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Ravens Won't Dominate Endorsements Like Super Bowl

Bloomberg News Service
January 29, 2001

The Baltimore Ravens' defense was good enough to win the Super Bowl, but not personable enough to win any players a big endorsement contract, analysts said.

"It was a Super Dud as far as pitchmen are concerned," said Scott Becher, president of Sports and Sponsorships, a consultancy in Coral Gables, Florida. "It was like a game of 'Survivor' where everyone got thrown off the island."

The Ravens, who beat the New York Giants 34-7 in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday to win the National Football League championship, didn't produce a hero big enough to make an effective salesman, analysts said.

Even the game's Most Valuable Player, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, is a problem to potential advertisers because of his connection to a double murder in Atlanta after the 2000 Super Bowl.

Lewis was charged with stabbing two men to death after a party. Prosecutors dropped the charges in exchange for a guilty plea to obstruction of justice and testimony against two other suspects.

"The public and corporate America are generally really forgiving, but it will be dicey for companies to go full out with him," said Rick Burton, head of the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center.

Walt Disney Co. didn't hire Lewis, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year, to do its annual post-Super Bowl "I'm going to Disney World" commercial, and General Mills Inc. didn't include him on its Wheaties cereal box honoring the team.

Winning Combination
The best athlete endorsers have excellent name recognition, are likeable, have a compelling story and play big in championship games, analysts said.

Some Ravens players came to the forefront in the game -- Brandon Stokley caught a 38-yard touchdown pass and Jermaine Lewis scored on an 83-yard kickoff return -- but neither did enough to make himself a star, he said.

"Being the best in football lends credibility to the product you're promoting, that it too is the best," Burton said. "This Super Bowl didn't have any heroes that can make that association."

Last year's championship game produced a made-to-order hero in St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, who passed for a record 414 yards and two touchdowns to defeat the Tennessee Titans 23-16.

Warner's History
Five years before he was working as a clerk in a grocery store. He played in the Arena Football League, joined the Rams as a backup and took over when the starting quarterback got injured just before the season.

He made about $1 million in endorsements last year, said Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports Inc., a company that hires athletes as endorsers.

This year's game didn't produce as captivating a story as Warner, analysts said.

"No one's going to point to these guys and say, 'Oh, that's the Rams' quarterback, what a great story that culminated with a Super Bowl trophy," said David Carter, principal owner of Sports Business Group, a marketing consultant agency in Los Angeles.

Giants quarterback Kerry Collins, who overcame alcohol dependency to lead the Giants to the NFL championship this year, had the potential to attract advertisers' attention, except he threw four interceptions and couldn't get the Giants' offense inside the Ravens' 29-yard line.

"People would have identified with his problems, with his human frailty," Becher said.

One Possibility
Though analysts said most of the players in this year's Super Bowl will only be able to get local endorsement contracts, several said Ravens' 360-pound defensive tackle Tony Siragusa is the one player who may potentially break from the pack.

During the week preceding the game, Siragusa joked during press conferences and demonstrated humility in being able to laugh at himself, analysts said.

"As I look back not only on the game, but the week, he clearly stands out," Becher said. "He'd be perfect for Campbell's Chunky Soup, and they're already an NFL sponsor."