Vikings QB Bridgewater has marketing smarts
Madison Avenue long has adored NFL quarterbacks, and Teddy Bridgewater figures he has what it takes to get some of that love.
“Of course, I feel I can be that guy,” Bridgewater said. “With my personality, I just feel that’s something I can definitely do.”
Despite being just the No. 32 pick in the NFL draft in May, Bridgewater is off to a good marketing start. Thanks to his success at the University of Louisville, No. 5 had the fourth-best selling NFL jersey among rookies the week after he was selected.
Bridgewater already has endorsement deals with Cadillac, Nike and several trading card companies. Guiding him along the way has been his business manager, Abe Elam, an NFL defensive back from 2006-12 who developed a relationship with Bridgewater several years ago helped by both being South Florida natives.
“I believe he’s a very marketable guy,” Elam said. “The most important thing now is for Teddy to focus on what he does on the football field and how he carries himself. But I think if he does those things, a lot of opportunities will be open for him.”
When training camp gets underway July 25, Bridgewater will battle Matt Cassel and, to a lesser extent, Christian Ponder for the starting job. No doubt the advertising world will be paying attention.
Bridgewater’s apparel deal with Nike includes the gloves he wears during games. No doubt the company would be pleased seeing the rookie on the field.
“He might be selling gloves,” Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said.
“His personality is great. He’s always smiling. He’s always happy. He’s a great guy, and you need that in marketing.”
Patterson, too, is known for his gregarious personality, and is considered a rising star. But he lamented, “Quarterbacks always get the good deals.”
Yes, they do. Marketing mavens at the NFL’s premier position include established stars Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, and young guys making big strides are Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton.
Unless your name is Johnny Manziel, it helps to win in the NFL and put up big numbers before the deals really start arriving. So how good of a player he becomes ultimately will determine how much success Bridgewater has off the field.
Bridgewater’s most high-profile marketing moment actually came a few days before he was drafted by the Vikings. He was featured in a 7½-minute online film made by Spike Lee that concluded with Cadillac providing a pink Escalade for Bridgewater to give to his mother, Rose Murphy.
Murphy is a breast cancer survivor. Bridgewater had revealed on Dan Patrick’s national radio show early this year he promised when he was 9 such a car would be hers when he made the NFL.
“One of our guys from the agency heard that and said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t this be a cool thing for us to get involved with?’ ” said Cadillac advertising director Craig Bierley. “It was a really compelling human interest story of a young man and a promise he made to his mother and a story of her triumph over breast cancer.”
Bierley said an Escalade costs in thousands of dollars from the “upper 60s to the mid-80s.” The money looks to have been wisely spent by Cadillac considering all the national coverage the event got, including by “Good Morning America.”
Bierley said Cadillac used Bridgewater with his mother as a one-time deal because it was such a compelling story, but that Bridgewater has signed a short-term contract with the company to make some personal appearances. Bierley said it has not been Cadillac’s strategy to use celebrities in endorsement campaigns, but he sees Bridgewater as having the personality to be effective in marketing, regardless of the company.
“He’s an incredibly likable guy,” Bierley said. “He’s a terrific young man with a promising future.”
Bridgewater originally had been projected to go much higher in the draft, including possibly No. 1, before a bad pro day in March torpedoed those chances. Dropping to the last pick of the first round likely cost him some immediate endorsement dollars in addition to salary.
Still, Bridgewater, who signed a four-year, $6.85 million contract with a fifth-year option, was one of the most popular players drafted. The only players ranking ahead of him in initial rookie jersey sales were Manziel, taken No. 22 by Cleveland, St. Louis defensive end Michael Sam, a seventh-round pick and the first openly gay player drafted by the NFL, and Houston defensive end Javeon Clowney, the top selection.
Now, Bridgewater must do the job on the field. The Vikings are expecting that eventually will happen.
“He’s the future face of your organization, so that’s the hope,” said wide receiver Greg Jennings, who once caught passes in Green Bay from endorsement stars Brett Favre and Rodgers. “He’s definitely going to be marketable, but that’s something that Teddy’s going to have to be comfortable with.
“Just talking to him, once he gets comfortable around the people he’s with, he’s all smiles and he speaks very well. And he’s a quarterback, so that’s given him a jump start.”