Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is already the NFL’s most prolific pitchman, but marketing experts say a Super Bowl win could catapult him to a level few gridiron stars have ever achieved.
In case he wasn’t feeling enough pressure about Sunday’s game in Miami, the two-time NFL most valuable player should consider this: Experts say a win could allow him to not only triple his income from endorsement deals but also command profit-sharing or ownership stakes from the companies he endorses.
“With a victory Sunday, he will be at the top of his marketing game,” said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations Inc., which gives ratings called “Q Scores” to celebrities based on their commercial appeal.
“He will have the platform to transcend the sport of football to an even greater extent than he does now.”
Manning pocketed $11.5 million in endorsements in 2005, highest among football players, according to Sports Illustrated. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a three-time Super Bowl champion who earned $9 million in endorsements, was the No. 2 NFL player on the list. Tiger Woods led all U.S. athletes with $87 million in endorsement earnings.
It is unlikely Manning will approach Woods’ marketing money, said Gary Philpott, CEO of E-Poll Market Research. “Tiger is an icon, so those numbers are untouchable for now,” he said. “Manning will more than likely top $30 million.”
A dramatic finish to the game would help Manning the most, said Dan Smith, a marketing professor at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.
“People would see him as the white knight riding to the rescue,” Smith said. And that would help Manning transcend the traditional sports audience, which is unusual for team-sports players.
“Team-sports stars have a harder time reaching big audiences, especially football players who are covered in armor,” Smith said. “But a win will put him on late-night talk shows and magazines, and give him a chance to demonstrate to more people that he’s witty and engaging.”
Manning is already wildly popular. His Q Score is 33, second among active players behind Green Bay Packers quarterback and Super Bowl winner Brett Favre’s 35. Woods scores a 40. Mannings’ recognition rate among the general public in September was near 60 percent, QScores said.
Part of Manning’s appeal, say the companies that have worked with him, is the depth of his public persona.
“He’s a rare combination of an ordinary guy that happens to have an extraordinary talent,” said Chris Jogis, vice president of U.S. brand marketing at MasterCard Inc., which uses Manning as a “fan of the fan,” cheering on workers at a grocery store and coffee shop.
“People love Peyton Manning because he is that guy next door,” said Todd Krinsky, vice president of sports and entertainment marketing at Reebok, the Adidas AG unit which has a long-term deal with Manning. “His appeal is not being that Hollywood guy, so people young and old can relate to him.”
Manning has most famously poked fun of himself in an ad for cell-phone company Sprint Nextel Corp., where he dons a fake mustache and toupee to “disguise” himself while rooting for the Colts.
In contrast, many fans admire Manning for his cleverness and an almost-obsessive devotion to wining, epitomized by his frequent gesturing and screaming to change plays on the fly.
Despite grumbling on sports blogs about the frequency of Manning commercials, there is little evidence the public is tiring of him. E-Score, a marketing evaluation metric from E-Poll, puts Manning’s “overexposure” rating at 14 percent.
“That’s extremely low for someone who is out there as much as he is,” the company said. “Peyton has virtually no negative attributes.”
Manning had deals with at least six companies in 2006, including Gatorade, made by PepsiCo Inc., DirecTV Group Inc. and Sony Corp.
His representatives at IMG did not return calls seeking comment.
Smith cautioned that Manning needs to watch how much work he accepts, but said the quarterback seems adept at limiting endorsements to products that fit his personality.
“I don’t see him doing a Miller Lite commercial, but he could take on an auto ad, for example,” Smith said.
Companies also act as a check on overexposure, said Anthony Agnone, president of sports marketing agency Eastern Athletic Services.
“The people on the other side of the table are pretty attuned to when agents are putting a guy out there too much,” he said.
The best way to cash in on increased fame is not more commercials, experts said, but by making deals that are more lucrative, such as receiving stock in a company.
Nova Lanktree, a vice president at sports marketing group CSMG International, said former basketball star Magic Johnson’s prominence grew so much in the late 1980s that he would seek profit-sharing or ownership in return for his endorsement.
“I’d say Magic was the first to do that, and Peyton Manning would certainly be at that level if he wins the Super Bowl,” Lanktree said.
Former Broncos quarterback John Elway started a Denver-area car dealership, using his fame in the region to build a successful franchise. And sports stars from Mickey Mantle to Mike Ditka have established lucrative restaurants.
Still, winning the Super Bowl is not a make-or-break proposition for Manning’s commercial appeal.
Philpott said win or lose, Manning could still see his earnings rise because he’s already vanquished his chief nemeses, Brady and the Patriots, in getting to the title game.
“The ’monkey-off-his-back’ momentum cemented that,” Philpott said.
Of course, even though Manning’s Colts are the Las Vegas favorite in the game, there is another quarterback playing on Sunday. Chicago Bears’ Rex Grossman, a younger player who has been criticized this year for his inconsistency, could also see his earnings potential rise exponentially, Smith said.
“Peyton’s winning would be a logical progression for his status,” Smith said, “But a Bears win would have a bigger impact on Grossman’s equity.”