“If you’re a brand there’s a couple of factors or business measures who you would use to choose which athletes invest in,” says AJ Maestas, president of Chicago-based Navigate Research, which measures the marketability of athletes based on data factors like demographics and other forms of market research. “He not only scores really high in these areas, but the Redskins are a popular team which hasn’t really been that successful, which is major. So that, the positive character combined with the size and influence of the Washington D.C. market that follows him is all extremely attractive.”
Maestas says visibility and character that represents what brands are trying to achieve are the two most important factors in an athlete’s appeal, but that on-field performance is going to be key to his potential earning power his rookie season and beyond.
“Many people have had great rookie seasons, but you can’t name them now,” says Maestas “On-field peformace is the most highly correlated variable and most important factor towards earning money.”
During a warmup before the season-opener, Griffin, an Adidas signee, concealed the Nike logo on his team-issue warmup with the word “heart.” The firestorm that ensued underlined Griffin’s potential impact on the league and its marketers, one that most analysts say eludes most football players — let alone a rookie.
“People have theories about why that’s the case,” Maestas says of NFL players not having branding power in the marketplace. “In football, the ratings and television exposure is great but they’re wearing a helmet so they can be less visible and harder to identify with as opposed to basketball or baseball players … I can’t think of anyone who started off this way in terms of endorsement dollars. There are very few examples.”
There are 2,450,000 adult fans of the NFL in the Washington D.C. area, which is more than half of the total adult population in that area. One of those fans was Phyllis Jones of Annapolis, Md, who touched Griffin III after his miracle touchdown.
“We just couldn’t believe it, we really couldn’t believe it,” she told the Washington Post. “When he left, I think we all just kind of jumped up and down. I gave my dad a huge hug. My hands were just shaking — my dad thought I was going to faint.”
Though Griffin III’s appeal far exceeds racial boundaries, the impact of the city’s racial make up is one of the underestimated aspects of his emergence: 56 percent of the total African-American adult population in D.C. are NFL fans. This data is according to Scarborough Research’s syndicated databases, made up of local and national consumer behavior, lifestyle tendencies and media habits.
In all, there are 11.7 million African American football fans in the U.S. Analysts say it’s too early to predict the level of engagement the African American demographic will have with the brands Griffin III endorses (more than one in four is an NFL fan), but that Griffin’s winning record on and off the field will continue to make an impact.
He’s got at least a few fans in the White House.