“Having a lot of guys on our team, [Stephen] Strasburg, [Jayson] Werth, [Ian Desmond], guys that everybody in the league knows about, and us having the good year last year that we did and coming on strong this year, there’s been a lot of popularity with our team and organization,” Harper said. “It’s not just me getting the popularity. It’s Strasburg, [Ryan Zimmerman], Desi, Werth. It’s a mutual thing. I’m really blessed to have fans and people that support me.”
In the second half of last season, Harper’s jersey was the fourth-most popular in baseball, and through the first half of this season, it’s the sixth-highest selling. But while his renown has exploded in a short time, baseball players don’t historically command the endorsement dollars attached to tennis players and golfers, perhaps because it is a team sport. Baseball is also at a disadvantage because, unlike basketball, its equipment can’t be worn in everyday life. In addition, few baseball players reach international fame. Harper’s popularity will depend on his longevity.
“There’s no telling how much he is worth because you don’t know if it’s sustainable or not,” said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute. “We’ve seen quite a few athletes burst onto the scene that seem to be doing everything right only find themselves out of the league with an injury or something else that goes wrong with their career. It’s very dangerous to say that a player is going to stay on a trajectory that has been established over a season and a half or two seasons.”
Despite his maturity and the support system around him, Harper is still just 20. He loves snacking on Cap’n Crunch, playing with his dog, Swag, and cars. He tweets about his family, sports he watches, motivational quotes and products he likes to use.
Those tweets, of course, can become marketing opportunities. After Harper shared his affinity for Chipotle with his 290,000 Twitter followers earlier this year, the chain gave him a card guaranteeing him free burritos for one year.
Said Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold in an e-mail: “People like Bryce have tremendous reach.”
And just like many his age, Harper is style-conscious. He gives Under Armour input on his equipment. Other apparel choices, a mix of widely distributed and lesser-known brands of shoes, gloves, bats, sunglasses and more, reflect his taste.
“He’s also an every-kid,” said Duk-ki Yu, who owns Major, a sneaker and lifestyle store in Georgetown, and has served as a creative and marketing consultant for Reebok, Nike, New Era and EA Sports. “. . . He identifies with all the 18- to 25-year-olds out there. You see him in the street, and he’s wearing the same clothes that every 20-year-old kid in college is wearing. Camo shorts, surf company tees, a snap-back [hat]. He is a really like a typical kid that they can really sort of gravitate towards.”