Let me start with the fact that I love RGIII. He’s a freakish athlete and there might not be a more exciting player to watch on TV right now. But even more important is that he’s smart, he’s humble, his parents are military vets, and he wears great socks.
And still better yet, in his locker he has a figurine of Spider-Man that says “Amazing” and The Hulk accompanied by the words, “Be Unstoppable.” He even keeps a note that says, “Forget about being MVP; Forget about being in the Pro Bowl. Those are nice consolation prizes if you don’t get a SUPER BOWL RING.”
But for all the amazing things RGIII represents, he represents something not so great for the NFL: Its utter lack of star power in a star-driven sports world.
From having worked in the industry, I always have to preface what may otherwise seem counterintuitive. There is only one LeBron, there is only one Peyton, there is only one Tiger, and there is only one Jeter. And then there are just a bunch of guys with regional car dealership deals or no deals at all. It’s not all champagne and bunny rabbits for ball players and their endorsement deals. Jerry Maguire actually did a pretty good job of depicting this. Don’t forget, even Jeter’s Ford deal is regional not national.
Let’s try to name the NFL’s biggest stars that have national deals. Peyton is still probably number one, between Reebok, Sony, Papa John’s, Buick and others. He even has an Oreos deal that also features Eli. Then there’s Tom Brady with Smart Water, UGG (don’t get me started on this one) and Under Armour, among others. Then there’s Drew Brees whose best spot might be his cameo in this ESPN ad which athletes do not get paid for. You could make a case for Ray Lewis but I wouldn’t try to argue this one with my little brother, Yale Goldberg. And now it starts to fall off. After only 3 players.
And while this opens up an awesome opportunity for RGIII, it should be a red flag for the NFL. Griffin even raked in more endorsement deals than this year’s No. 1 pick Andrew Luck, the guy people consider to be the next Peyton Manning. And he did all of this before he even played a single NFL game. His extensive list of deals includes Subway, Gatorade, Adidas, EA, and many other smaller ones you might not even realize.
Many argue that the NFL has an issue because of the helmets and fans cannot see what the players look like. While that is an interesting and rational theory I’m not sure it can account for why a rookie is one of the league’s most prolific spokesman in a game where players typically take a few years to gain legitimate credibility.
But whatever the reason, it seems that the NFL, or the No Fun League, needs to find a way to promote its stars better. The fact that the most marketable athlete in the most powerful league in the world has thrown less passes than most backup quarterbacks should create a sense of urgency for those tasked with marketing The Shield and protecting it.