SBJ/20090126/Labor & Agents

Super Bowl moves two QBs back toward top endorsements

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was one of the most marketable athletes in America three years ago, when he won his first Super Bowl after only two years in the league. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner was even hotter nine years ago, when he became Super Bowl MVP with the St. Louis Rams after spending years toiling in obscurity in the Arena Football League and NFL Europe.

But after the glow of their Super Bowl successes faded, so did corporations’ interest in both athletes.

Roethlisberger was injured in a motorcycle crash in June 2006, four months after leading the Steelers to victory over the Seattle Seahawks. “He saw how things cooled off after his motorcycle accident,” recalled Ryan Tollner, Roethlisberger’s agent and a partner in Irvine, Calif.-based Rep 1 Sports Group.

Warner was still getting marketing deals for last year’s Super Bowl from brands such as Cadillac, Motorola and M&M Mars, who employed him for their events during game week in Phoenix. But corporations were supporting Warner more as a Super Bowl legend than as a current, hot athlete, said Rob Lefko, president of athlete marketing for Chicago-based Priority Sports & Entertainment, who handles Warner’s off-field work. (Priority founder Mark Bartelstein handles Warner’s playing contracts.)

Kurt Warner (bottom) and
Ben Roethlisberger won
Super Bowls, then
faced challenges.

“I think they thought he had a great career, but it was behind him,” Lefko said.

Now the phones are ringing again for both quarterbacks in a big way. Both Warner and Roethlisberger were scheduled to shoot ads for the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotions Board’s “Got Milk?” campaign. The ads are expected to run Super Bowl week, Lefko and Tollner said.

Despite the revived corporate interest, agents say both quarterbacks intend to take a wait-and-see approach, especially toward new deals.

“We’re evaluating a number of proposals at this time,” Lefko said. “In addition to the ‘Got Milk’ deal we discussed, we expect to finalize another deal with Walt Disney Co. this week and anticipate announcing a new book deal about Kurt and his family during Super Bowl week.” Warner got to recite the familiar “I’m going to Disney World” line after leading the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 2000.

Even in these recessionary times, where endorsement deals are hard to come by, Lefko said, Warner’s representatives don’t plan to jump at every offer before the big game. “We are considering everything, but in most cases we think we will be better off after the Super Bowl,” he said.

Roethlisberger, too, is focused on football and is not planning to make any quick deals, Tollner said. He will look at companies interested in a long-term partnership after the game.

“Ben was the youngest quarterback to win [a Super Bowl] when he won the first time,” Tollner said. “If you combine his regular-season wins and his playoff wins, he will have more wins than any quarterback in football in his first five seasons.”

“In terms of major, major endorsements, we are going to wait and be selective. If he wins, that puts him in a pretty elite category.”

 ROSENHAUS SIGNEES: Agents and brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus have signed Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith for representation. Rosenhaus also has signed Wake Forest wideout D.J. Boldin, the younger brother of Arizona Cardinals receiver and Rosenhaus client Anquan Boldin. Rosenhaus already represents four brother tandems in the NFL: Thomas and Julius Jones, Santana and Sinorice Moss, Marion and Dom Barber, and Jerome and Stockar McDougle.

Rosenhaus also signed Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas and Darius Butler, a cornerback from Connecticut.

 SCHLEGEL WOY SIGNS WILLIAMS: Schlegel Woy Management of Dallas has signed Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams for representation. Jordan Woy will be his primary agent. He was previously represented by CAA Sports.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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