decade or so, the Dan Marino Isotoner commercials were a Christmastime staple. Every December, Marino got about as much airtime as Santa Claus.
“People still bring those up to me, even after all these years,” Marino says. “Actually, they were great to work with. We’d do something every year – and here was this football player from South Florida pitching winter gloves. You figured I’d be doing something on the beach, but no. It was winter gloves. But it worked. I always made a point when we had games up north during the winter that I had my Isotoner gloves on. That was a must.”
Marino often buys into the products he’s pitching. No greater example of that are the Nutrisystem commercials he’s done for 10 years. He just finished shooting a few commercials for the new year.
“Those commercials really worked out well and the nice byproduct was that I really needed to lose some weight anyway,” Marino says with a laugh. “I lost 20-something pounds using their products and it was easy. I still use their stuff to maintain. And, yes, I can proudly say I’ve kept that weight off.”
There are many others, of course. He’s done commercials with his former coach, Don Shula, for Hospital Corporation of America, Universal Insurance and even AARP. “Yes, I even appeal to the older crowd now,” says Marino, who’s 54.
Friend, partner and “best PR person I could have”
You’ll see Marino’s face often in ads and promotions for Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza as well. That’s not really an endorsement relationship because Marino has an ownership interest in the booming chain, which has more than 50 locations across the country. He’s been involved with Anthony Bruno practically from the beginning.
“Anything I can do for the brand, I do it. And do it gladly,” Marino says. “It’s been a special involvement with them all these years. They just do everything right, and I love being a part of it. I’ve had two daughters work there when they were growing up, and it’s always great to see people get promoted when I’ve known them from their busboy days.”
Marino has done some advertising, but mostly he’s just around, which is priceless, Bruno says. Marino comes to all the grand openings and enjoys spending time with the people.
“No one can work a room like Dan,” Bruno says. “Everyone loves him, and it’s just not in South Florida. Everywhere we open a store, Dan’s there and everyone loves being around him. He’s really great with the people. He’s my partner and he’s my friend, but he’s also the best PR person I could ever have.” ?