Athletes Walk The Line Between Effective And Overexposed

In the week after he led the New Orleans Saints to victory in, and was named MVP of, Super Bowl XLIV, quarterback Drew Brees: was guest of honor in a parade at Disney World; appeared in marketing for Unilever's Dove Men+Care, was part of Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" childhood obesity PSA campaign; made guest appearances on "Good Morning America," "Early Show," "Late Night with David Letterman," "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Oprah"; and was back in New Orleans as a King of the Krewe at Mardi Gras. ESPN also dusted off its "This is SportsCenter" spot showing Brees driving a Mardi Gras float that gets jammed in the parking lot gates. Chris Stuart of Encore Sports & Entertainment, which handles marketing for Brees, called the demand "tremendous."

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."

3 comments about "Athletes Walk The Line Between Effective And Overexposed ".
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  1. Kevin Hanft from Marketing Leverage LLC, February 23, 2010 at 12:35 p.m.

    Good observations and comments. Undoubtedly, we will be seeing the same following the Olympic Winter Games, too.

    This seems to happen with some regularity, which makes one wonder why? Aren't agents savvy enough to see that overexposure, poor matches and lack of 'personal brand' attention is damaging? Do advertisers NOT care that an athlete may be associated with other products and categories that my undermine their plans?

    We understand that agents are short term focused, motivated simply by striking while the iron is hot and grabbing the deals while they are available.

    Advertisers and brand managers should know better, but likely get caught in the moment and desire to be cool and contemporary. Often times the deal is done quickly, with out time to creatively link the athlete to the brand in an authentic, genuine way that can be memorable.

    It is an unfortunate reality that athletes and sports are not used as smartly and as effectively as possible. Some day, one hopes, they will.

  2. Roy Fuchs from MFN, February 23, 2010 at 12:43 p.m.

    People really made purchase decisions about phone providers and razors and blades because Tiger's face appears in an ad? They bought Buicks because he was that company's face? I can understand buying a Nike TW hat, or even shoes, but a grudge purchase like a razor and blades, or senior corporate executives choosing Accenture because a golfer represents them?

    Or is it that advertisers want to spend their shareholders' money to rub elbows with celebrities at big events more than that they get a measurable kick and a positive ROI on renting these names. That and what they perceive as image enhancement.

  3. Wali Al-amin from Amin & Associates, February 23, 2010 at 12:55 p.m.

    Everyone has the right to their directions you can't blame companies for that. What athlete make is do to him it is right. If you became athlete making billions would it matter that your reward of earning share your talent with the world. We all are human-being we make error in our life. It is a part of life we make error your and mine are just private between ourself. When we make big error no knows but us. The eyes you see others in see it in yourself.We most all Live! (Shopping Network: http://www.BuyFromMySite.Com/10442wal

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