SBD/February 11, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sam Could Find Marketing Bonanza After Coming Out, But Agent To Limit Deals At First

Experts think Sam could make $2M or more in endorsements after coming out
NFL Draft prospect Michael Sam "likely didn't announce he is gay to boost his marketability," but that "might be one positive side effect," according to Brandon Foster of the Columbia MISSOURIAN. Sam now "has a status and platform that might attract corporations." NFL player agent David Canter said that the "financial implications of Sam’s announcement are a crucial part of the discussion." Canter said, "To say that a pro football player can come out as publicly homosexual and not talk about the dollars and cents of it is just being very, very nearsighted." Canter "thinks Sam could 'easily' make $2 million in endorsements, being the first openly gay player in the NFL." MLS Galaxy MF Robbie Rogers, who came out last February, said that he "saw no change in his endorsements when he began playing as a gay athlete." However, Foster notes MLS "does not have the marketing scope of the NFL." Canter "believes Sam’s brand has tremendous financial potential off the field, but it is still dependent on him finding success on it" (Columbia MISSOURIAN, 2/11). REUTERS' Richwine & Grover cite branding experts as saying that companies "may have shied away from gay athletes in the past, but attitudes have shifted enough that Sam's sexual orientation shouldn't stop him from getting the auto, soda, soup and other endorsements that have come the way of other NFL players." Sam's "bold decision to come out before NFL teams consider him in the May draft could boost his appeal to marketers" (REUTERS, 2/10). ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "If he is a third or fourth or fifth round pick, he is going to get more endorsement opportunities than anyone who has ever been drafted there.” But ESPN's Bomani Jones said, “Endorsements are going to be tricky because if you’re that guy and you don’t play well, it’s real awkward when you are the guy in the commercials and you’re not playing well" (“Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 2/10).

TAKING IT SLOW: Empire Athletes agent Joe Barkett, who represents Sam, said that he has "already discussed with his client how they will approach" marketing opportunities. Barkett said, "We told him that there is going to be a storm of people and companies that are going to want to get a piece. He has a willingness to do deals, but that's obviously not what drove this." Barkett added, "He's not going to sign 12 deals. We'll likely do a shoe and apparel deal and maybe another one over the next couple weeks, and then it's all about getting ready for his combine and pro day" (, 2/10). Barkett: “We don’t want him to do a bunch of commercials and endorsements before entering the league because we think it sends the wrong message. He is doing this to get the weight off his chest and do it on his own terms” (, 2/10).
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