Manning's Return Welcomed -- Less On The Field Than Madison Avenue
Cranky David Letterman will be happy. Viewers surely will be too when Peyton Manning makes a comeback this fall as a member of the Denver Broncos.
Forget about on the field as Manning returns after missing all of last season due to injury. It’s the prospect of the the superstar quarterback reemerging in so many ads as that ridiculous, wonderfully self-effacing character that is so welcome.
One day, Manning will go into the football Hall of Fame. He’s already an advertising hall of famer for his roles in hilarious spots for seemingly half the Fortune 500: DirecTV, Gatorade, Hasbro (Nerf), Kraft (Oreos), MasterCard, Sprint, Sony and probably others.
Surely a tribute to Manning, last season brought emptiness as his injury may have also cut him out of commercials. Manning as brilliant pitchman is rooted in a sort of screwiness and the neck problems were no laughing matter. Which is far from his creative wheelhouse.
It’s unclear how many ad breaks Manning will dominate this fall during games. In a move that seems crazy since the spots were probably Manning’s best and the creative so superb, MasterCard ended its six-year relationship with him in 2010. Manning did less-clever Oreo spots with brother Eli about joining a Double Stuff Racing League for a while, but that arrangement is over.
What is certain is Manning is returning in spots for DirecTV’s “Sunday Ticket” this summer. Deion Sanders played a “fairy godfather” in ads for the satellite operator last year and Peyton and Eli will be joining him while wearing similar costumes.
Hopefully, some other past and new brands will bring Peyton back, too. Though, there may be some trepidation about investing heavily since there is a risk he could get injured and miss a lot of time again.
Not an easy man to excite, Letterman offered his admiration for Manning as a pitchman in a 2009 Sports Illustrated piece, saying: "He transforms himself so easily and readily from quarterback superstar to likeable, condescending TV stooge."
“To call someone a ‘TV stooge’ is the ultimate accolade from Dave,” wrote Bill Scheft, a Letterman writer and the author of the SI article. “To be a stooge is to willingly participate with no ego, no concern for how it all looks.”
(Letterman continuing his affection for Manning the pitchman this fall might come with a bit of tempering, considering Manning joining the Broncos comes at the expense of Letterman’s beloved Indianapolis Colts.)
Scheft’s SI piece breaks down what makes Manning so special on Madison Avenue with the intensity of an analysis of Glenn Close’s brilliance. One suggestion is “he’s the anti-shill.”
(Scheft says he has trouble remembering what Manning is promoting, but some advertisers might think that has some benefits in an over-commercialized world.)
Visit YouTube and Manning’s greatest ad hits are readily available. Multiple fans have curated them.
The MasterCard spots stand above as Manning morphs into a fan in the “Priceless” campaign, praising the paper delivery boy who misses badly and cheering for a deli worker (“Cut that meat, cut that meat”). In a Sprint ad, he also becomes a fan, appearing with his jersey on and a mustache and talking about how great it can be to watch Peyton Manning – “that guy’s pretty good” -- on a mobile phone.
A memorable spot during Manning’s decade-long association with DirecTV came when the repairman finished the installation and wanted to make sure Manning wanted the “Sunday Ticket.” Manning took mock offense, saying he’s into more than football: “foreign, films, cooking shows.”
“So, you want that football thing?” the repairman says.
Manning: “Oh yea.”
The same can be said about his presumed return to pitchman extraordinaire. And, yes, for the Broncos, too.