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Bettis' late-career run boosts B&G's success

Landing Jerome Bettis as a business partner was a big move for B&G Sports Memorabilia.

B&G Sports Memorabilia was incorporated in 2004, but owners Pete and Theresa Ausiello have been involved in the sports collectibles industry for more than 19 years. The couple quickly found out that timing is everything in the memorabilia business.

Similar to a story line right out of the movie Jerry McGuire, B&G signed Jerome Bettis to an exclusive agreement during the downside of his career, after enduring an injury-plagued campaign the season before. They approached more than 10 companies, including a few big names, regarding splitting this deal from the beginning but had no takers. One of the best decisions they made as a company was to save most of the signings they had agreed to until the latter part of the deal.

During the 2004 season, the Steelers went on a remarkable run, and Bettis rattled off numerous impressive games, once again making him a fan/collector favorite in the marketplace. Despite the Steelers season coming to an abrupt end with a playoff loss to the Patriots, Bettis decided to return for one more year.

The 2005 Steelers season was one for the ages, and B&G’s exclusive client turned out to be the face of Super Bowl XL, garnering national attention from fans and collectors alike. His market value increased by 250 percent since B&G’s first deal, and they’ve sold more than 20,000 signatures since Super Bowl XL.

According to B&G owner Peter Ausiello, despite his fame, The Bus is still one of the nicest guys he has ever had the chance to work with and was eager to share a story.

“Jerome invited my son and I to the Super Bowl XL pep rally that was held at Hines Field,” said Ausiello. “He brought us in the locker room and had us go through the player tunnel when he was announced onto the field in front of 30,000 fans. He went up on stage with a Terrible Towel, was the last one to talk, and told the fans, ‘The next time you see me I’ll come back with one for the thumb.’

Bettis got off the stage and was mobbed by probably 200 or 300 people, and as he was trying to walk through the people and sign autographs, at the same time he caught my son’s eye. He took the Terrible Towel, gave it to my son and said, ‘Keep this. This is something I want you to remember from today.’”

As a father, as a fan and as a business man, it’s one of those stories I probably have told a hundred times, and every time I tell it, it brings me back to that moment. With everything going on and people screaming, he took the second to give my son the Terrible Towel.”

When we got out to the parking lot, there was probably 3,000-4,000 people there screaming ‘Bus,’ and waving the Terrible Towels. When we got to Jerome’s car, the first thing he did was take the back seat, clear it for my son, picked him up and made sure his seat belt was buckled and moved up his seat to make sure he had enough leg room.”

It took us an hour to get out of there. People literally surrounded his car. It was like a scene out of the Beatles invasion, and still Jerome’s main concern was that my son was safe and secure in the back of his car.”
Last September, Bettis made the decision to extend his contract with B&G another six years, taking them past his likely Hall of Fame induction in 2012.

This past March, B&G entered into an exclusive memorabilia contract with Buffalo Bills rookie linebacker Paul Posluszny.
Unfortunately for B&G, Posluszny didn’t have the same sort of luck as Bettis – so far.

In the third game of the 2007 season, the former Penn State All-American broke his forearm and was placed on injured reserve.

“He established himself as starting middle linebacker and one of the most popular guys on the Bills. His jersey was the No. 1-selling jersey throughout camp and into the season,” said Ausiello.

“Now we find ourselves as a business for the first time having to try to keep his autograph fresh in the market and trying to make sure people don’t forget about Paul Posluszny regarding his memorabilia.

“With a small-market team it’s a tremendous challenge,” said Ausiello. “The small market presented a lot of obstacles in the beginning. Throw in the fact that he’s not playing now, it’s making it a difficult transition.”
According to Ausiello, this has forced his company to focus on Posluszny’s Pennsylvania ties and his impressive Penn State resume, which is really second to none in terms of accomplishments.

There is a silver lining, however. Ausiello said Posluszny has his cast off, and if it wasn’t for the Bills putting him on injured reserve, he would have been able to play toward the end of this season.

And this year, B&G signed a new deal of its own.

The company will occupy a retail location at The Shops of Brick between Route 70 and Van Zile Rd in Brick, N.J.

The store will open for business on Jan. 14, 2008, and it will have a grand opening on January 26-27, with four to six athletes appearing, and James Spence on hand to authenticate items.

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