Ashlie farmer had been one of the darlings of the international tennis scene for a couple of years now. She was cute and had that young look that made her a fantasy for all the fans out there. As with several other young stars in recent years, she seemed to be more successful with her public relations than with her career. Though she had some surprise wins over a few major players, she just did not seem to be able to actually win a major tournament. After a couple loses, Ashlie realized she could be making up the money she was losing by getting a couple sponsors. Or at least a well paying sponsor. many of the players on the pro tour, recognized that the long term money was going to be in endorsements. They all had deals and Ashlie felt it was her turn to cash in. She began to hound her agent with calls and emails about ideas she had on who she wanted to be sponsored by.
"The sponsoring company would have you wear their logo or the company name on the player's hat, shirt, skirt, pants, shoes, bag, or whatever else they could get a name printed on. Some clothing companies wanted you to wear their clothes even when not playing. Product companies wanted you to use their products and be in commercials."
Ashlie's agent said as he met with her. Ashlie wanted an exclusive sponsorship deal where she would be the face of the product. She believed she could get the tournament wins, but recognized that she needed to strike while her name was in the public eye or it could all go away in an instant. She then threatened the agent that if he did not come up with a deal fast, that she would be happy to find another agent who is able to.
Her agent was starting to get fed up with Ashlie and was getting sick and tired of her demands. But he knew she was right and they needed to get a deal now. The sticking point was that ashlie did not want to do a bunch of small deals where she was one of many spokes-people. She wanted something that people would see her and remember the product while they would also remember her when seeing the product. Typically, the exclusive deals were reserved for the top 5-10 players on the tour. The rest had to take what they could get. Her agent knew there were many companies that the tour players often refused to endorse. Maybe with the right deal, he could get an exclusive through one of them.
After several weeks of negotiation, her agent scheduled a meeting with Ashlie and her legal team. He had found a deal. However, it was going to take all his skills to convince Ashlie to get on board. The legal team had reviewed the contract. But her agent was counting on the legal teams inexperience in big endorsement deals to help avoid some of the common complaints.
"Ashlie, I and my team know that you want to be the sole person endorsing a company. With that in mind we focused on companies that have no representatives on the tour. We requested proposals from several companies that have previously tried to get sponsors on the tour and several other companies. We have come up with a really unique proposal that I think you are going to love." Ashlie's agent said before going on. "Let me give you some of the specifics. This company is willing to sign a lock-in, guaranteeing that you will be their exclusive endorsed player on the tour for the next 5 years. If successful, they want an option to continue the deal at an increased rate for an additional 5 years. The deal starts with a $2 million dollar first year fee"
Ashlie's eyes lit up and she was clearly surprised. This was beyond anything they had ever previously discussed.
Her agent saw the shock in Ashlies face and kept on talking to lure her further into doing the deal. "As you know, this is the type of deal typically reserved for the top couple of players. In addition, there are incentives that can increase the endorsement fees once you accomplish certain milestones including commercials. You will be a household name across the entire US and by the end of the endorsement deal your personal name and face recognition will be off the charts. You won't be able to go anywhere without people knowing who you are. This is the essence of building a long term endorsement identity. If we handle this correctly, you should be able to grow your personal endorsements easily."
Ashlie was excited. "I can't believe it! 2 million dollars to start off with! So who is the client? And Let's get the deal signed before they change their minds!"
Her agent smiled and continued, "The legal team has reviewed the deal and made minor changes. Basically, both sides have agreed, we just need your approval and signature."
"Who is the client?" Ashlie stared at Josh intently.
"The contract is with Nestle Foods an international food giant. They want to start you out endorsing their Gerber family of products. Gerber is a household name focused on products for children and their families."
All ashlie heard was Nestle. "The chocolate company? They're huge. Let's get it done."
With her agreement, the legal team produced the contracts and Silva called the Gerber team to let them know that Ashlie had agreed to the deal. The legal team walked her through the legal requirements and expectations in the contract. They highlighted that the Gerber name would be on almost everything she was seen in while on tour. This was an exclusive deal and they wanted their money's worth. Ashlie saw no problem with that. The company expected input or decision making authority regarding the design of clothing for tournaments, but Gerber would pay for and provide the outfits. Again, ashlie thought, a typical requirement. They had a morals clause that could cause her to lose the deal. In addition, there were penalties for non-performance. She would be highlighted in commercials and the company had exclusive say so on all aspects of commercials. Ashlie quickly signed the contracts.
A few days later, Ashlie and Joshua Silva appeared at a press conference immediately prior to the USOPEN. Ashlie was wearing a baseball cap emblazoned with the Gerber name and a workout coat and pants with the Gerber Life (their life insurance arm) logo tastefully done on both. Gerber had had so much trouble getting a serious player to endorse their products in the past that they had very few clothing items with their logo in Ashlie's size.
As soon as Ashlie entered the locker room, other players teased her. They suggested that Ashlie was the perfect Gerber representative since she probably still wore kid’s clothes. Ashlie took the kidding in stride and ignored them. They might be giving her the business, but ashlie was the one with the $2 Million deal. When she came in from practice, there was a baby bottle and baby food in front of her locker space along with a sign that said, "Lunch was delivered from your new sponsor".
Very funny she thought. She placed the items in her locker as a badge. She wanted them to know that she was able to take a joke. She also wanted them to know that she was happy to have product from her $2 million sponsor in her locker. When a few of the other girls entered the locker room and snickered she told them she had put her lunch in her locker for later.
Ashlie had her best performance in a while by getting into the final 8 players. Though she lost the quarterfinal, the effort was one of her best and seemed to suggest she was on her mark.
Gerber was delighted with her performance and the marketing team began building a marketing plan around ashlie and professional Tennis. Gerber decided on an evolving plan. This would allow them to start simple and build a plan that all parties could be comfortable with. Quickly, ashlie had the Gerber logo on almost every piece of clothing she wore. Her equipment bags, hats, towels, and clothing all proclaimed the Gerber name.
Since most of the other players had multiple endorsement deals, they usually had multiple names on different pieces of equipment and clothing. Ashlie had an exclusive that guaranteed her primary sponsor all of the normal advertising. Some of the other players asked if she had Gerber's logo on her underwear. They joked that she could have Gerber printed on the butt of her tennis panties or wear some Gerber diaper covers under her tennis dress. Again, Ashlie thought they were all jealous. But the chiding did begin to bother her. Joshua simply reminded her of the financial benefits of playing the endorsement game.
With the new inflow of money from her sponsorship, Ashlie's behavior began to change. She was out partying a little more often. She went out to restaurants and hot clubs. The casual observer might question whether she was focused on her career or on the party tour which followed the international Tennis tour.
In the meantime, Gerber cut commercials for ashlie endorsing their Life insurance program for children and young adults. She cut ads for the general Gerber Baby program. She was photographed for print ads.
In the meantime, she continued to play tennis. Her performance continued to be middle of the road.
However, after about eight months, it was clear to everyone that Ashlie was not playing with the effort and capability that everyone knew she had. Joshua Silva and Ashlie's attorney's pointed out that performance was not a requirement of the deal. As long as ashlie was on the tour and maintained a ranking which got her into the major tournaments, she was living up to the deal. Gerber explained that they expected ashlie to penetrate the tournaments further. They said with the additional money and lack of financial concerns, her performance should be set a little higher.
Gerber executives reviewed the deal. They had never gotten into these kinds of deals. They did not have enough experience. They had valued the deal based on their company logo being seen on TV in major tournaments and other appearances. If ashlie did not reach that far, they felt they needed to get their endorsed player into news articles and on TV. The team spent days evaluating ways to up their return on investment.
The day before the next tournament, a Gerber representative delivered a package to Ashlie's room at the hotel. A note dictated that they had decided to make a few alterations to their logo placement and included in the package was the new outfit. In addition, they had delivered a replacement equipment bag along with new towels used to wipe sweat off during the tournament and for in the locker room.
The new towels were printed with several of the patterns currently in use in the Gerber Children’s Wear line of products. They were actually made of the same material and style as the Gerber burp cloths. Ashlie, never having had a child or being around them, did not realize what they were. She simply thought they were towels with some dumb Gerber pattern. The new bag was a larger version of one of Gerber's diaper bags. Ashlie of course did not know that since she was seldom around kids. The tennis dress was similar to the ones she liked. However, it had a small inlaid version of the Gerber pattern that matched the bag and the towels. However, the major change was a pair of bloomers which were covered in a Gerber pattern and had the Gerber name emblazoned in large letters across her buttocks. On every serve, her butt would scream Gerber at the television.
It turned out that there were multiple versions of the outfits and towels in different base color patterns including three variations of pink, a couple of greens, and a flowers on white. This ensured that ashlie had plenty of outfits to play in and that there would be variety in the way she looked.
Ashlie was initially taken aback by the changes and called her agent. Joshua Silva had already been notified by Gerber of the changes. He discussed the requirements with her. Ashlie was distressed, but again, the $2 million made her one of the higher paid players on tour even without winning. So she decided to try and see how things worked out.
The uniform panties were not the same as the ones she usually wore. They were a little thicker and seemed fuller. Although they would hug at the legs and waist, they felt like they ballooned out a little bit. She planned to wear them over a regular pair of her panties and decided it was no big deal. Of course, the minute the other players saw them, they reminded her that it was their idea. They all made fun of her and asked why she was suddenly in need of training pants. They asked if she had seen a doctor yet.
Ashlie stormed off and called her agent. Josh agreed to meet her before her first match. He was taken aback by the fullness of the panties, but tried not to let it show. He told her it was just clothes and these other players were just jealous of her deal. They were going to try to find some way to make her upset because they didn't think Ashlie deserved all that money.
After Ashlie calmed down, she was called for her first set. There were some cat calls from the audience. But the audience at the first and second round matches was usually not as big for the middle tier players. However, the TV producers immediately recognized the unusual nature of her outfit and that led to ashlie being one of the key players on the highlight reels on almost every national sport broadcast regarding the tournament.
The Gerber executives were beside themselves with the success of the uniform change. Throughout Ashlie's playing, she was constantly discussed and replayed on the highlight reels. Of course, ashlie did not know this was happening. She was interviewed and told the reporters she was proud to endorse Gerber and that she and Gerber had worked together to develop some new ways to get their name out there.
She may not have been happy, but ashlie knew she had to pander to Gerber for the news people. The number of interviews she gave increased significantly. She was one of the players that was asked how things were going and after she lost, they went back to her for other commentary and to further discuss her new endorsement outfit.
Mothers across the country immediately recognized that one of the players, ashlie something, was carrying the same diaper bag they used and was using the same burp clothes they used for their babies. They saw the name and Ashlie began to be a person the mother's discussed while the kids were playing.
Gerber focus groups had noticeable upticks in Ashlie's name recognition and knowledge of the relationship between ashlie and Gerber. Groups confirmed that people immediately realized ashlie was using the same products they were. In fact, sales of burp clothes and diaper bags increased noticeably. An unforeseen thing was that mothers were asking where they could by the same training pants or diaper covers which Ashlie was wearing. Gerber immediately commissioned a line of waterproof all-in-one trainer pants and diaper covers styled after the pants Ashlie was wearing. They called them the Ashlie line. The plastic pants just went over a diaper. The all-in-ones were for training a child. They were a pull on diaper, with easy tear away sides. They were double padded on the inside to protect from accidents. It was a product line which had lagged until the new ashlie line was introduced.
However, someone in legal questioned whether Ashlie needed to be wearing the exact same product. After much discussion they decided that since the sales of this line of products was already reacting to Ashlie that they should make a commercial focused on the new line. And that would probably require her to have the same product.
Thus it was that Ashlie received new versions of the training pants that were made with the outer plastic cover and the inner diaper all in one. At the same time, she was featured in a commercial where she stated that "your kids will love these new all-in-ones. I wear them when playing and they are really comfortable."
Ashlie also got some plain white all-in-ones that just had the Gerber name on the bottom. She was not sure why she got the extra ones but she was bothered by the change. These new pants seemed like they might be hot and they were a little bit thicker than the last ones. Josh reminded her of her claim that she wore them to play in and that she thought they were comfortable. He suggested that she try them out and if there was a problem, he assured her that Gerber would fix it.
Ashlie practiced in a white tennis dress with the newer extra white pairs of the pants. She wore them over another pair of panties and she felt hot and sweaty. After calling Gerber, they suggested Ashlie try without anything underwear"
The pants were built to breath and while they might be warmer than a pair of skimpy panties, they should not be significantly warmer than what she had been wearing recently. The woman from Gerber also suggested that a little baby powder would probably also help.
And so the next day, ashlie applied some baby powder and pulled on a pair of the all-in-ones for practice. She honestly had to admit it was not really any different than what she had been wearing for the last few months. And so, ashlie accepted the change in her playing outfit.
One of the things that attracted Gerber to ashlie was her petite size. She was right about four feet and three inches tall and skinny as a rail. She had small breasts which was a benefit. Gerber did not want a mother figure as their spokes person. It was not until one of the fitters mentioned it that the clothing staff for Gerber found out that though Ashlie had a small chest, most of it was padding. This was one of Ashlie's greatest concerns. Her doctors believed that due to her aggressive work out regime that her body generated more natural testosterone and blocked some of her puberty development. She was still young and nature would eventually take its course.
Because of her small size, the training pants she wore could have actually been purchased at a store. They were specially made because that was in the contract. But the staff did note that the off the shelf toddler size products would probably work for her. It was during one of these discussions that someone suggested that they should look at other products which Shana might be able to wear or that could be modified for her to wear as additional endorsement opportunities. The idea was considered and
As Ashlie became more comfortable with her playing gear and Gerber became more comfortable with the success of the new Ashlie line, they decided it was time to expand her impact to other product areas. Up until this time, ashlie had participated in endorsing many of the secondary products in the Gerber line. But at its heart, Gerber is a food and food product company.
Thus ashlie found herself drinking Gerber Pure Water on the sidelines. She was supplied with several Gerber fruit drink flavors designed to up her electrolytes from the Gerber Juice line.
The fruit drinks came with a special sipper top designed to minimize spills. Initially ashlie would unscrew the tops. But she began squeezing the bottles and drinking through the sipper tops. She would just drop the bottles on the ground with no concern of spills due to the special top. Gerber Marketing grabbed onto this and cranked out a new series of commercials showing ashlie using the juices at tournaments and emphasizing the specially designed tops to prevent spills. Obviously, from the real time pictures it was clear that they were easy to drink from.
Gerber arranged to give out free samples of the fruit drinks at the next tournament. On the first day, when the crowds were typically smaller, they gave away every bottle they had brought for the full week. New supplies were quickly arranged and several semi-trucks were delivered. They thought parents would collect samples for their kids. Unexpectedly, teens and young adults and even some older fans grabbed the drinks and sucked on the bottles like a bunch of kids. By the next tournament, Gerber was selling the fruit drinks in the concession stands and sales were outpacing any expectations Gerber could devise.
The clothing stands were selling Ashlie's line of All-in-ones with Gerber on the bottom and the tournament logo in a tasteful small format on the front left hip. Again, Gerber miscalculated. Gerber executives thought it would be cute if some of the kids wore Ashlie panties at the tournaments. However, young followers of Ashlie started buying the panties and wearing them. Sales outpaced demand and complaints about the available sizes being only on the small size were received. Gerber ordered more and Ashlie fans could be seen wearing the training pants under their dresses or skirts. Larger sizes were only available at the tournament sites, but store sales had soared indicating a new market penetration for smaller people that might not actually need the protection but wanted to mirror the style choices of their favorite tennis star. Large sizes were sold out via the Tournament websites. Gerber clothing executives were clamoring to understand the demand and determine a strategy to fulfill demand.
It seemed that ashlie was the golden girl for Gerber sales. Everything she wore or used caused increased sales.
Other players were not so happy. Ashlie was not winning tournaments. But, she was reaping the financial rewards. There was a lot of jealousy. And with a lot of young players, there was still a high level of childish antics that went on in the locker rooms at times.
Ashlie prepared to go out to play on center court. The match was at the round of sixteen and ashlie was happy to have made it this far. As she exited her dressing room, several of the other players grabbed her. Someone slipped a blindfold across her eyes. Another person snagged her arms and a washrag was shoved into her mouth. Ashlie was laid out on the floor and hands quickly pulled down her Gerber training pants to her ankles. She wore nothing underneath. Ashlie heard voices.
"It's time for the Gerber girl to help them sell more products." The voice was sarcastic and not nice. Other people agreed.
Ashlie felt herself lifted up and down. Suddenly, someone started throwing around baby powder. Many of the girls used it to freshen up in the locker room. But, ashlie knew something was wrong.
A bell rang indicating the start of the next match. That meant Ashlie had only a few minutes to get on the court or forfeit. The players often tempted the deadline to put pressure on the opposing players.
As Ashlie's mind came back to the present, she realized something was being pulled between her legs.
One of the girls said, "I have a lot of practice with this. I used to have to look after lots of my younger relatives before my career took off."
With practiced hands, the girl pulled what felt like a large towel between Ashlie's legs. Her legs did not feel like they would come together. But, the girls were snickering and holding her down as Ashlie felt two slight touch's to each hip.
Then Ashlie heard the second bell and a call for players on the center court. There was a 60 second forfeit call. Ashlie had to get out there or she would forfeit the match.
Suddenly the girls grabbed her and carried her across the room. Ashlie was still trying to scream. She knew there was some trick being played on her, but she needed to get out on the court. Ashlie heard a bag hit the ground. Someone pulled the rag out of her mouth and the blindfold off. As her arms were released, she was pushed forward and heard a bang as a door closed behind her.
Ashlie looked around. Her Gerber bag was in front of her and she was outside. As she took a step, she realized her legs were being held apart. She turned to go back into the locker room as an official approached.
"Ashlie, if you are not on the court in 10 seconds you will forfeit. Let's go." The official grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the court.
Ashlie started to resist but realized she had to go. She understood that the other players had slipped a diaper between her legs to make her look more childish. But she had no choice at this moment. She tried to jog behind the official and had to swing her bottom because of the diaper between her legs.
As she ran on to center court, people cheered.
She felt uncertain. She bent over to open her bag. She could hear people in the stands laughing. She wondered what was happening. She approached the official and asked if she could return to the locker room.
"No. You have delayed this long enough. We are on TV and there are other matches scheduled." The official responded.
"You don't understand. The other players did something. I have to go back, just for a minute."
"Let's start the match." The official responded. "NOW"
Ashlie waddled to her side of the net and popped a couple of practice serves. She was having trouble standing with her legs together and she felt like she was waddling.
Ashlie lost the first three games and then won the next. She felt uncomfortable. But, she knew she had to get the set far enough in that they would allow her a bathroom break. Then she could return to the locker room and fix her diaper situation.
She approached the umpire on a side change and asked if she could have a bathroom break.
"Young lady, you delayed the start of this match and I do not think that is practical at this time."
Her opponent taunted Ashlie loud enough for the crowd to hear. "The Gerber baby has her DIAPERS on, why should we stop the match when she clearly doesn't need a bathroom. She is obviously able to play tennis in her baby outfit." Turning to Ashlie she said in a mocking tone, "I am sure YOU are wearing Gerber brand diapers! So, use your diaper like a big girl and I am sure everyone will buy more diapers."
Ashlie went and pulled one of her towels out of her diaper bag to wipe the sweat off her face and to hide her rage. As she did, several bright white diapers bulged out of the bag like new Kleenex popping out of a box. She knew these were also a gift from her locker room friends.
Someone in the crowd yelled, "Aww, the Gerber baby had to get her towwies from her diaper bag. If she uses her diapers, there are plenty of mothers in the crowd who could change her on center court so we don't delay the match."
Ashlie went back to the court. But the hazing continued. Ashlie started complaining about every call that was questionable. She was mumbling about umpire calls and line calls. Eventually she lost the match. On the last play ashlie slipped and ended up on her stomach with her arms and legs splayed out on center court. Her small skirt had flipped up over her waist. Giving everyone a full view of her diapered behind.
That image appeared the next day on ESPN and every sports show across the country.
"Gerber Baby ready for a nap after loss." "Are Diapers the Gerber Baby's secret weapon?" "Crabby Gerber Baby whines and complains throughout match. Did she miss her nap?" "Gerber Baby upset by loss or does she need to be changed?"
Ashlie had run off the court leaving her bag and equipment behind. She had locked herself in a stall and cried. Eventually she stopped long enough to take off the thick diaper. But she stayed in the stall and cried for a long time.
Ashlie felt belittled. Everyone was calling her a baby; news reporters, competitors and even the fans. What had seemed like a fun scheme to make money was making her the joke
One of the sports magazines had a picture of her bending over reaching into her (Faux Diaper) bag. Along side it ran a picture of a Gerber baby wearing the same diaper, next to the diaper bag with a mother wiping her chin with a matching baby burp cloth. The title said "Tennis Baby."
Gerber executives were so caught up in the frenzy of marketing successes that they grabbed a picture of Ashlie in her diapers and manufactured point of sale displays for Gerber's diapers featuring her and her clearly diapered behind sucking on one of the Gerber juice bottles with the child's sippy cup top. They never even talked to ashlie or her agent.
A Gerber executive suggested that maybe ashlie should be given a new tennis dress that was styled after Gerber's world famous Onesies.
For Halloween, Gerber manufactured millions of baby styled tennis dresses emblazoned with the Gerber name, the famous Gerber all-in-one, an adult size diaper and a Gerber baby bottle in adult size. The outfit was styled to resemble Ashlie's. The mask was Ashlie's face.
Ashlie was losing her confidence and she was losing matches. The next couple of tournaments she was ousted early. Gerber executives worried they were not getting enough advertising time.
Ashlie asked her people to explore getting out of the Gerber deal. She wanted the campaign to be a little lower profile. When asked, the Gerber team leader started laughing so hard he had to sit down. He told Ashlie's agent that this campaign was the only marketing campaign in decades that penetrated new markets which had previously been untouchable my Gerber. Gerber told them they expected ashlie to live up to every term of the agreement and given the success of the campaign, Ashlie would get a lot of money and so would Gerber.
Ashlie's agent suggested that Ashlie might keep losing or she might miss a few events. The Gerber attorney's told them that under the terms of the contract, she had to enter the majors. Also, if her performance lagged, Gerber would consider having her play in an adult size baby clothing including real diapers. If they did not get the advertising from winning matches, their research said they could get it by keeping Ashlie on the sports pages and the Gerber Tennis Baby. Their contract also allowed them to supply clothing for Ashlie to wear off the court. They could have her walking around town in a Onesie and a diaper cover or some other baby style clothing.
Gerber warned that if she tried to embarrass Gerber or to welch on the agreement, that she could refund the millions of dollars they had been paying her as a penalty agreed to in the contract. In addition, she could be sued for lost sales if her behavior caused a drop in Gerber product sales.
The Gerber executive told them that ashlie demanded an exclusive deal and Gerber had given them everything they wanted. And Gerber had bought and paid for all the advertising they could extract from ashlie.
Right after a match, her team told ashlie what Gerber had said. Ashlie ran to her suite and locked herself in her bedroom. She curled up on the bed in her little white cotton dress. She still had her Gerber diaper on. She started to cry. As she rocked herself back and forth, the Gerber Baby fell asleep. And as she slept, her thumb slipped into her mouth and she began sucking