Just as ranking the top players on the field is no easy gig, ranking the top five players in the upcoming NFL Draft for marketing isn’t any easier. There are a lot of variables involved.
Which city will the player end up in – Of course a LA or NY based player can accomplish much more on the marketing front than a player in a market like Phoenix or Seattle. Will the player become a playboy, or will he learn how to dress better – there are many factors which can affect where we would draft a player in a NFL Marketing draft. All of these players will have to deal with be famous millionaires in a short duration of time, and need to analyze every single off-the field decision they make, and keep a solid off-the-field team around them they can trust (Driver, PR Agency, Agent, Financial Consultants, etc.)
Football is a more difficult sport to market athletes in than some others for a variety of reasons – including that their faces are covered, giving them an instant disadvantage vs certain other sports. Of course, there are also precious few superstar positions for a football player wanting to get endorsement deals – If one’s not a quarterback, wide receiver or running back – even harder to get deals.
Being a winner on the football field doesn’t mean one is necessarily a winner off the field, and they need to be able to balance the tremendous amount of pressure on anyone in the spotlight -- money, fame and women. Having worked with professional athletes and high-profile celebrities, the pressure and demands are nonstop.
If we hosted a marketing Pro Day, we’d have many questions and marketing drills we would run players through – without the benefit of that, here goes our draft:
Andrew Luck, Stanford, QB
There aren’t many sure things in this business, but Andrew Luck is as close as it gets. Intelligent, charismatic, personable, humble, athletic and an already proven winner and leader at Stanford, Luck is the total package that brands across the country will want to jump on. From a football, as well as marketing perspective, the expectations for Luck will be incredibly high as he likely replaces the poster child for NFL endorsements, Peyton Manning.
TEAM NIKE signing Luck means a ton – it ensures a solid team will surround him, give him a tremendous national platform in any market and work closely with him on his brand. Its not often that NIKE sports makes mistakes – and that matters a ton.
Robert Griffin III, Baylor, QB
RGIII – the name that put Baylor college football on the map, and on paper is one of the most promising draft prospects in the last decade. Overall, Griffin has the potential to be the biggest marketing draw in pro football. With an established nickname like RGIII, it can transcend to the casual fan and average consumer – a sector that is very hard for athletes to tap into, but has huge upside in regards to major contracts and national endorsements.
He has already been a poster child for college athletes with his stellar academic performance and Heisman Trophy play on the field. If everything is as it appears, Mr. Griffin can help any team win on and off the field. As well-spoken and well-rounded as he is, he’s well rounded and can expect many great marketing opportunities. To go from the Baylor to being the face of Adidas -- that's no easy task for anyone, let alone a 21-year-old.
Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT
Madison Avenue always loves a great underdog story - surrounded by drugs and crime his whole life, Poe’s story is just that. From the New Orleans Saints during their historic Super Bowl run after Hurricane Katrina to the Baltimore Raven’s Michael Oher, people want to feel connected to something larger than the game itself. I think Poe has the potential to rally behind the big defensive tackle – pushing him into the national media spotlight. Poe has the potential to be success that can make some serious noise.
Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State, WR
Another deadly weapon on the offensive side of the ball, Blackmon is an explosively deep threat that has a huge upside both on and off the field. Blackmon, the young 6’1 wide out has the chance to make a big name for himself and achieve on the marketing front.
Trent Richardson, Alabama, RB
In terms of pure marketability, powerful running backs are always an attractive draw. Already accustomed to the national media landscape while playing with Alabama and adding his two BCS National Championships, in addition to his status as a Heisman Trophy finalist into the mix – Richardson presents one lethal combination of experience and success that can make some serious noise on Madison Ave. Oh, being considered the next Emmitt Smith by many industry experts doesn’t hurt your stock either.
And at this early juncture, can we lock in on Matt Barkley for the #1 pick in the marketing draft next year ?