Josh Cavallo, who has recently been the target of online death threats and verbal abuse on the field, now has some good news to share.

The A-League footballer who plays for Adelaide United has partnered with Ralph Lauren to be the face of the global brand’s new RLX Clarus high-performance polo shirt.

I’ve been a longtime fan of Ralph Lauren – theyre a classic brand with incredible style and are always pushing boundaries to make really innovative, new products,” Cavallo, 22, said, adding, What makes me so honoured to team up with Ralph Lauren are the values that this brand strives to be.”

Ralph Lauren strives for diversity, inclusion and respect for human rights across their business and in society so the connection with my coming out story and their values is something that attracted me,” Cavallo told The Daily Telegraph.

LGBTQ Athletes Landing Major Endorsement Deals Used to be Unimaginable 

Cavallo representing Ralph Lauren is part of a broader trend of LGBTQ athletes landing major endorsement deals. Some athletes, like Olympic skier Gus Kenworthy, have found themselves more attractive to advertisers after coming out, a major reversal in attitude from only a few years ago when coming out was often seen as harmful to an athlete’s public image and marketability.

Until recently, coming out publicly while still being involved in professional sports was simply unthinkable for many athletes until they had retired.

For diver Greg Louganis, who won two gold medals in the 1984 Olympics and two more in the 1988 Olympics, coming out did result in professional repercussions. “After the ’84 Games, I signed with a talent agency, they asked me to ‘tone down the gay thing,'” Louganis told CNNMoney. “I didn’t see too much harm in that, justifying to myself, everyone is entitled to a private life. Did it cost me endorsements? Probably… I heard a few things.”

With several professional athletes having come out in the past year, including the NFL’s Carl Nassib and professional hockey player Luke Prokop, the increased visibility of LGBTQ athletes is resulting in greater acceptance, not only amongst their peers but amongst advertisers.

Bob Witeck, president of Witeck Communications, a firm specialising in LGBTQ marketing, told NBC News, Sexual orientation is a differentiator that makes the brand popular with younger generations in ways they could have never imagined before.

It suggests the company and the brand are welcoming, inclusive and reflect the generation of today.”  

Land Endorsement Deals Because of, Not in Spite of, Being LGBTQ

Cavallo’s new endorsement deal confirms Witeck’s position. It doesnt matter if you are gay or straight, black or white, they include everyone. For me it is more than a clothing brand, it is a family. I am really proud to represent them,” Cavallo said of Ralph Lauren.

Ultimately, LGBTQ athletes like Cavallo are discovering that they can land significant endorsement deals because of, not in spite of, being LGBTQ.

Paul Hardart, a marketing professor at New York Universitys Stern School of Business, told National Post, These athletes are exhibiting degrees of courage and authenticity, which are always good traits for a brand,”

Its the future. If you talk to a 14-year-old, LGBTQ rights are sort of the baseline. All of these leagues are focused on the next generation and this positions them well for that,” Hardart said.

Cavallo will introduce the new shirt, along with tennis player Sam Groth, at a tennis clinic at the 2022 Australian Open.

The partnership with Ralph Lauren is welcome and positive news for Cavallo, who became the focus of a police investigation into “disturbing and specific death threats” against him this week. The threats were sent to him through social media.

Cavallo was also targeted with verbal abuse during a match with Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on January 8. Melbourne Victory supporters yelled, if you want to stay alive, go home gypsy” at Cavallo, witnesses said.

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