Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson captured America's heart Sunday night in the emphatic Seattle victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII played at the Meadowlands. Linebacker Malcolm Smith was given the MVP award and an automobile, and the collective defense that smothered Peyton Manning could well have won the award.
Hardcore football fans may know the defensive names, but the quarterback position is most identifiable by millions of casual fans. Wilson was charming and accessible in the post game interview and endorsers will be flocking to him in the weeks to come.
The Super Bowl has become the premiere marketing event in America. Thousands of print and electronic reporters encamped in New York last week. They filed story after story. A player like Wilson who interviewed well during the week and performed dramatically during the game has the ability to transcend the narrow genre of hardcore sports fans and become a household name.
A celebrity-making machine has developed in this country, which takes a few athletes and has them do Letterman, Fallon, Kelly and Michael and dozens of television interviews. Magazines and newspapers and websites add to propel an interesting personality into homes across America. There is an obsession with interesting and glamorous people.
Businesses look to take personalities with a high Q factor -- people who have high positive name recognition --and transfer this favorable factor to commercial products. I used to take the players most likely to break through in the Super Bowl and make companies aware of them weeks before the game. That way the player is already on the radar of advertisers who can move quickly to capitalize on the excitement.
My client quarterback Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys was named MVP of the 1993 Super Bowl against Buffalo. He walked on the field recognized as a very good quarterback -- when he walked off the field he immediately morphed into Troy Aikman, American Hero. He is still doing endorsements 20 years later.
49ers quarterback Steve Young entered the 1994 game against San Diego as a very good quarterback in the shadow of legend Joe Montana. Six touchdown passes and MVP status later he was Steve Young, Superstar. He is still doing endorsements twenty years later. The impact can be that long lasting.
Russell Wilson has an inspiring story. At 5-10 he was considered too short to play the position of quarterback and faced rejection. He starred in college but was not drafted by the Seahawks until the third round. His father told him to ask himself, "Why not you?" when it came to success. We all can relate to his story and Wilson's life will change forever.
-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.