Tonight, Monday Night Football matches two teams in the midst of underwhelming starts to their seasons. The Detroit Lions (0-3) will try to get off the schneid against the Seattle Seahawks (1-2). Both teams have experienced early disappointments, but the Seahawks received a gift last week when star safety, Cam Chancellor, returned from his highly publicized holdout. Though both teams have struggled, each possess the talent to attract viewers. Detroit has veteran QB Matthew Stafford, rookie standout Ameer Abdullah, and Calvin Johnson, the past decade’s most dominant receiver. The Seahawks are also stacked with talent, including Marshawn Lynch, lock-down corner Richard Sherman, and signal-caller Russell Wilson. Wilson has led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, including a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII.
For this week’s Monday Matchup, opendorse studied the off-field production of the night’s top marketing stars — Calvin Johnson and Russell Wilson.
After two All-American seasons at Georgia Tech, Calvin Johnson was selected 2nd overall by the Detroit Lions in 2007. Not long into his NFL career, Johnson was coined “Megatron” by teammate Roy Williams and the nickname stuck. Megatron was one of the only bright spots for a Lions franchise in the late 2000s that experienced limited success, including a winless season in 2008. In 2012, Detroit rewarded Megatron with a mega-contract worth $132 million over eight years. At the time, the contract was one of the largest in sports. The following season, Johnson earned every bit of that contract en route to breaking the NFL single-season receiving record with 1,964 yards.
Prior to his record-setting season, Megatron was selected to grace the cover of the EA Sports Madden 13 video game. Many Lions fans feared for the worst due to the infamous Madden curse. Johnson went on to break the curse, finishing the season with more yards than any receiver in NFL history. Aside from EA Sports, Johnson also has his own line of Nike football cleats and a partnership with Eastbay. As seen below, in 2012, Johnson starred in a spot for the Acura TL to showcase “aggression in its most elegant form.” Johnson may not be a marketing mega-star, but he definitely possesses the skills to be one. His dominance on the gridiron, the Megatron persona, and a clean public image provide marketers all they need to keep the endorsement opportunities coming.
Much has been made about Russell Wilson’s off-field earning potential. The 2014 Super Bowl champ has maintained a squeaky-clean image that, when paired with an unprecedented winning percentage and a high level of on-field production, produces one of the NFL’s most marketable products. Well-spoken and no stranger to the big stage, Wilson is the athlete of a marketer’s dreams.
Wilson has quickly become one of the most recognizable stars in sports. From commercials for Bose, to teaming up with YouTube megastars Dude Perfect to show off his trick shot skills, Russell Wilson is a positive publicity machine. Earlier this year, Wilson extended his contract with Alaska Airlines and was promoted to CFO — Chief Football Officer. Marketers have capitalized on Wilson’s celebrity status and have made him one of the highest earning endorsers in football. At this point, the Russell Wilson endorsement train looks to be an unstoppable force for years to come.