The Most Marketable Players in the NFL
Being the face of a franchise is the best way to get marketing deals in the NFL, and the quarterback is the face of most NFL teams. In a survey I conducted of some of the top marketing companies as well as companies that advertise with NFL athletes, eight of the most marketable NFL players are quarterbacks.
Win or lose, quarterbacks get the most face time on game day and are the players most recognizable to fans. Even the casual fan knows who Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning are. Name and face recognition is the name of the game for companies trying to sell their products.
With the advent of fantasy football, fans are getting to know their favorite players up close and personal. Since the NFL has become a multi-billion-dollar product, companies are lining up to join the gravy train. In some football-crazed cities like Green Bay and Pittsburgh, backup players have marketing deals.
Here are the top 10 most marketable NFL players according to the marketing people I spoke with. Following those 10 are the “next” up-and-coming marketable players. Some of these players may already have some marketing, but as they grow in their careers, the marketing dollars should follow.
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
Any time the television is turned on, there seems to be a commercial with Peyton Manning. The Broncos quarterback is easily the most recognizable face in the NFL and has the most endorsement deals. Peyton has been marketed very well, even in his rookie year.
What is most remarkable about Manning’s off-the-field success is that for most of his career, he played in a small-market town and yet was nationally known. Manning has national deals with Reebok, Gatorade, Buick, DirecTV and Papa John’s, just to name a few.
Manning was No. 1 on every list as the NFL’s most marketable player. He brings in an estimated $15 million in endorsement deals.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady
If being married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen was not enough, Brady is a marketing company’s dream. Brady has the wins, swagger and looks to sell just about any product.
With schilling from UGGs, Movado Watches, Dodge, Under Armour, Visa and Stetson, Brady brings in an estimated $10 million.
Brady’s ability to share the wealth with his linemen in a famous Visa commercial also showcases his appeal to football fans. Brady can be serious and still make fun of himself.
Brady is like Peyton Manning in that he will still have marketing power once his football career is over.
New York Giants QB Eli Manning
Manning is following in his older brother’s footprints when it comes to money generated off the field. When Eli is not hosting Saturday Night Live, the Giants quarterback has endorsement deals with Citizen Watch, Toyota, Reebok and Samsung, to name a few.
The fact that Manning has brought two Super Bowls to the biggest marketing city in the United States does not hurt, either.
As Eli’s success on the field continues to grow, his off-the-field reputation with companies does as well. Manning will continue to expand his national marketing appeal and soon challenge his brother for the top spot in marketing dollars.
Manning is estimated to make $10 million in endorsement deals.
New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees
Winning a Super Bowl definitely helps secure a player more endorsement deals. Before Brees brought a Lombardi trophy to New Orleans, his off-the-field income was almost nonexistent.
But now Brees is one of the most recognizable faces in the NFL, and his marketing team has done a very good job of capitalizing on Brees’ success.
Brees has national endorsement deals with Nike, Verizon, Dove, Pepsi and Vicks. Brees is also very active in the New Orleans community and has smaller deals all around the Crescent City.
Brees has the largest NFL contract, and the quarterback is making a run at Peyton Manning for the most endorsement dollars as well. Brees is estimated to make $6 million in marketing deals.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Much like Brees, Rodgers parlayed a Super Bowl win into a win for his wallet in endorsement deals.
When Rodgers is not doing the “Discount Double Check” for State Farm, the Packers quarterback is selling the wares of Nike, General Mills, Pizza Hut and Ford.
Rodgers' ability to capitalize on his brand in “Titletown, USA” is even more remarkable due to the size of the market in Green Bay.
While fans eat and sleep football in Wisconsin, Rodgers has used the close-knit community to his advantage in marketing himself and by helping teammates like defensive tackle B.J. Raji get endorsement dollars.
Rodgers is estimated to make $4 million off the field in advertising.
Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
Playing off the success of winning the Heisman Trophy, Griffin’s marketing team went all out in securing the rookie quarterback huge endorsement deals.
Rarely do unproven NFL entities come onto the scene with major national endorsements, but Griffin did big-time. Griffin is one of the faces for Subway, Adidas, EA Sports, Gatorade and EvoShield.
Griffin has made himself very marketable, and if his play continues to improve, the sky is the limit for other marketing opportunities. Though the rookie has only played in four regular-season NFL games, Griffin is already estimated to make $3 million away from the field.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton
The second-year player also parlayed a Heisman win into marketing gold. Newton inked huge endorsement deals with Under Armour and Gatorade in his rookie season for the Panthers.
Newton is the face of the Panthers franchise, and his individual success last season has led to even more marketing opportunities this season.
Newton recently signed a deal with the Carolina Hospitals and has a few more national marketing deals that will be revealed this season.
Newton’s youthful looks and playful attitude make him an easy sell for companies looking to promote their products. Newton’s estimated marketing revenue is $2 million.
New York Jets QB Tim Tebow
Never has there been a more polarizing figure in the NFL than Tebow. There does not seem to be any middle ground with him; either fans love him or hate him. Marketing companies love him to the tune of $2 million in endorsement deals.
The fact Tebow is not even a starter does not scare away advertisers. Tebow has the looks, the personality and brain that sells.
Nike, FRS energy drinks, EA Sports and Jockey have all signed on with Team Tebow. If Tebow does get a chance to start in New York and have success, his marketing dollars will triple.
Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis
Not only is Lewis a force on the football field, the former Miami Hurricane has positioned himself for major success off the field. Lewis is now starring in commercials for EA Sports with actor Paul Rudd. Lewis also has deals with Visa and Under Armour.
Lewis also markets himself well as a motivational speaker and earns up to $50,000 an appearance.
Lewis has done a masterful job of reestablishing himself as a marketable prospect after many companies dropped him as an endorser when he was falsely accused of murder in Atlanta.
Lewis is now the most marketable defensive player in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is a legend in the Phoenix market and has slowly made a name for himself nationally in terms of endorsements. Fitzgerald uses a litany of charitable endeavors to market himself, and thus, companies want good human beings representing their products.
Fitzgerald has national deals with AT&T, EAS and Nike just to name a few. These deals and the local endorsements the receiver does in Arizona total an estimated $1.5 million for the Cardinals star.
New York Giants WR Victor Cruz
Cruz, playing off his success in last year’s Super Bowl, has used his end-zone celebration to make him a household name and a marketing executive’s dream.
By doing the salsa dance after a score, Cruz has embedded himself in the minds of the consumer and set himself up for future marketing dollars.
Cruz already has deals with Campbell's Soup and Time Warner. Cruz is an up-and-coming marketing star with his smile.
Being situated in the vast New York marketing stream also adds value to Cruz’s future earnings. Cruz is estimated to make just about $1 million in endorsement money.
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck
Luck’s marketing team has taken the exact opposite approach from fellow rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and limited the Colts star from many deals.
The thinking behind Luck’s marketing team is to let the quarterback focus on the football side of the business in his rookie year, and if he plays well, the marketing deals will come.
According to the marketing companies surveyed, Luck could easily have the same or more deals than Griffin if the former Stanford star chose to. Luck has deals with staple advertisers Nike and Pepsi and will have many more deals in the years to come.
New England TE Rob Gronkowski
A newbie on the endorsement scene, Gronkowski is a player marketing agencies are dying to represent. Gronkowski produces on the field and has the makings for a star off the field in the marketing realm.
Of all the marketing companies surveyed, “Gronk” was the one football player who executives thought should have more deals and will in the future.
Gronkowski is currently endorsing Pro Nutrition and Body Armor and has his own cereal, Gronk Flakes. The Pro Bowl tight end should have more national deals in the future, according to the marketing executives surveyed.
Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson
The cover boy for the Madden football franchise in 2012, Johnson already has a handful of endorsement deals. But arguably the best receiver in football has the look and the quiet confidence to be one of the next “faces” of the NFL in terms of endorsements.
Johnson has endorsement deals with Nike and Acura but has future deals in the works that will give him more national exposure.
Johnson is a playmaker on the football field. Look for him to break out as a star off the field in the coming years.
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan
How athletes perform between the lines is directly proportional to the money they can generate in marketing deals. Ryan is coming into his own as a professional, and with the improved success comes more advertising opportunities.
Ryan has endorsement deals with Gillette, AirTran and Nike and makes an estimated $500,000 in marketing money. If Ryan can lead the Falcons deep into the playoffs or better still, to the Super Bowl, that number could double and possibly triple.
Ryan’s endorsements could follow the path of Aaron Rodgers if the Falcons win a title.