The era of Peyton Manning in Indianapolis ended on March 7.
Where the new era of Manning in the NFL begins has yet to be determined. But wherever he signs, Manning’s marketing partners are ready and willing to move with him.
“We are talking about potentially the most utilized sports figure by corporate America over the past five years,” said Robert Tuchman, president of Skylight Entertainment , a New York-based sports and entertainment marketing and sponsorship firm. “Providing Peyton continues to play, I anticipate his marketing partners to stand behind him and even potentially enhance his exposure depending upon the team he ends up with.”
Manning currently earns the most in annual endorsements among NFL players at $15 million, according to Sports Illustrated’s 2011 “Fortunate 50” list.
Manning’s endorsement roster includes PepsiCo’s Gatorade, Sony, Sprint, MasterCard, General Mills Wheaties Fuel, DirecTV, Papa John’s and Reebok.
Other companies that are linked to Manning include Nike, which is taking over this year from adidas division Reebok as the NFL’s official jersey supplier, and NFL official cap company New Era. Both will have Manning products on the market as soon as he signs with a new team.
“Peyton is the rare combination of Hall of Fame-caliber player and pitchman whose unique personality has been a cornerstone of the campaigns in which he has been featured,” said Jeff Pomeroy, president JDP Communications, a sports and entertainment marketing/PR firm based in Atlanta. “Regardless of where he ends up, his sponsors will likely see a bump in interest as they capitalize on the built-in story lines and national interest surrounding his quest for redemption in a new city.”
Among the teams that are vying for his services are Arizona, Houston, Miami, Kansas City, the New York Jets, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington. However, as Manning stressed during his farewell to Indianapolis press conference on March 7, “I haven’t thought yet about where I’ll play [next] . . . This is new to me. I don’t know what the next steps are.”
Wherever he ends up, it is almost a given that his Nike jersey will be a hot seller.
Manning’s No. 18 Colts jersey – which team owner Jim Irsay said during the press conference would never be worn again by a Colts player – was among the NFL’s top-ten selling jerseys from 2004-10, according to BusinessWeek, which cited sales figures from NFLShop.com. However, it fell to 18th in 2011 when Manning missed the entire season.
The jersey for his next team – where he almost certainly will get No. 18 again – will also be among the top selling, if not the No. 1 selling, NFL jersey, according to industry analysts.
“Manning and the league are going to benefit off the field regardless of where he ends up,” said Tuchman. “Starting with jersey sales, local endorsement opportunities, premium hospitality and ticket revenue are just a few of the areas of revenue growth that he and his new team are going to experience.”
Like younger brother Eli, who has won two Super Bowls as quarterback for the New York Giants and has signed several local endorsements in addition to his national ones, Peyton could find his new local market ripe for the picking. That could be especially true if he lands with the New York Jets.
“If he comes to New York and plays with the Jets, expect ‘Mannsanity’ to take over,” said Tuchman in a reference to the Jeremy Lin-sanity that has rocked New York and the nation due to his performance with the NBA’s New York Knicks.
In New York, he might even be reunited with Eli in marketing efforts, such as the ones they did in the past for DirecTV, Oreo’s Double Stuf and ” This is SportsCenter,” in which the two brothers are admonished by dad Archie for joking around during a tour of the ESPN studios. The pair also were joined by brother Cooper in animated form for an episode of The Simpsons.
Among the many aspects that make Manning valuable to marketing partners are his dedication to winning on the field and his easy-going manner off of it. Commercials for such companies as Sony, MasterCard, DirecTV and Sprint have used humor to drive home their respective sales pitches.
“Peyton is still one of the many boys next door. His integrity isn’t diminished [due to his injury],” said Rick Burton, David Falk Professor of Sport Management for Syracuse University. “Some of the ads don’t require him to be ‘Peyton the Quarterback’ but rather ‘Peyton the Cool Dude That Everyone Likes.'”
Manning even poked fun at himself when he hosted Saturday Night Live in March 2007, a month after leading the Colts to victory in Super Bowl XLI. Among other skits, he starred in a parody of the NFL’s United Way PSA’s in which he goes contrary to his usual personality by getting gruff with a bunch of kids, berating them for playing poorly in a pick-up football game and then sharing the benefits of learning how to steal cars and get tattoos.
“A team looking at him right now has to be thinking about what it is going to mean to their bottom line in revenue as much as wins and losses,” stressed Tuchman. “He carries that much weight off the field.”