The NFL Super Bowl, and the week leading up to it, is America's branding and marketing machine. It has the power to elevate an athlete beyond the narrow genre of hardcore sports fans and make him a household name.
Former Super Bowl MVPs, such as Cowboys QB Troy Aikman, 49ers QB Steve Young, and Packers QB Brett Favre, won their championships years ago and are still doing national television ads. Last year's winning quarterback Peyton Manning has been a ubiquitous commercial spokesman who has received more exposure than his playing in games ever gave him.
By next Monday thousands of print and electronic media will have descended on Houston. An endless number of talk radio shows broadcast non-stop from radio row, interviewing a variety of luminaries. Hundreds of television and print reporters file multiple stories each day on interesting players. Press from across the country and around the world churn out massive amounts of content. Websites, newspapers, television, radio and every platform of content supply focus on more than the game itself.
There is a public fascination and intrigue with the lives and stories of the athletes. The audience that would follow weekly NFL football is exponentially exploded to encompass a majority of the general public attracted by the big event nature of the week. A 30-second advertisement on the telecast, which went for $1.1 million in 2000, cost $5 million last year.
An athlete who interviews well and performs dramatically in the game will find his name recognition skyrocket. Last year 112 million people watched the game itself. The halftime show features mega-star entertainment. Fox will have programming all day as will other networks. Newspapers are filled with Super Bowl features.
When the game is over, the celebrity-making machine takes over. Steve Young did over 28 individual stand-up interviews on the field after the game in addition to the post-game press conference. Troy Aikman did all of the network shows the next morning and Jay Leno the next night.
After Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger won the Super Bowl in Detroit, we arranged for David Letterman to shave Ben's beard off on "The Late Show" as part of a deal with Gillette.
The top stars are offered dozens of guest opportunities on dozens of talk and magazine television shows. They can do endless radio spots, podcasts, and internet appearances. They transcend sports to become subjects for magazines like like People and GQ. If their personalities and stories are appealing they not only have high name recognition, they score high in Q factor, and positive name recognition.
The key for a robust endorsement package is planning. We would try projecting which players and teams had the best chance of reaching the Super Bowl many weeks in advance. Contacting top brands and advertising agencies and getting them focused on the athlete as a possible endorser far before the game means they can hit the ground running post Super Bowl. It is important to take advantage of the heat and excitement generated by an athlete and event as soon as possible. The celebrity-making machine will do the rest. Keep your eye on the possible breakout stars this week.
-- 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.