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I READ WITH INTEREST your interview with George Starke, (“Skins Heads,” 10/27). As his “significant other” during the years when he was at the top of his football career, I share many of his memories. So I’d like to make a couple of additions and corrections to the story you published.
When George started the merchandising effort for the Hogs, he, or rather we—George had lots of help—did not trademark the name “Hogs.” Hogs is too general, not trademarkable. We trademarked the name “Superhogs” and a little smiling, winking hog logo.
As marketing manager of Superhogs, it was I who schlepped T-shirts, posters, and other novelty items—we sold everything but the “hog nose”—to over 30 sporting goods stores until I developed a license agreement for our suppliers to sell directly to the stores, including RFK Stadium. All the profit went to Martha’s Table, an organization that feeds homeless children.
You thought we sold the hog nose, didn’t you? How could we have missed that item? Well, it’s an interesting story with a good marketing lesson. What happened was this: The guy who “invented” the hog nose, Terry Vipond, came to us to market it. He approached George, who couldn’t decide if we should take it or not. He passed the decision on to the Superhog administrator, who was also ambivalent, passing the decision on to me, telling Terry to come in to see me one Monday morning in July 1983 and bring his nose with him.
That Monday, no sooner had I arrived at our MacArthur Boulevard offices and started to plan my day, than Terry, a wiry, hyper kind of guy, came bursting into my office and tossed something on my desk that looked to me like what Lorena Bobbitt threw out her car window a couple of years ago. It was pink, wrinkly, tubelike, and certainly a dismembered body part. I was shocked! Then he told me that every Redskin fan would want to wear it on his or her face! I was horrified!
He proceeded to dance around my desk, such was his enthusiasm, and tell me that he and his wife had taken out a $29,000 mortgage on their home to finance production of the prototype and the first run. I was speechless—absolutely dumbstruck—but managed to muster enough courage in the face of this obvious maniac to lie to him saying I would take it around to a couple of our outlets and see what they said. Then I banished the thing to my bottom desk drawer never to take it out again.
The rest is history. Terry marketed the hog nose himself, starting by street-vending it in front of the stadium the opening game of 1983, against Dallas. By the end of the game, half of the stadium was wearing it. I was sick. Superhogs’ only consolation was that Terry allowed us to take some to the Super Bowl with us on consignment.
I learned my lesson well, having generalized it to apply to corporate marketing for two of the largest financial institutions in the U.S., market research, in Europe, for McDonald’s, and now, marketing an international publication. So what’s the lesson? Take note: Never overestimate the taste of the average Redskin fan.