Super Bowl XLVII: Sports Marketers’ Scouting Report
By: Bob Dorfman | Posted: February 02, 2013
While Super Bowl XLVII looks to be an exciting matchup on the field, it doesn’t look terribly exciting to marketers seeking endorsement talent.
Not when the leading product-pitching candidates coming out of New Orleans are a raw QB playing in only his 10th game, a controversial LB playing in his last game, and a pair of sibling head coaches with little patience for media games. And with the sports world filled with scandal lately—imaginary girlfriends, cheating cyclists, deer antler spray, ultra-violence on and off the field—it’s not surprising if Madison Avenue is a little skittish about signing jocks to seven-figure deals.
Still, someone on the 49ers or Ravens has got to wear a milk mustache, go to Disney World, and appear on cereal boxes, talk shows and Dancing With The Stars.
Here’s how this expert rates the endorsement talent:
Colin Kaepernick. Though still raw on camera and too heavily tattooed for conservative advertisers, Kaep has the biggest marketing upside of any player in this Super Bowl. He’ll soon be seen in a milk mustache ad, and is the favorite for a trip to Disney World. With his superstar QB potential and his 49ers looking like a perennial postseason threat, he could become very familiar very quickly to a broad American audience. His C.K. initials and sleek physique could qualify him for a Calvin Klein deal. Or put him and his pet tortoise Sammy in a spot for Turtle Wax. And his Kaepernicking move is worthy of a Hershey’s Kiss spot, or a Progressive Insurance “Kiss of Progress” campaign to rival State Farm’s “Discount Double Check.” Kaep might even consider charging advertisers for tattoo space on his bod. A ring in his first try could vault Kaepernick into seven-figure deal territory. Call now before he really gets expensive.
Ray Lewis. Arguably the greatest middle linebacker in NFL history; definitely the greatest emoter in NFL history. No other player in this Super Bowl can match Lewis’ marketing resume, which includes deals with Under Armour, Old Spice, Visa, EA Sports, and a future TV analyst gig with ESPN. But he’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There’s that checkered past, that thing about the deer antler spray, and that raging ego. With retirement imminent, he’s not the pitchman you want if you’re after an active player. But Lewis will certainly remain highly visible in retirement, and a viable choice for any product that’s strong, works hard and lasts long. Or of course, Advil, Ben Gay or the AARP. And considering that he’s one of the best criers in jockdom, there’s always Kleenex.
The Harbaughs. Jim & John are the first brothers to face off as head coaches in any pro sports championship, and would make a compelling pair pitching anything from telecomm to automotive to family restaurants. They’re not exactly the most media-friendly guys, but wouldn’t you love to see an ad with them fighting over the last can of Coke in the frig?
Joe Flacco. Flacco’s too flaccid. Even his own father says he’s dull. A ring would propel him into elite QB status and could earn him a bundle in local Baltimore marketing deals and speaking engagements, but it may take more than one to make an impression nationally. Still, for a guy as exciting as watching paint dry, a Sherwin-Williams deal seems ideal. Or an ad with reporters downing Red Bulls as they try to make it through a Flacco presser. And if Flacco really wants to spice things up, he could always find an imaginary girlfriend.
Ray Rice. Talented, charismatic and smooth on camera, Rice could be a breakthrough star on Madison Avenue with an MVP performance on Sunday. Ray’s a natural for deals with Rice Krispies or Minute Rice, and wouldn’t it be ironic to see this Baltimore Raven pitching Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco treat?
Vernon Davis. Vernon is quite the Renaissance Man: NFL star TE, accomplished artist, owner of an interior design firm, and honorary captain of the 2010 U.S. Men's Olympic Curling team. With a big game in the Big Easy, he could take his many talents to Madison Avenue. Good looking and comfortable on camera, Davis ought to star in a reality show on HGTV.
Michael Oher. The inspirational subject and star of The Blind Side, Oher is probably the best-known lineman in football. But it’s the flashy QBs and WRs that get most of the major ad deals. Even with a Super Bowl ring, Oher’s best shot at off-the-field income will be via motivational speaking engagements.
Frank Gore. One of the best-liked and most-respected 49er players, Gore is a tough, relentless, powerful runner. Good choice for any maker of trucks or power tools. And a perfect name for a Band-Aid ad.
Brendon Ayanbadejo & Matt Birk. Ayanbadejo is an outspoken advocate of gay marriage, Birk recently recorded an anti-gay marriage video. Pair them up on the talk show circuit and watch the sparks fly.
Patrick Willis. Team leader, hard hitter, positive personality. Currently starring in an inspirational Duracell ad that tells his life story. Willis could also be effective for any product that lets him show off his killer bod.
Aldon Smith. 2nd in the NFL in sacks this season, and therefore deserving of a Hefty Cinch Sak deal.
Anquan Boldin. Anquan seems to catch any ball throw in his vicinity, and therefore might work pitching Super Glue.
Terrell Suggs. Speaks often, and usually has something interesting to say. Called the Patriots “arrogant pricks” after their AFC Championship Game. Would like to see an ad with coach Harbaugh washing out Suggs’ mouth with Ivory soap.
Ed Reed. After 11 seasons with Baltimore, finally making his first Super Bowl. Possible choice for any advertiser whose message is about patience and perseverance.
Michael Crabtree. Crabtree is a work in progress, both on the field and on camera. Finally became the Niners’ go-to receiver this season, and with a big game in the Big Show could possibly become a go-to pitchman.
Bernard Pollard. Known for his bonecrushing hits, Pollard knocked the Pats’ Stevan Ridley unconscious two weeks ago. Put him in an ad passing out Extra Strength Tylenol to opposing players during a game.
Dashon Goldson & Donte Whitner. The Niners’ hard-hitting safeties should team up in a demo ad tackling Timex watches, to really see if they “take a licking and keep on ticking.”
Arthur Jones. Brother Jon is an MMA champion, brother Chandler plays for Patriots. Put all three on the phone together for AT&T and title it “Keeping Up With The Jones.’
David Akers. A kicker who’s lost his mojo. Put him on the Dr. Phil Show, discussing imaginary field goals.
Alex Smith. Has handled his demotion from starting QB to backup with class, and might qualify for a deal with Allied Van Lines, because he’s definitely moving to another team next season.
Randy Moss. Tends to burn his bridges wherever he plays. On Media Day he called himself “the greatest receiver of all time,” which certainly burned every 49er fan who ever saw Jerry Rice play.
Vonta Leach. Ravens’ Pro-Bowl FB mostly just blocks for Ray Rice, who gains all the yardage and glory.
Justin Smith. So media-phobic, he refused to be interviewed for his own feature in Sports Illustrated.
Joe Staley. Niners’ OT usually has something entertaining to say, but because he’s an OT, no one is usually listening.
Mario Manningham. From hero of Super Bowl XLVI to “sitting out due to injury” in Super Bowl XLVII. Of possible interest to Preparation H.
Chris Culliver. Anti-gay remarks will not score you any points on Madison Avenue, unless it’s for a Southwest Airlines “Wanna get away?” ad.
Ma’ake Kemoeatu. Too hard to pronounce.
Bob Dorfman is Executive Creative Director at San Francisco’s Baker Street Advertising, and is a nationally recognized sports marketing expert whose insightful and pithy comments have been featured on ESPN, Fox, Entertainment Tonight, CNN, CNBC, NPR and other major media. He writes his Sports Marketers’ Scouting Reports regularly for the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and both the Summer and Winter Olympics.