NEW YORK — Peyton Manning is a five-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champ and marketing star. He’s everywhere! (Crawfish shorts, I like your style.)
But Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is likely to win his first MVP award next week. And the Panthers are favored to beat Manning’s Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
So don’t be surprised if Newton soon becomes the NFL’s new king of Madison Avenue. He’s young (26), charismatic and already has an impressive list of sponsorships.
Most recently, Netwon replaced John Stamos (Uncle Jesse from Full — and Fuller — House!) as the face of Dannon’s Oikos Greek Yogurt.
Newton also has deals with Apple’s Beats by Dre, L’Oreal’s Drakkar cologne, EA, Under Armour, GM’s GMC truck unit, Charlotte-based department store Belk and Pepsi-owned Gatorade.
Carlos Fleming, a senior vice president at WME-IMG and Newton’s marketing agent, said there is a “good level of interest” from potential new partners in the past few months. He said Newton will look at them once the season is over.
Fleming added that Newton will only endorse brands he already uses, and that any new sponsorships have to fit with commitments for current sponsors.
Newton may not need many more deals to make him the NFL’s highest-paid endorser.
According to the latest figures from Forbes, Peyton Manning will earn $12 million this season.
Manning is a spokesman for Nike, AT&T’s DirecTV, Gatorade, Papa John’s and Natonwide. (Maybe Nationwide should convince Papa John’s to bring back Chicken Parmesan Pizza so Peyton can say it tastes so good?)
Newton didn’t make the most recent list, but sports business experts said they believe Newton probably has made $11 million this past season from endorsements.
That would put him ahead of Peyton’s younger brother Eli, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady.
What do they all have in common? They’re quarterbacks — just like Newton. And they’ve all won Super Bowls.
So a Super Bowl victory by the Panthers could quickly vault Newton to the very top of the endorsements heap.
An executive at the company behind the Q Score — which measures the popularity of athletes, celebrities and other public figures, said Newton’s awareness level among casual sports fans will likely shoot up if the Panthers win the Super Bowl.
“It will definitely be a plus for his marketability and create more endorsement opportunities,” said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of The Q Scores Company.
Schafer predicted that Newton could wind up with an above average Q Score for a sports star — especially since few people seem to have a negative reaction to him.
Sure, Newton may alienate some fans with his celebrations. He often imitates Superman after touchdowns and has done a dance known as dabbing. He even wore custom Under Armour cleats showing his Superman and dab poses on Thanksgiving.
But let’s be honest. People who don’t approve of Newton’s end zone dances because they think they are too self-promotional are sort of missing the point.
He’s not taunting opponents … and he usually gives footballs to kids in the stands wearing Panthers jerseys after he scores.
Newton is what the NFL, often referred to as the No Fun League, needs to win younger fans … and the advertisers wooing them.
“Kids see Cam and they connect with him. He brings freshness and authenticity,” Fleming said.
Seriously, wouldn’t you rather have a guy with an infectious smile who is clearly enjoying what he’s doing endorsing your product instead of someone overly serious like, say, Tom Brady?
Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert at Baker Street Advertising, said Newton could easily scoop up deals with a fast food company, wireless carrier and fashion designer, for example.
Another thing in Newton’s favor? While America may adore underdogs, they also love proven winners who live up to the hype. Think Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods (pre-scandal) and Serena Williams.
Newton won the Heisman Trophy at Auburn in 2010 and followed that up weeks later by helping the Tigers win college football’s national championship.
He was the top pick in the NFL Draft in 2011 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award for the Panthers. And he just had the best year of his career after signing a five-year, $103.8 million contract extension.
The only thing missing is a Super Bowl ring. If he winds up hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, Newton may find himself shouting that he’s going to Disney World … and fielding even more calls from potential sponsors.
“This Super Bowl could be the changing of the guard in more ways than one. It’s not like Peyton is going to go away as an endorser. But Cam has the flash and coolness that Manning never had,” Dorfman said.