In the middle of Super Bowl XL, a deal was struck between Gillette and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before he finished leading the Pittsburgh Steelers to a win over the Seattle Seahawks. It was all done by text message and orchestrated by Leigh Steinberg, the powerhouse agent that is credited as being the inspiration behind Tom Cruise’s character in Jerry Maguire.
Sports reps bank on Super Bowl appearances to show their clients the money; from multimillion-dollar endorsement deals to huge salary increases leveraged in contract negotiations.
According to Steinberg, the Super Bowl “is the premier marketing event in all of professional sports and it offers the opportunity to transform a player into a household name.” Viewed by more than 80 million people around the world, the championship game attracts more than 3,500 journalists from all sectors of print and electronic media including entertainment, business, and lifestyle–even cooking. “This type of coverage starts to penetrate an audience that normally isn’t aware,” he says.
Exposure of such magnitude attracts major brands that want to attach their products and services to athletes that are instantly recognizable. For players, the goal is to create long-term deals in each of the major product categories that include automotive, apparel, beverage, and technology.
Under the NFL umbrella, Guy Troupe, CEO and president of Troupe21 and Associates, makes small-scale deals possible through the annual Player Network Event held days before the game. “It’s designed to teach players the value of networking and helps them get involved with franchises or to [secure] small consulting partnerships with companies such as FedEx, Wingstop, and Marriott Vacations,” he says.
For athletes such as Byron Chamberlain, who won two rings as a tight end with the Denver Broncos, Super Bowl experience provides an upper hand when discussing new contracts. Chamberlain says, “The wins helped me when I signed with the [Minnesota] Vikings. Playing in the Super Bowl gives people the knowledge that you are a leader and it brings a level of credibility.”
Steinberg added, “There’s a greater incentive for aspiring Super Bowl teams to bring on players from winning programs due to the shift in the revenue structure [of the sport]. Until the late 90’s, [profit] was mainly driven by national TV.” Now franchises want A-list talent and personalities because it “helps them attract ancillary revenue sources from luxury boxes and [stadium] naming rights.”
Many teams include performance incentives in player contracts and it’s not unusual for a quarterback to make a six-figure bonus for leading the team to the big game.
The NFL allocates $78,000 to all members of the winning team and $40,000 to the losers.
Chamberlain says, “Another great thing about having Super Bowl experience was helping out the young guys coming up–who wanted to know what it takes to get to the next level. I enjoyed being a mentor. That was worth more than the bonus check; although, that wasn’t bad either.”