SBJ/July 13-19, 1998/This Week's News

Slash makes splash with endorsements

PITTBURGH – Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart is having such a good off-season that his endorsement plate could soon be full.

Stewart, 25, who signed three new deals recently and agreed to continue promoting Nike Inc. products for at least four more years, now has endorsement contracts with seven companies totaling nearly $2.5 million a year.

“I’ve been in the business 15 years and I haven’t seen anyone quite as gracious to work with – he has a very small ego,” said Steve Rosner, co-founder of Integrated Sports International, which handles Stewart’s promotional activities. “The corporate types love him.”

Still, Rosner is beginning to worry about overexposing his client.

“We want to add one or two more [endorsements] and then pull back a little,” Rosner said. “We don’t want to overload his schedule or his image.”

Stewart’s latest endorsements include a one-year agreement with Pro Line, a multiyear deal to market Sprint Corp. and a two-year contract with video maker Midway Games Inc.

Stewart, who got the starting quarterback job last season but already had a reputation as a multiple offensive threat, received a base salary of $360,000 and $796,400 in incentive money, winding up the 11th highest-paid Steeler. The new deals, however, raise Stewart into the ranks of pro football’s marketing elite, by ISI figures.

Rosner estimated that only Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, John Elway and Emmitt Smith make more in endorsement revenue among active NFL players.

League figures show the Steeler quarterback can move merchandise. The most recent numbers from NFL Properties Inc., the leagues’ marketing arm, confirm that Stewart’s jerseys are a top-10 seller.

Making it that far up the merchandiser’s hit list is an accomplishment, said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy. NFL Properties licenses more than 1,000 products made by 275 manufacturers.

Pittsburgh finished as the fifth-largest draw among NFL-licensed merchandise from April 1, 1997, through March 31.

Only gear representing Green Bay, Dallas, San Francisco and Denver was more popular with consumers.

Murray Coleman writes for the Pittsburgh Business Times.

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