By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
May 5, 2011: The situation between the NFL and its players has damped what usually is a boisterous off-season — and has put a damper on marketing deals involving NFL players. Many marketers have stayed on the sidelines as they await a resolution before activating in anticipation of the 2011 season.
Case in point: Aaron Rodgers has not cashed in on his Super Bowl MVP award, generally seen as a golden key to endorsement. Quarterbacks who have won the honor have done well in post-Super Bowl deals, led in recent years by Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Marketing analysts said that based on his MVP performance, Rodgers "could become another Peyton Manning on Madison Avenue." The Green Bay Packers quarterback did utter the classic line, "I'm going to Disney World" in a national TV spot as Super Bowl confetti rained down on him. And he appeared in a "Got Milk?" ad prior to and just after the Super Bowl. But but both deals were a short-lived promotions afforded to every Super Bowl MVP.
Rodgers' jersey was the second most popular at retail, behind Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, based on sales at NFLShop.com from April 1, 2010 through March 31. But that takes into account the entire 2010 season, when Rodgers was being touted as the "anti-Brett Favre," and not just his Super Bowl effort.
Rodgers was certainly not a fan favorite when he was out-voted for the cover of EA Sports' Madden NFL 12 in the semi-finals by eventual winner Peyton Hillis, running back with the Cleveland Browns.
Rodgers earns less than $4 million in annual endorsements, mostly from a deal with Nike that has been in place for several years.
This is not to say that other marketing deals could fall into place once the NFL's future goes from cloudy to clear. In fact, Rodgers is starting to see some marketing movement.
Associated Banc-Corp, a $21 billion regional bank headquartered in Green Bay, said that the Packers quarterback has been signed to an exclusive, multi-year alliance.
Beginning this month, Rodgers will appear in marketing efforts to promote Associated’s customer and community events, consumer and commercial product lines and service as well as select philanthropic initiatives. The partnership will activate in conjunction with Associated’s existing partnership with the Green Bay Packers,
Financial terms of the partnership were not released.
Rodgers also is receiving national exposure via Spike TV, which unveiled the categories and participants in its fifth annual Guys Choice show, scheduled to air June 10.
Rodgers is up against Kobe Bryant in the "Unstoppable Jock" category. Visitors to the Spike TV Web site as well as a dedicated Facebook page can vote in this and other categories, including "Most Dangerous Man," "Guy of the Year," "Top Fantasy Leaguer" and "Rookie of the Year."
In previous years, Super Bowl MVPs, especially quarterbacks, were able to boost their marketing roster, some relatively quickly.
Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints signed several national deals just prior to and then following the game, raising his annual endorsement income from about $3-$4 million to about $10-$11 million.
Super Bowl XLI MVP Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts makes the most among NFL players, with an annual endorsement income of about $13-$15 million, according to industry analysts. Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, who was MVP of Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII, also is among the highest profile NFL players, with about $10 million in annual endorsements.
But the fact that he has been labeled "unstoppable" by Spike TV is one of the qualities that Associated plans to use in its partnership with Rodgers. He will make appearances at select Associated Bank events and will lend his likeness to marketing materials, financial education initiatives and future product lines.
“My experience with Associated Bank has been very positive,” Rodgers said in a statement. “Their commitment to customer education, service, and support is tremendous. I look forward to working with Associated and being part of their team.”
"We are sure that he’ll bring his MVP qualities to all of our customer and community relations endeavors for many years to come."
Associated has approximately 270 banking locations serving more than 150 communities in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota.
“We are thrilled to welcome Aaron to the Associated team, and are sure that he’ll bring his MVP qualities to all of our customer and community relations endeavors for many years to come,” Nick Papachristou, director of corporate marketing for Associated Banc-Corp, said in a statement. “Aaron’s professionalism, excellence and leadership both on and off the field closely tie to Associated’s commitment to serving our customers with the highest quality of customer service."
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