In 1973, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath slipped his long, muscular legs into a sleek pair of pantyhose and exposed them to TV viewers.
"I don't wear pantyhose," Broadway Joe assured America in the commercial for Hanes Beautymist pantyhose. "But if Beautymist can make my legs look good, imagine what they'll do for yours."
Endorsements have come a long way since Namath's leggy close-up. And a new generation of athletes needs to look for help no further than Lincoln, Nebraska-based start-up Hurrdat Social Media, which is helping players back products with a simple click of the "Send" button on Twitter.
"[We're] nerdy jocks," says Austin Brown, Hurrdat's Kansas City-based chief marketing officer. (Hurrdat employs 13 full time and a gaggle of interns.)
Brown explains how Hurrdat works: "We work with the companies, we write the tweets, and we send it to the athletes. And we say, 'Hey, does this look like a brand you'd endorse? Here's the message. Here's the time [the tweet needs to be sent]. Confirm yes or no.' "
Hurrdat's staff does all the work, writing the copy in each athlete's voice.
"We understand that athletes and individuals have a voice," says Brown, who commutes every week from Kansas City to Lincoln. "If we sent the same copy across a bunch of different athletes, it wouldn't be organic."
Hurrdat's first endorser was, of course, a former Nebraska Cornhusker, Prince Amukamara.
In January 2011, Hurrdat founders Blake Lawrence and Adi Kunalic — themselves former Cornhuskers football players — saw an opportunity. A Juice Stop in Lincoln had named a smoothie the "Prince" in honor of the Cornhuskers cornerback. Amukamara was preparing for the NFL Draft. Lawrence and Kunalic took over Amukamara's Twitter handle and encouraged the player's followers to order the eponymous drink.
"We had about 50 people walk through [the restaurant] in the first half-hour and ask for the Prince," Brown says. That, he says, was the company's lightbulb moment.
Amukamara and his smoothie became the Hurrdat prototype. The New York Giants drafted Amukamara with the 19th pick in the first round of the draft, and Hurrdat's Athlete Engagement Platform was born.
Since then, the Athlete Engagement Platform has grown to include more than 120 players in every major sport. The biggest name on Hurrdat's roster: Kris Humphries, the pro basketball player made famous by his doomed 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian.
If nothing else, it appears that Humphries — named the most-hated player in the NBA by fans — learned from the Kardashian clan's ability to market products. With more than 910,000 Twitter followers, Humphries is a high-value asset to Hurrdat.
Because it's easy to be a Hurrdat athlete, the company's reputation is spreading in locker rooms.
"It really started to gain traction with the athletes because they realized, 'Hey, I don't have to go anywhere, and I don't have to really sign anything,' " Brown says. "Because that's usually what's asked of them."
The pay for each tweet varies, based on the athlete's level of influence. Brown says advertisers have shelled out between $50 and $2,000 for tweets.
Kansas City sports-drink maker iXL began working with Hurrdat in 2011. iXL requested that Sporting KC players Matt Besler, Jon Kempin and Kevin Ellis endorse its drinks.
The sponsorship-hungry soccer players were eager to sign up.
"I had all three on by the end of the day," Brown says.
Mark Davis, iXL founder, says he selected the Sporting trio due to their local ties.
"The thing we liked about the guys that we selected was that they not only play for Sporting Kansas City but they live here, too, in the offseason," Davis says. "It's important for us to have a connection to the local market."
Besler, for his part, sent these tweets about iXL: "Replenishing my body right now with iXL, finally a sports drink that tastes great in every flavor #ad #iXLdou" and "Has anyone checked out the iXL sports drink yet? Has a ton of potassium for all you athletes our there!"
Davis says iXL wanted something that separated it from sports-drink giants Gatorade and Powerade.
"It's very competitive, and we need to be unique and we need to differentiate, and that's what these guys brought to the table for us: a way to connect with our target audience in a unique way," he says.
With only seven employees, iXL is small. But Davis says Hurrdat has helped his company grow.
"Our business is up 401 percent over last year, and Hurrdat's been with us all the way," Davis says. "We would definitely like to attribute a lot of our growth to the innovative platform."