SBD/February 3, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

Off-Field History Limits Marketing Potential Of Ben Roethlisberger

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Recent study shows Roethlisberger's dislike among fans far above average athlete
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger may not surpass Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in "endorsements, earning potential and popularity even if his team wins the Super Bowl," according to Aaron Kuriloff of BLOOMBERG NEWS. Marketing and celebrity firms contend that Roethlisberger's off-field history "overshadows his on-field performance." The Davie Brown Index shows that Rodgers, leads Roethlisberger "in appeal, trust and endorsement potential." The Marketing Arm Senior VP & Managing Dir Bill Glenn: "There's about a 30 percent spread between him and Rodgers on trust alone." PLB Sports President & CEO Ty Ballou, whose Pittsburgh-based company ended its sponsorship of Roethlisberger last year, said, "Ben will get other endorsement deals. It may be a roll of the dice. If he wins, it’s the third ring in six years and it’s all about how he markets himself now." Glenn said that winning a third Super Bowl "may increase Roethlisberger’s marketability in Pittsburgh faster than in the rest of the U.S." Glenn: "There’s two things that are going to repair Ben’s marketability, and those are time and good behavior." Still, Octagon First Call VP & Managing Dir David Schwab believes that Rodgers "has the most to gain from a Super Bowl victory" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/3). Chicago-based Engage Marketing President Kevin Adler said, "For Ben Roethlisberger as a brand, the best thing he can do this week is have a quiet week off the field and a very loud week on the field. In the short term, he can’t do anything to help himself, but he can do further damage. He can go out and throw 100 touchdowns Sunday, and he will still be a damaged brand from a marketing perspective. In the short term, he won’t see a windfall of endorsement deals, but if he has a great game and a quiet off-season, that may begin to change" (WWD.com, 2/2).

COMPANIES CAUTION WITH BIG BEN: Ketchum Sports & Entertainment VP Shawn McBride said, "In this time of recession, companies are being very safe, and I don’t see anyone risking big marketing dollars on him any time soon." According to a January poll done by E-Poll Market Research, which surveyed more than 1,000 adults, Roethlisberger's "dislike" score "dropped to 39 per cent from 57 per cent in the same poll last year, but is still way above the 13-per-cent average found for all athletes." McBride added, "We have been getting a lot of calls about possible ‘up and comers’ in this Super Bowl game, guys who could become great celebrity spokespeople. But not about Roethlisberger. That is going to take more time." Likewise, ad and merchandise licensing firm GreenLight VP David Reeder said, "The market for Ben is very limited -- he doesn’t have the appeal of Tom Brady. He can’t do national commercials. If he chooses contrition and humility after the game, he may get the interest of regional sponsors. From there, he may climb the ladder over time and maybe big national brands way down the line" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/3).

GREEN ACRES: FORBES.com's Tom Van Riper wrote Rodgers, despite lacking a "big public personality," is an "up and coming star who has handled the pressure of being Brett Favre’s heir apparent with aplomb." With a Super Bowl win, Rodgers "probably leapfrogs" Falcons QB Matt Ryan -- who "currently has a larger national endorsement portfolio -- in the commercial game." Also, the Super Bowl provides Packers LB Clay Matthews and Steelers S Troy Polamalu, both of whom already have endorsement deals for hair products, "an opportunity to expand the horizons." But perhaps the "biggest up and comer of them all" is Packers DE B.J. Raji, "a 337-pound monster who showcased his skill and an appealing personality during the Packers NFC Championship Game win over the Bears." Raji is known as "The Freezer," a nickname that pegs him "as a modern day version" of William "Refrigerator" Perry. Coca-Cola was among the companies Perry had endorsement deals with when he was active, but if Raji "finds a way to shake and bake his way into the end zone on Sunday," as he did during the NFC Championship, he will "have a chance to make a more prudent choice" (FORBES.com, 2/2).
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