If this offseason has taught us anything, it’s the fact that the NFL is just a business and always has been.
Idolization is a side effect that is exploited in every way possible. From jersey sales to endorsements to cameos to just plain branding, the players we gather to watch every Sunday afternoon are enlisted to drive the marketplace on just about everything we consume.
Even reformed dog fighter Michael Vick is back in our subconscious, finally re-upping with Nike last week.
In the past, we’ve enjoyed promotions like Mean Joe Greene’s oft-parodied Coca-Cola commercial (most recently mocked as a Coke Zero Endorsement featuring Troy Polamalu), Dan Marino and his gloves (in Florida?) and Joe Namath selling pantyhose.
In the scope of today’s NFL, nothing has changed besides the names and the products (OK, and the video quality).
The Denver Broncos quarterback is incredibly marketable and proves it with his multi-year endorsement deal with Jockey, his FRS commercial and his loyal fanbase’s exclusive support of all things Tim Tebow.
He commands a very specific market and illustrated that fact in this controversial commercial sponsored by Focus on the Family.
Ndamukong Suh, the first defensive player to win the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year Award, as decided by fan voting, already boasts a Nike Pro Combat deal and a heartwarming "remember your roots" Chrysler commercial.
He has also partnered with Battle Sports Science to promote a new device called the Impact Indicator that is apparently able to diagnose the possibility of a concussion by measuring the force and duration of impact to a player's helmet.
This Funny or Die product featuring the Saints quarterback with Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in a horror-flick-style trailer promoting Pepsi Max really highlights Brees’ (and more so Lewis’) marketing potential.
Speaking of Ray Lewis’ marketing potential, wouldn’t you buy a Ray Lewis Snuggie?
Old Spice Swagger seems to like to use the nation’s most intimidating men to advertise their product; both Brian Urlacher and Ray Lewis have done spots.
Among a great many other things, Urlacher has also been seen promoting Nike (who hasn’t?), Vitamin Water and McDonald’s.
He’s a big dude. I say we buy what he tells us to.
The Reggie Bush hype that began when he won the Heisman (which he was forced to give up) is starting a downward trend with the rumor that he’ll have to renegotiate his contract if he wants to continue playing for the Saints.
This commercial promoting last year’s ESPYs is hilarious, though.
When Sanchez first arrived in New York, he was immediately billed as the next Broadway Joe. He appeared in a GQ spread that converted many women into Jets diehards and put together a couple Toyota spots too.
After taking a mini hiatus from any additional endorsements in 2010—we all saw those ridiculous Pepsi Max commercials he did—so he could focus on Hard Knocks and football, Sanchez is putting pen to paper again, signing a deal with Degree Men.
As of yet, though, he can’t compete with his Meadowlands counterpart.
It’s hard to play in the largest media market in the country and not be marketable. Luckily for baby Manning, he’s a member of the first family of football and has no problem appearing on film.
Of course, his most fun stuff is when he’s with Peyton, but this Toyota campaign is pretty fun too.
Eight-Five is everything media.
He has kept himself in the limelight this offseason by playing Major League Soccer, riding a bull and taking a ride in a stock car driven by Jeff Burton. He’s known as a master tweeter, keeping well over two million followers updated and interacting with and answering the questions of a great many.
He has his own cereal, Ochocincos, and a show with Terrell Owens. He has appeared on Dancing with the Stars and has advertised everything from shoes to pistachios.
The man is a media genius.
There’s something about being one of the league’s top quarterbacks and being married to one of the world’s hottest models that makes people want to be like you.
Tom Brady has (or has had) endorsement deals with Snickers, Sirius, Smartwater, Stetson Cologne, Movado and Audi.
Brady has just added a new one too: Ugg Boots.
Apparently the Australian advertisers think people will buy anything if it means they might get to sleep with a supermodel.
LaDainian Tomlinson was a hot commodity for eight straight years with the Chargers, and though his numbers have slipped a little, he is still no slouch in the backfield. He’s had endorsement deals with Campbell's Soup, AT&T and ESPN Radio.
He rebranded the initials "LT" (we all know who the real LT is) and was featured in a music video that rivals the fun of the 1985 Bears Super Bowl Shuffle (except the money from Tomlinson’s seems to have gone to Nike rather than charity).
Nike also had a hand in a series of videos showing Tomlinson working out in MMA fighter Kimbo Slice’s backyard or catching arrows shot by professional archer Byron Ferguson.
In addition to this brilliantly casted Head and Shoulders campaign, his participation in Nike’s Leave Nothing series and the Coke Zero promotion mentioned in this slideshow’s introduction, 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu can also claim the glory of having the NFL’s top-selling jersey.
Peyton Manning has expertly advertised almost everything, including Sony, Sprint and MasterCard. He’s even done a Saturday Night Live digital short "promoting" the NFL and United Way.
The latest installment in Manning Theatre features both QB brothers in a trailer advertising a new DirecTV show called "Football Cops."
It’s probably, sadly, not for real, but at least DirecTV was kind enough to provide us with a full website to satisfy our curiosity.