Football is more than just a sport. It is a business, with players constantly negotiating new contracts, endorsements and advertising opportunities.
Teams have to look at all facets of a player, from his skills, work ethic, demeanor and even ability to sell the franchise. Players are endorsement tokens, and some are better than others.
Athletes have been staples of the endorsement industry for decades—from Michael Jordan's "Like Mike" campaign to Tiger Woods' numerous appearances for everything from EA Sports to Rolex.
Companies love athletes because they are immediately recognizable faces to a national audience. When it comes to the NFL, quarterbacks often garner the publicity and attention.
Because of their visibility, it is perhaps fitting that QBs dominate the list of most marketable players in the NFL. Mainstays like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have been marketable for years, but other fresh faces are quickly rising up the ranks.
Let's break down the top 10 most marketable players in the NFL today and get a nice mix of veterans and youthful stars.
It was tough to put Greg Jennings on this list because he has only one large national endorsement, but he has become a staple of Old Spice commercials since winning the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers in 2010.
Jennings has shown his comedic side in a variety of spots for the deodorant giant, becoming the face of the brand and proving that the marketing game is not exclusive to quarterbacks.
Jennings has an engaging personality, and his move to the Minnesota Vikings should translate into a new batch of commercials with him donning purple and gold. The Super Bowl may have been the catalyst for Jennings' rise in marketability, but his personality and work ethic will be the reasons for his staying power.
When thinking of Cam Newton and marketing, it is almost impossible not to immediately bring up a mental image of his Play 60 commercial. Everyone loves it when the youngster opposite Newton "loosens up his arm" in preparation of stealing Newton's job.
However, Newton is far from a one-trick pony. In just two years of NFL action, he has brought in a slew of endorsement contracts, including Under Armour, Windows Phone, Gatorade and the Carolinas HealthCare System.
Newton finished second in Madden Cover Voting for the 2013 edition and has largely escaped the problems stemming from his collegiate scandal while at Auburn University. Instead of dwelling on that scandal, fans have embraced Newton's skills. He won the 2012 Rookie of the Year award and is the face of the Carolina Panthers franchise.
The humor he has generated in his Play 60 and Under Armour commercials should help him to continue finding endorsement opportunities.
Calvin Johnson has been somewhat quiet on the marketing front, but his stock is clearly rising and he does have some huge deals already in his pocket.
The Detroit Lions star receiver and Madden Cover Boy has national endorsement contracts with both Nike and Acura. He has appeared on the covers of ESPN the Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Eastbay.
Breaking Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yards record should make him a household name for the select few who are still not aware of "Megatron." He has a quiet demeanor and seems humble whenever in front of the camera.
Johnson should have no problem moving up the marketing ranks in the coming years.
There is a caveat to Pittsburgh Steeler's defensive back Troy Polamalu's marketability: Other than the Nike ads, the focus of his marketing always seems to revolve around his hair. This is not necessarily a detriment, but it does limit the number of companies he can represent.
Luckily, Polamalu has insured that hair for $1 million and has a plethora of commercials for Head & Shoulders shampoo. The soft-spoken safety allows his personality to show in his ads for the hair-care giant, which has helped his marketability.
Of course, playing in a football-crazed city like Pittsburgh has also helped Polamalu, as his games are consistently seen by a national audience. Injuries have hampered Polamalu's ability on the field in recent years, but this 31-year-old is certainly at his off-the-field marketing peak.
However, his ability to stay relevant remains suspect. How many hair commercials will people want to see once he hangs up his cleats?
Love him or hate him, Tim Tebow is marketable.
Even as he floundered as a backup for the New York Jets this past season, Tebow continued to garner constant attention from the national media. Just being on a roster in the Big Apple could only increase his marketing opportunities, and Tebow took advantage.
Tebow has national deals with Jockey, Nike and TiVo and was voted America's favorite athlete in a 2012 ESPN Poll (h/t sportsbusinessdaily.com) "Tebowmania" seems to have subsided somewhat, and it is hard to gauge whether he will ever be a long-term starter at the pro level but there is no denying that his name alone generates fan interest.
Tebow's outspoken Christian faith, work ethic and squeaky clean image have made him a favorite for fans who don't follow football that closely.
Can he continue to be in the top 10 if he remains a backup?
It is tough to tell, but Tebow's marketing star is still hot right now.
Robert Griffin III parlayed his Heisman Trophy and success at Baylor University into a slew of deals before he even touched the NFL gridiron. His amazing Rookie of the Year campaign proved he was worth that early faith from investors.
RG3 has inked deals with companies such as Gatorade, Adidas, EA Sports and Subway, just to name a few. Griffin has shown himself to be very personable off the field, and ESPN's Darren Rovell reported that he has the impressive distinction of being the NFL rookie to make the most money before playing his first game.
What is perhaps most intriguing about Griffin III is that he is a far different QB from the current top guys (Manning, Brady and Rodgers) in that he is a dual-threat player who does not simply drop back and throw. The younger generation loves this added element to RG3's gamer, which should help to ensure his jersey sales continue to break records.
Drew Brees is the first QB on this list (but certainly not the last) who saw his marketability soar after winning the Super Bowl. New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees seems to do everything right marketing-wise, and the entire "Bountygate" scandal has had little to no effect on his endorsement potential.
Brees' current endorsements are plentiful and impressive. He has contracts with Vick's, Pepsi, Advocare Muscle Fuel, Verizon and TRX Training Flip Video. Those are just his big deals on the national scale. Brees is also noteworthy for becoming a fixture in the New Orleans community and doing charity work in the area.
He is one of the faces of the post-Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and is a symbol for the city. Brees has one of the NFL's largest contracts at five-years, $100 million. While he may be 34 years old, the Saints QB does not appear to be slowing down on the field or off it.
Aaron Rodgers is relatively new to the marketing scene, but since winning a Super Bowl, he is arguably in the discussion as the most marketable player in football.
As a quarterback, Rodgers plays the right position in terms of popularity. He is also helped by the fact that he is not a 6'5" giant like some of his fellow QBs, meaning Rodgers looks like an average guy. His most famous campaign to date is obviously the "Discount Double Check" commercials that have struck gold for State Farm Insurance.
Rodgers has been able to show off a bit of his personality in those spots, even including teammate B.J. Raji in a few. However, he does have other national campaigns, including those with Nike and Pizza Hut.
Rodgers is one of the youngest players on this list and has been able to succeed despite being in the relatively small media market of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He should have plenty of staying power moving forward.
Tom Brady has not endorsed as many products as Peyton Manning, but it is fair to argue he has had just as strong of an impact.
Brady has been seen representing brands such as UGG's and Under Armour. The UGG spots have often made him the target of ridicule from teammates, but there is no denying the star power that Brady brings to the table.
He is one of the league's most recognizable faces and yet does not constantly bombard your television set with his face. This notion is furthered by the TV work Brady has done, including small guest appearances on shows like Entourage and Family Guy.
The fact that he has been on the national scene for more than a decade helps to solidify his staying power as an endorser heading into his future and eventual retirement.
After Peyton Manning missed the entire 2011 season due to injury, it would have been fair to assume that he would lose some of his marketing steam. That just did not happen.
Manning went full steam ahead, and his brilliant 2012 comeback season has ensured he remains among the marketing heap. Perhaps the best part of having Manning in front of the camera is that he actually looks natural.
The Denver Broncos signal-caller has appeared in a slew of commercials over the course of his career, including spots for Papa Johns, Sony, DirecTV, Gatorade, MasterCard, Sprint and Nabisco's Oreo Double Stuff cookies.
His turn on Saturday Night Live as host is probably his most memorable time on TV, but his momentum does not look to be slowing down anytime soon. This is only furthered by the fact that he finished third in an NFL marketability survey conducted by The Daily in 2012, while he was still on the shelf with injury.
A healthy and productive Manning is the most marketable player in the NFL.