A husband-wife management team guessed right when they banked on a career resurgence for Jerome Bettis a few years ago. Handling NFL players’ signing sessions means attention to detail.
By Jim Spezialetti
Jerry Maguire’s theory of individual attention to a professional athlete paid off when his “project” had a very good night. That same Hollywood ending is playing out in real life for Pete and Theresa Ausiello of B & G Sports Memorabilia, LLC, in New Jersey.
The husband and wife team serve as president and vice president, respectively.
One of their clients — Jerome Bettis — also had a big night on Feb. 5, 2006. Bettis was able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in his hometown of Detroit after the Pittsburgh Steelers were victorious in Super Bowl XL.
Just like Tom Cruise’s character in “Jerry Maguire,” the Ausiellos had a good feeling about their client more than two years ago. Despite coming off an injury and football experts saying his career was over, Bettis resumed his outstanding career with rushing numbers that could carry him into the Hall of Fame.
While at a signing during training camp, the Ausiellos met with Bettis’ business manager. They discussed having B & G Sports Memorabilia becoming the exclusive memorabilia company for Bettis. Both sides came away with a good feeling and soon a two-year deal was made. “All his appearances were brokered through our company,” says Pete.
The relationship between Bettis and B & G remained strong during the exclusive contract. So much so that prior to the Super Bowl, the parties agreed to a five-year exclusive agreement. While Bettis is the only exclusive player, the Ausiellos also provide that red carpet treatment to other NFL athletes they’re involved with.
A sports collector show has two aspects, from the business side: promoting the show and bringing in the athletes who sign for paying customers. Theresa treats each athlete as a person, rather than just a player. Before each show appearance, she finds out if the athlete has a special diet or a preferred soft drink and has the player’s favorites on hand. That individual attention has paid big dividends for the Ausiellos. The majority of their business comes from word of mouth. “The big thing for them is to feel like they’re human, not a robot. You have to talk to these guys,” says Theresa.
The business was incorporated four years ago. The majority of their work deals with planning of card shows and NFL athletes, Internet sales and consignment.
“When the industry took a dive with cards, autographs became popular,” says Pete.
Theresa begins planning for a show six months in advance. She arranges flights, hotel and transportation, which can change at any time, including a few days before the event. It’s her job to get the athletes to the show on time
and have the necessary materials (pens, etc) at hand.
B & G Sports Memorabilia also offers customers the opportunity to send in items to be autographed. At the shows, a back room is secured for athletes to sign the items, which are packed and shipped back to the customers. “We try to bring memorabilia to a new level,” says Theresa, who goes beyond the autographed 8 by 10 picture. “We try to create a photo of a special time frame and give it a spin on today’s time. Presentation is everything, even with an unsigned photograph.” Having a woman’s point of view is often beneficial to the athletes they work with as well as the memorabilia offered. "She has a super judgment of people,” says Pete, who has been in the sports memorabilia industry for 16 years.
To entice show customers to view the merchandise, photography companies got creative with the pictures. One of the companies used by B & G Sports Memorabilia is Photo File, the largest manufacturer of licensed sports photography. Add a woman’s touch to the creative mix and the attention to detail should please both the athlete and customer.
Jim Spezialetti is a news editor for community newspapers in the Pittsburgh area