Athletes Walk The Line Between Effective And Overexposed
Prior to the Super Bowl, industry analysts put Brees' annual endorsement income at about $5 - 7 million from such companies as Nike, Pepsi, EA Sports, Advocare and Fitness Anywhere workout equipment. Brees now has the potential to add such categories as financial, telecommunications and computers and raise his endorsements closer to that of quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning earns the most among NFL players, with an estimated $13 million annually from such companies as MasterCard, Sony, Gatorade, Nabisco's Double Stuf Oreos and General Mills' Wheaties. But Brees also has the potential to become overexposed, as Manning threatened to become when several of his TV spots were running concurrently. The problem, according to analysts, is that people remember the athlete, but cannot tell one product from another.
"Celebrities become overused when the thematic of all of their campaigns is similar and you feel like, 'Been there, seen that,'" said David Schwab, vp-managing director of First Call, the celebrity-marketing consultant division of Octagon, McLean, Va. Schwab said that although Manning has been seen a lot, consumers have not tired of him. "Peyton Manning has been used well by campaigns. His self-deprecating humor allows him to work with several brands without being overused."
Another player currently on the endorsement rise, but with the same potential for overexposure, is Dwight "Superman" Howard, all-star center with the NBA's Orlando Magic. Since Super Bowl XLIV, when Howard appeared in a McDonald's spot alongside LeBron James, he has been seen in his first TV ad for Gatorade, a T-Mobile commercial with Charles Barkley and an ESPN "This is SportsCenter" spot in which he plays Clark Kent to Hannah Storm's Lois Lane. Howard currently earns about $13 million from endorsements that also include Adidas, AirTran, Ed Hardy and EA Sports.
"The challenge for Howard," said Schwab, "is to get him commercials outside of the NBA sponsorship world so he is exposed to a new set of ideas." Like Manning, Howard has an easy-going style and sense of humor that is attractive to both marketers and consumers. Howard is handled by Goodwin Sports Management, Seattle.
Another athlete already has been overexposed but is now awaiting an opportunity to be reborn into the worlds of sports and marketing. Before his Thanksgiving Day accident opened a Pandora's box of marital infidelity and sexual liaisons, Tiger Woods was earning about $90 million annually from companies including Nike, Gatorade, EA Sports and Gillette. Even without Accenture and AT&T, which recently cut ties with him, Woods earns about $30 million more in endorsements than fellow golfer Phil Mickelson, who is second among all athletes at about $47 million. Woods could return to the PGA Tour as soon as the weeks before The Masters on April 8, or not at all in 2010. The question is, can he sign new deals and will he remain an effective spokesman.
"Tiger was incredibly effective. Awareness levels at brands really jumped," said Schwab of the time before Woods fell from marketing grace. "But I don't feel like he can be effective again with the types of companies he worked with in the next few years."