Remembering—and Cashing In On—The Titans: Former NFL Players Still Play the Endorsement Game

Remembering—and Cashing In On—The Titans: Former NFL Players Still Play the Endorsement Game

Everyone has their favorite NFL player, but what happens when gridiron greats call it a career and look for the next opportunity? With the Super Bowl fast approaching, Nielsen has taken a look at how former NFL players rank alongside others and how they’re leveraging their years of hard hits and on-field heroics—to endorse brands and make an impact.

Marketers looking to engage consumers consider factors like success, influence and likeability to see who will be the best fit for their campaigns, presenting them with potential marketing opportunities that will score big and make a touchdown.

“Life after the NFL takes a lot of players off the field and onto the screen, endorsing products and services that highly influence their fans’ buying decisions,” said Stephen Master, senior vice president, sports, Nielsen. “We are seeing a trend over the past couple of years in which many of our corporate clients use analytical models that provide far more analytical rigor to the process of choosing a spokesperson and how it aligns with their brand than we ever have in the past.”

According to Nielsen Talent Analytics, of the top 30 highest ranked NFL players by N-Score—which evaluates the endorsement potential of athletes, actors and celebrities—more than half (17) of them are retired.

Joe Montana, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has the highest N-Score of all retired players (81 out of 100), the same score as current NFL player, Peyton Manning. What’s more is that 89% of U.S. respondents said they were aware of Montana, and 48% of those aware of him rate him influential. Michael Strahan, Dan Marino and Brett Favre, all retired players, aren’t far behind, with N-Scores of 77.

While influence is important to look at, so are views of success. Favre, Montana and Marino are viewed to be more successful than the rest; 46% of those aware of Favre find him influential, and 43% and 44% have the same view of Montana and Marino.

Joe Namath, who played for the New York Jets for most of his professional football career and is now 72, and still holds considerable sway over young and old alike. Roughly half of those who know of him (44%) find him influential, which remains consistent from teenagers (46%) to Boomers and beyond (43%).  Men over the age of 55 are particularly likely to respect Namath, with 80% of those aware considering him successful.

Michael Strahan has a notable endorsement portfolio, and with an N-Score of 77, it’s not surprising that so many brands are looking to team up with the former New York Giants defensive end. Strahan, who went from sacking QBs to a hosting a morning talk show, has pitched products from sandwiches to soda.

Montana was recruited to appear in commercials for Papa Johns with fellow NFL players Manning and Marino, and has also appeared in phone commercials with Bo Jackson and other NFL athletes. Favre has endorsed a variety of products for companies ranging from jeans and tennis shoes to cars and retail establishments.

Bo Jackson is another notable former NFL player who is no stranger to the endorsement game. Jackson, is well known by many for being the only athlete to be named an all-star in two major sports, football and baseball. Jackson, who has an N-Score of 73, has also endorsed a variety of products including sports apparel and tennis shoes.

On and off the field, NFL players are considered influential by many, and some retired NFL players have stayed in the spotlight with endorsements, making sure that their career and image continues to be recognized, while boosting the image of iconic brands.