By: Kim Donahue
The world of professional sports can be very lucrative for the leagues, the team owners, the players, and the sponsors. The compensation comes in many forms both tangible and intangible. In the August 19 edition of the Indianapolis Business Journal, Anthony Schoettle wrote an informative and thought-provoking piece, “Playing Catch(up).” The article examined the absence of major endorsement deals for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Colts fans have embraced Luck (although we still feel the pain of Peyton Manning’s exit to the Denver Broncos), but many don’t realize how invisible our quarterback is on the national stage.
Luck has some national affiliations with Gatorade, Nike, Quaker Oats, and EA Sports (a commercial cameo). However, less than 40 percent of American consumers know who Andrew Luck is. This is not good for his personal brand, or by extension, the Colts brand. So why isn’t Luck more widely known?
Luck’s personal marketing strategy has been to stay local as he concentrates on football. He just signed a deal with Klipsch ( Indianapolis Star, 8/20/13), an Indianapolis based corporation, and he has been very active with local non-profits such as Riley Hospital for Children and Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library. As he builds this base, on and off the field, he will be ready to explode into national recognition. The question is: Is this a good strategy?
If you look through the eyes of big-city movers and shakers, they would probably say, “No, it’s not a good strategy.” In football, players never know when an injury might end a career. They need to strike while the iron is hot, as the saying goes. Cash in on your ability while you can (as Washington Redskins quarterback RGIII has). Interestingly, people who don’t follow the NFL closely don’t realize how much ability Luck has. Non-sports fans typically learn an athlete’s name from endorsements and public appearances.
In the early stages of Luck’s career, many have compared the second-year quarterback to veteran Peyton Manning. It’s a natural comparison. While Luck opted to fly under the radar, Manning was everywhere—commercials, magazines, and interviews. His endorsements continue today, but they appear to have slowed. I don’t think all of Manning’s deals have been good ones. Have you seen the latest Manning brothers commercial / video? Kinda creepy.
I do, however, like Luck’s strategy. As I have discussed in a previous blog, fan loyalty is huge in professional sports. By starting with a strong local and regional strategy, Andrew Luck is building his fan base. It is a fan base that was emotionally hurt when Manning left and is cautious about offering their loyalty to someone else. But it’s almost impossible to hold back from supporting and cheering for Luck. What is it about this guy? Aside from his incredible field presence and smarts, he seems like a genuinely nice guy with whom you’d love to have a conversation (see BleacherReport, 9/4/12). Luck is well spoken, and he demonstrates a sense of humor, is authentic, and actually engages with people. His humble, “down-home” personality resonates with those of us in the Heartland. It also has helped Luck to become a media favorite; they enjoy spending time with him. That alone will increase his exposure.
This year, I expect Luck’s on-the-field statistics will elevate him into national recognition among NFL fans. I expect his personality will increase his recognition among the rest of America as more big-name endorsement deals come his way. After all, what’s not to like about Andrew Luck?