Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Countdown to Kickoff --- Super Bowl XLI will be Peyton’s Place

Sunday’s Super Bowl will be all about Peyton Manning. If the Indianapolis Colts win Super Bowl XLI Manning will have finally won the big game, led his team to a championship. If the Colts lose the game the biggest story after the game will be how Peyton Manning can’t win the big game. His series of “failures” in high school, at Tennessee and in his eight previous seasons with the Colts will come full circle. There may be 83 other players suiting up Sunday, but when all is said and done Super Bowl XLI is all about one player and one player along – Peyton Manning.

Manning earned more than $11.5 million in endorsements last year from a half dozen companies that included, Sony, Reebok, Sprint, DirecTV, ESPN, MasterCard and PepsiCo's Gatorade brand. Manning also was the spokesman for Xbox's NFL Fever 2002 and 2003 and 2004, and was featured on the cover of all three games.

He earns more from endorsements than any other football player. Having turned 30 physically Manning is nearing the peak of his athletic career. At $14 million his salary made him one of the highest paid players on the field in 2006. But more than one of the best quarterbacks in a generation, Manning is the prototype athlete of the 22nd century. He’s become the face of the National Football League, at ease in one of his many commercials or on a football field leading the Colts.

"From a marketing standpoint, his upside is a little bit limited," David Carter, the executive director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute, said of Manning in a report. "He's already pretty much the gold standard for the NFL endorser. He really can't get much higher."

None of companies Manning currently endorses have plans to be a part of CBS’s Super Bowl XLI coverage Sunday, but you had better believe once the game ends, if the Colts win and especially if Manning is the MVP there will be an avalanche of Manning commercials early next week. Manning seems to love the camera. From his series of MasterCard commercials that parody Manning praising everyday people doing their jobs to Peyton fooling around with his brother Eli (the quarterback of the New York Giants). Peyton Manning is a natural and very much at ease in front of a camera when a commercial is being filmed.

"The fact is the guy's a good actor," said Bob Dorfman, vice president of Pickett Advertising and the creator of the Sports Marketers' Scouting Report, which tracks athletes and their endorsements. "The MasterCard spots are very good. He's persuasive, he's funny and he delivers a line very well. The only question is what categories are left for him to pursue."

Chris Jogis, vice president of U.S. brand marketing for MasterCard, told’s Chris Isidore that while Manning’s current advertising campaigns with MasterCard focus on sports programming that could change if Manning and the Colts win Sunday.

"The advertising and marketing to date has been focused on the more avid football fan," said Jogis. Jogis said his appearance in the Super Bowl only adds to his appeal to sponsors, no matter the final score.

"He'll be better known to more people," he said.

Jogis said MasterCard, one of Manning's first national campaigns, isn't worried about his deals with other sponsors.

"His personality and sense of humor really resonates with people," said Jogis. "As with someone like Michael Jordan, people can't get enough of him."

There are those who believe too much Peyton Manning isn’t a good thing (present company not included)

"There is such a thing as too exposed, and he's close," said Matt Delzell, senior client manager for Davie Brown Talent, who negotiates with athletes on behalf of sponsors. "There's a lot of clutter. At the end of the spot, if you can say, 'I don't know which of the seven it was,' that's a problem."

That may be somewhat true but if you look at the athletes who dominate endorsement opportunities they all share in their ability to sell themselves and whatever products are linked to their name. Tiger Woods and LeBron James both generate more money annually than Manning. The three men present themselves well and each excels on their respective playing field. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady earns about $9 million annually in endorsements (second in the NFL to Manning).

The NFL has been refereed to as the National Felons League from time to time, a moniker well deserved. During the Chicago Bears media opportunity Tuesday at Dolphins Stadium as part of Super Bowl XLI media day Tank Johnson attracted the most attention. Nine members of the Cincinnati Bengals were arrested during the teams’ recently completed season. Manning and Brady offer a safe secure image that companies seek. The greatest fear companies have in working with NFL players on endorsement contracts is that they’ll have to enforce the morality clause included in their contracts. There isn’t much chance Peyton, son of Archie Manning, is going to embarrass himself, the Indianapolis Colts, the National Football League or any of the seven companies he works with. If Manning is overexposed it’s due at least in part to the players who have done damage and harm to the reputation of the National Football League. Peyton’s Place is a safe place for any company to be, as are Tiger Woods and LeBron James.

"He represents what's good in sports," said Ben Sturner, president of Leverage Sports Agency, which has offices in New York, Phoenix and Charlotte.

"Brands are making a significant investment in guys like Peyton Manning," said Bill Glenn, who helped create the Davie Brown Index and is vice president of Dallas-based The Marketing Arm in a USA Today report. "First and foremost they want people to recognize him without needing help."

According to Marketing Evaluations, which surveys consumers to create the Q-score ratings used by advertisers to judge the appeal of celebrities, and Davie Brown Talent, which has a comparable survey, both put Manning's awareness in the general population a bit above 50 percent, well below the 85 to 95 percent recognition for Tiger Woods.

Bob Garfield, a columnist for Advertising Age (the single best source for Super Bowl advertising information) wrote a column in December on Manning suggesting, that Manning is "the greatest sports endorser ever. Not the most successful; Michael Jordan, after all. But his delivery, poise and comic timing make Michael look, comparatively, like an extra on 'CSI.' "

Sony who worked first with Jordan believe in the power of Manning to deliver key and important market demographic, men aged 30 to 40 a key age group for Sony’s high end electronic product line.

"When we first asked Peyton to join our team he was second only to Jordan in consumer recognition of athletes," said Kevin Berman, senior marketing manager for Sony Electronics, which uses Manning to pitch high-definition televisions in a Los Angeles Times report. "That's a nice camp to be in."

"We really don't need to tell him much or brief him. He seems to be ready for everything coming at him," said Todd Krinsky, a vice president for Reebok.

Manning is known to think on his feet during commercial shoots. "If you're asking if he calls audibles during the process, yes he does," Berman told The Los Angeles Times.

"He transcends football," Jogis said. "He has a great sense of humor, he's really down to earth for such a great athlete and people can relate to that."

Two and a half years ago Manning did an interview with Business Week that focused on his relationship with IMG (his agents at the time). One interesting question Manning was asked, was if the business side of his career (the commercial endorsement opportunities) are in anyway a distraction from what his football career?

“Some guys lose their focus. They get caught up in the business deals or the endorsements, and they lose their focus. For me, it's always about football. I've never lost sight of what's making all these other things happen.

“IMG has done a good job of letting me concentrate on what's important. I don't do appearances during the season. On Tuesdays, some guys are jumping on a plane. I'm trying to meet with coaches or lift weights or work on my game. That's what matters. And IMG respects that.” Manning told Business Week in July 2004.

Manning is represented by Tom Condon, who has been named the most powerful agent in football by Sporting News, heads the Football Division of Creative Artists Agency with fellow super-agent Ben Dogra. CAA represents over 120 NFL players, including Peyton Manning, Matt Leinart, Marvin Harrison, LaDainian Tomlinson, Tony Gonzalez, Steve Hutchinson, Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Chad Pennington, Alex Smith, Marc Bulger, Chris Simms and Byron Leftwich.

Manning for his part told the USA Today in November he loves the chance to show everyone that he’s much more than just a football player.

"Some people have this impression of me: 'Boy, he's always so serious on the field. Football. Football. Football,' " Manning said. "I'd like people to understand that I do have some personality. It's a commercial, not an Oliver Stone movie."

And if football fans bump into Manning, they’ll often recite word for word the lines used in the MasterCard spots.

At the end of one popular MasterCard spot, Manning asks a grocery clerk to autograph a loaf of bread for his younger brother, Eli. MasterCard's advertising agency had written another line, but Manning decided to mention his brother. "It was his impromptu idea on the set," said Chris Jogis, MasterCard's vice president for U.S. brand development. "It ended up being one of the best lines in the spot. He definitely has a good sense for what's humorous."

"That one's ingrained in people's minds," Manning said. "And the sequel was, 'Will you sign this loaf of bread? ... Sign this melon for my little brother?' Eli was mad because he didn't get any royalties off that spot."

Peyton Manning is someone people not only seem to like but they also trust. CNBC’s Darren Rovell reported that a polling company called E-Poll said their stats on Brady vs. Manning. 20% saw Manning as a sincere person versus 15% for Brady. Say whatever you want about being recognized, at the end of the day if you’re trusted and respected you can build a long term relationship with a solid group of companies. As big as Peyton Manning is four days before Super Bowl XLI, if Dolphins Stadium becomes Peyton’s Place Sunday his endorsement potential will head into a new stratosphere

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited in this Insider Report:, and The Los Angeles Times

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