The San Diego Chargers (2-2) welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) into Qualcomm Stadium for a Monday night battle between two .500 teams. As both teams have undefeated leaders in their respective divisions, each needs a victory in order to keep pace in the standings.
The Pittsburgh Steelers enter this matchup following an overtime loss to the Ravens last Thursday. That game was the first start of the season for Michael Vick in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger. Vick has a share of weapons at his disposal with Le’Veon Bell in the backfield and Antonio Brown split out wide. Vick may also gain the services of another receiver, Martavis Bryant, who has sat out the first four games due to suspension but is questionable tonight due to injury.
The Chargers are in the same boat as Pittsburgh as they hope to gain a boost from a player returning from suspension. Antonio Gates, the longtime Charger and All-Pro tight-end, was suspended for the first four games and will make his season debut tonight in San Diego. The San Diego offense has been strong through the first four games due to the success of Phillip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Melvin Gordon and Stevie Johnson. Rivers enters the game as the NFL’s leading passer, and with the addition of a quality tight-end in Gates, the San Diego offense will look to improve on what has been an impressive start to the season. The defense on the other hand, has struggled, resulting in the fourth-most points allowed per game this season.
For this week’s Monday Matchup, opendorse studied the off-the-field production of tonight’s top marketing stars – Antonio Brown and Stevie Johnson.
Antonio Brown’s path to the NFL was an interesting one. After failing to qualify at Florida State, Brown ultimately walked-on at Central Michigan. Brown did not disappoint. Within a few weeks, the coaching staff offered him a full-ride scholarship. After two All-American seasons, Brown declared for the NFL following his junior year. Brown fell in the draft until he was selected in the 6th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 195th pick. Since his late round selection, Brown has gone on to break multiple NFL records and was a first-team All-Pro selection last season and has received three Pro-Bowl selections over his young career.
Antonio Brown may not be the first athlete that comes to mind when thinking of marketing stars, but the wide receiver has put together an impressive list of endorsements throughout his short time in the league. Brown got his first taste of endorsement success in 2011 when he took part in a cheesy commercial for Uncle Charley’s, a sausage company in Pennsylvania. Last year, Brown teamed up with athletic sock startup, Strideline, and showcased their socks in OTA’s during the offseason.
In the past year, Brown has seen a big bump in endorsements opportunities. FanDuel came calling and now offers a “Antonio Brown League” for members to join. Antonio was also featured in EA Sports’ epic Madden trailer that actually turns into a short action flick. The most well-known of all came when Antonio played a role in NFL Fantasy Football’s campaign, including TV ad’s that show how hard it is for friends to talk when they aren’t discussing fantasy football. Antonio has continued to produce on the field and has shown that he has value to marketers. As long as his production continues and image remains clean, Antonio Brown has many endorsement dollars ahead of him.
Johnson’s path to the NFL is similar to that of Brown. Stevie attended Chabot College in California for two seasons before transferring to Kentucky. During his senior year, Johnson surpassed 1,000 yards receiving and collected 13 touchdown receptions. Similar to Brown, Johnson was also a late round draft selection. The Buffalo Bills chose Johnson in the 7th round, 224th overall.
During his six years with the Bills, Johnson was fined four times by the NFL for excessive celebrations. One celebration occurred against the Patriots where Johnson imitated a minuteman holding a rifle and then falling backwards pretending to be shot. Another happened against the Bengals when Johnson scored a touchdown and held up his jersey with the writing, “Why so serious?” written on his undershirt, in response to Bengals stars, Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson, who referred to themselves as Batman and Robin. A year after signing a 5-year contract with the Bills, Johnson was traded to the 49ers. After being released during this past off-season, Johnson signed with the San Diego Chargers.
Johnson’s behavior and celebrations may have turned some companies away, but that hasn’t stopped other brands from capitalizing on his polarizing personality. Stevie joined Marshawn Lynch and Chandler Parsons as endorsers for the luxury underwear brand, PSD Underwear, and in 2012, Skullcandy teamed with Johnson to endorse their premium headphone collection. FanDuel is the latest endorsement for Johnson after they created a “Stevie Johnson League” for his fans to take part in on the fantasy sports website.