Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may not beat his Green Bay Packers counterpart Aaron Rodgers in endorsements, earning potential and popularity even if his team wins the Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger’s past -- he started the season with a four-game suspension for violating the National Football League’s personal conduct policy after two sexual assault allegations -- overshadows his on-field performance, according to firms who match celebrities with endorsements.
Rodgers, who won his first playoff game this season, leads Roethlisberger in appeal, trust and endorsement potential, according to the Davie Brown Index, which helps advertisers track the marketability of celebrities. The Packers and Steelers play Feb. 6 for the NFL title in Arlington, Texas.
“There’s about a 30 percent spread between him and Rodgers on trust alone,” said Bill Glenn, senior vice president at Dallas-based The Marketing Arm, which compiles the index. “Consumer marketing is all about trust. And if athletes don’t, on and off the field, create a degree of trust, it’s going to be a very hard road for them.”
Brady, Favre Lead
Roethlisberger, 28, who has been on two Super Bowl-winning teams, scored higher than Rodgers on the index overall because of name recognition. He trails three-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots; Brett Favre, Rodgers’s predecessor with Green Bay who announced he was retiring for the third time last month; and Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Namath, Roger Staubach, John Elway and Troy Aikman. The top-ranked quarterbacks are Joe Montana, who won four Super Bowls with the San Francisco 49ers, and Terry Bradshaw, who led the Steelers to four titles in the 1970s. Bradshaw last played in 1983; Montana in 1994.
Rodgers, 27, has the most to gain from a Super Bowl victory, said David Schwab, who manages Octagon’s First Call division connecting celebrities with Fortune 500 companies. Favre, the third-ranked quarterback in the index, led the Packers to the championship after the 1996 season and started every game for Green Bay from the 1993 through the 2007 seasons.
Reaching the championship game will help place Rodgers’s name on short lists for marketing and sponsorship opportunities, Schwab said, similar to the way New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees landed commercials for companies including Verizon Communications Inc., Unilever NV’s Dove brand and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Vicks Nyquil after winning the Super Bowl’s most-valuable player award a year ago.
“Aaron has been overshadowed by the ghost of Brett Favre and the team never had the real attention with him as a quarterback,” Schwab said. “Now they do. I think Aaron is set up for NFL-themed marketing campaigns beginning next year, like what happened to Drew Brees.”
Even with a victory, Roethlisberger may not achieve Brees’s success, said Ty Ballou, chief executive officer of PLB Sports. The Pittsburgh food-products marketing company dropped “Big Ben’s Beef Jerky” last year after prosecutors said they wouldn’t charge the quarterback for an alleged sexual assault on a 20-year-old college student in a Milledgeville, Georgia, bar. The authorities said “significant questions” remained about what took place, and the company said in a statement that Roethlisberger was “falling short” of its standards.
Roethlisberger, who led the Steelers to Super Bowl victories after the 2005 and 2008 seasons, was also sued by a woman who said he raped her in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, in 2008, according to the Associated Press. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for the first six games of this season for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy and required a “comprehensive behavioral evaluation” before reducing the suspension to four games. The Steelers went 3-1 during Roethlisberger’s absence.
Roethlisberger has denied both allegations and declined to comment on the cases or his image in a news conference Jan. 31.
His agent, Bruce Tollner, didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment. Rodgers’s agent, David L. Dunn, didn’t return a telephone message.
In 2009, Sports Illustrated ranked Roethlisberger 47th on its “Fortunate 50” list of top-earning athletes, saying he earned $2.5 million in endorsements. Neither he nor Rodgers appeared on this year’s list. Rodgers’s official fan website, where athletes often list corporate partners, says it is “coming soon.”
“Ben will get other endorsement deals,” Ballou said. “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.”
A third Super Bowl win may increase Roethlisberger’s marketability in Pittsburgh faster than in the rest of the U.S., Glenn said. Since his last title, in which Roethlisberger threw the winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with less than a minute remaining, his off-field issues have caused his scores for attributes related to marketability to fall about 20 percent.
“His performance on the field is not going to make up for bad behavior off the field,” Glenn said. “There’s two things that are going to repair Ben’s marketability, and those are time and good behavior.”