Noah Syndergaard is the National League player of the week right now. He’s one of the most daunting pitchers in baseball, and his stardom is exploding on and off the field. The same is true of his teammate, fellow Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom.
Syndergaard is younger and taller than deGrom (23, 6’7’’ vs. 27, 6’4’’) but both are excelling on the mound at a time when fellow pitcher Matt Harvey, the hero of the Mets’ pennant-winning season last year, is struggling. Syndergaard and deGrom have emerged this season as the team’s aces; they are fired up and feeling it. And corporate sponsors, in turn, are feeling them.
The two pitchers have both signed new endorsement deals with Axe Hair, the Unilever-owned (UL) brand announced this week. You couldn’t find a more obvious sponsorship. Both men care about their hair—and have quite a lot of it. They wear their hair down to their shoulders, and their hair, almost as much as their pitching, has helped make them New York celebrities. The New York Post is especially interested: “You’ll never guess who styles Jacob deGrom’s hair,” the paper teased last August. (The answer is his sister.) “It takes effort to maintain Noah Syndergaard’s hair,” the paper declared in April. (Syndergaard says deGrom’s hair is better; deGrom agrees.)
For Axe, these two guys make perfect sense. (Last year, it was Harvey that had an Axe Hair deal, but the deal has ended.) The company, long associated with teenage boys and deodorant spray, has lately focused on its hair care line, and has attempted something of a rebrand with a recent campaign, “Find your magic,” that encourages men and women to embrace their unique qualities—whether that’s cool hair or even a large nose—with confidence.
Adweek praised the campaign as “inclusive” and noted that it offers “a more grown-up take on masculinity.”
For the pitchers, it fits. Syndergaard claims he works Axe softening cream into his locks before he takes the mound, so as to prevent hair from flying into his eyes. Professional athletes always start plugging products once their brand is on the rise, but Axe, for both men, is an endorsement deal that actually fits, rather than just hawking, say, an insurance company. (But never fear: one of them is already doing that, too.)
“Being a professional athlete, you want to build a brand and establish your name,” Syndergaard told Yahoo Finance in a visit to our New York studio. “I started using Axe when I was in seventh grade.” DeGrom added: "You look at products that make sense for you to be involved with, and this was a good one for us… We both have long hair.”
They sure do. But both pitchers are attracting the eyes of other brands, too. DeGrom has a deal with insurer Geico, and this month shot his first television ad with the company. (Expect to see the long-haired ace meet those cavemen soon.) He’s got a Nike (NKE) deal, and one with New Era hats, and one with Topps trading cards.
Syndergaard has a splashy new endorsement deal with Delta (DAL), which aligns well with his nickname, “Thor,” the flying Norse god. He hasn’t yet shot a TV spot for the airline.
All of these deals are likely small in value, for now, because these players are young and because baseball endorsement contracts tend to be modest anyway. But the endorsements are rolling in fast enough that neither is thinking about life after baseball just yet.
Both are eyeing the mega contracts they are expected to score soon. (Each one is on a one-year contract for 2016, deGrom for $600,000 and Syndergaard at $535,000.) “I haven’t really thought about what I want to do once I retire,” Syndergaard said when asked about planning for his second life. “I know I want to play the game for as long as I possibly can.” DeGrom said the goal is “to make it at least 10 years. But you never know what happens in this sport, so you always keep an open mind. And working with different companies is always good, because you never know what kind of doors that could open.”
Over the Memorial Day weekend, the Mets will throw a big celebration of the 1986 World Series win from 30 years ago. DeGrom will pitch on Friday, Syndergaard on Saturday. One thing you can be sure of, for now: Neither guy is about to cut off that hair.
For more from Syndergaard and deGrom, watch the above video, part of our Yahoo Finance Sportsbook series.
Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.