Last night’s Hall of Fame Game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons kicked off the NFL’s annual ‘Enshrinement Week’. The Class of 2019 Hall of Fame (HOF) induction will take place tomorrow evening (8.3). For most NFL players, retirement means the end of lucrative marketing opportunities, but HOF inductees will find that a six (or seven) figure career awaits. The gold jacket represents the “gold standard” amongst pro football players – it also ensures an extension of the athlete’s commercial viability and immediately enhances their consumer marketability. Jordan Bazant, who is head of the sports talent division at WME, explained “players are commercially viable until they stop scoring touchdowns. Entering the Hall of Fame keeps the spotlight on the player in their post-playing days extending that window. The title ‘Hall of Famer’ also adds credence to a player’s message. They’re no longer just a former NFL star, they’re now recognized as an all-time great with these valuable brands attributes.”
Howie Long-Short: Commercial opportunities are greatest for the highest profile Hall of Famers, not necessarily the ones who accomplished the most on-field. As a result, those who played post 1990 receive the bulk of the work. Remember, the NFL didn’t offer an out-of-market television package that allowed fans to watch every game (and thus every player) until ’94. Believe it or not, there was a time when if a team wasn’t scheduled to play on Monday Night Football (or Thanksgiving) and wasn’t on the local team’s schedule, fans didn’t see it play.
Steve Rosner, co-founder of 16W Marketing, says that the most marketable HOFs will find a variety of potential options to engage in both their pro and college markets. “There will be a lot of opportunities to do appearances and corporate events. There will also be team and league sponsors looking to activate campaigns.” Part of the reason why retired players are attractive to brands is that an injury to a current star could derail a campaign. “Of course, there are always memorabilia deals to be had too.”
Rosner estimated that a retired player’s revenue opportunities could climb +50% to +70% in the first two years following induction before leveling off. Bazant, who represents Troy Aikman, Chris Carter & Marshall Faulk among others, didn’t dispute that a +50% increase could be achieved, but he said that it would take a less heralded player to enjoy that kind of jump. Players with the national visibility the three guys referenced have are unlikely to see a jump greater than +10% to +20% because the value of their brands were already strong to begin with.
The position the inductee played also impacts their post-career earning potential. The reason brands seek out quarterbacks is because while their teammates’ faces remain mostly anonymous behind facemasks, fans see the signal caller regularly being interviewed without a helmet on. Bazant said that a high-profile quarterback could still command enough work to rake in seven-figures in marketing deals annually. While the bar is lower for other positions, Rosner suggested that reaching the mid-to-high six figures remained feasible.
Fan Marino: This year’s HOF inductees are Champ Bailey, Tony Gonzalez, Ty Law, Kevin Mawae, Ed Reed, Pat Bowlen, Gil Brandt and Johnny Robinson. The average football fan likely knows the first five names on the list, Pat Bowlen was the influential owner of the Denver Broncos and Johnny Robinson was an all-pro safety for the Chiefs in the late 60’s/early 70’s, but it is Gil Brandt’s contributions to the league that will live on the longest. Brandt, the Cowboys VP of Player Personnel of 29 years, is credited with developing the talent evaluation process that ultimately led to the creation of the NFL Scouting Combine (and the selection of 9 HOFs). He’s also recognized as one of the first front office executives to use a computer in the player evaluation process and the first to use psychological testing to measure a player’s ability to respond under pressure.
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