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The fight for endorsement dollars

For most players, getting off-the-field deals requires serious effort and a customized strategy. Jack Bechta

Print This June 05, 2010, 11:00 AM EST

Believe it or not, one of the hardest things to do as an agent is to get your player marketing and endorsement deals. If you represent Tom Brady, Peyton Manning or Brett Favre, it might be as easy as fielding the offers that flood in. But what about the other 1700 players? What do they get?

Randy Moss is looking for a new agent. He has said that he “can do commercials” and that he wants to “start preparing for life after football”. He wants an agent who can make things happen for him. As a matter of fact, the biggest reason why players fire their agents is due to a lack of marketing deals. Players realize that there are opportunities out there to be had, and they want an agent who can go get them.

On any given team there are 53 guys in the locker room. However, only a handful get to make some extra income from off-the-field opportunities. The ring-bearing superstars of the NFL barely lift a finger to land huge deals with national brands. Meanwhile, players on bad teams in small markets struggle to get extra fries at the local Steak & Shake. As many as 10 players can land some decent local deals if they are in a big market on a good team, and the rest are fighting for the scraps.

It may come as a surprise that in San Diego, the best deals mild-mannered Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson could do were local pizza chain and hot tub retailer ads. Eventually, Vizio signed him up for a national deal, but the previous low-budget commercials featuring, arguably, the team’s most recognizable player serve as a perfect example of how tough the endorsement game can be.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, players were getting all kinds of freebies: food, cars, clothes, hotel rooms, golf clubs, watches, hunting trips, cruises, and unlimited amounts of food and drinks for showing up at a local bar for Monday Night Football. Today, agents have to work harder in digging up deals and cash-paying opportunities. With many car dealerships going out of business and their margins being squeezed, the car deal that was once an easy layup is quickly fading out of reach for nearly all players. Trading card companies used to pay top draft choices six figures prior to draft day. Not anymore!

Today’s smartest (and sometimes most ego-driven) players are turning to social media and reality TV to build their brands. If tastefully done, heavy exposure through these mediums can help to power a career as a pitch man.

Even relatively unpopular NFL players occasionally land commercials or hosting gigs because they know how to make themselves memorable. Washington Redskins TE Chris Cooley found some real estate online and garnered a huge following and a modest income at chriscooley47.com. Cincinnati Bengals LB Dhani Jones made a name for himself away from the football field as the amiable host of a Travel Channel show.

For a player to be attractive to brand names and services, he must first get exposure by making himself personable and accessible. You have to give to get! Do the community service, interviews and free public speaking engagements, and the deals will come.

I hear Randy Moss is an intelligent guy. The NFL fans (and the brands who want to reach them) need to see and hear more from him if he wants to land some off-the-field opportunities. We need to know who he is as a person before we want to hear about the products he endorses.

Personalities like Charles Barkley, Warren Sapp, Chad Ochocinco, Michael Strahan and countless others have put themselves out there in ways that work for them, and they have all reaped the benefits in the form of paid endorsements and stable careers after their playing days. To achieve these kinds of results, a player must work with his agent to create a plan for optimal exposure based on his own unique characteristics (personality, position, years in the league, team, market, etc.) It is then our job to ensure that that plan is followed and off-the-field earnings are maximized.

Follow me on Twitter: @jackbechta


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