Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is the most powerful athlete in America. And I’m not talking about his weight lifting ability or laser rocket arm.
According to Businessweek’s Power 100 list, Manning for the first time is No. 1 due to his “combination of athletic achievement plus the ability to connect with an audience on a deeper, more personal level.”
Manning was behind golfer Tiger Woods and basketball star LeBron James on last year’s list. But those players made some bad personal and/or marketing decisions last year.
Amazingly, Manning’s business stock is soaring as his playing days are waning. Some football analysts even suggested this season that Manning has lost some of his physical prowess on the gridiron.
But his marketability is as strong as ever. Manning makes about as much with his corporate deals—$15 million annually—as he does from playing.
Manning’s nearly unblemished mark for not making any personal or marketing missteps in his nearly 15 years in the public spotlight is as amazing as his streak of starting 200 plus consecutive games under center for the Colts.
Yes, there was an unfortunate locker room incident in college that Manning was involved in, but when you consider the recent negative press generated by the likes of Brett Favre, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burris and many other athletes, Manning’s reputation is amazingly unsullied.
Consider too in this day and age where everyone has a camera or video recorder on their cell phone, and Manning’s off-the-field record is even more amazing.
Even the much-beloved Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers got caught refusing to sign an autograph for a cancer survivor this month.
Manning is either one amazing person, or has some amazing handlers. Either way he’s one special case study of how to market an athlete over the lifespan of his career.
So with his stock going up, and his playing days winding down, you have to wonder what Manning will do when he hangs up his cleats. Most sports marketers believe Manning will be commercially viable as a pitchman and public speaker for decades after his playing career is done. Surely, there will be no shortage of job offers from television networks.
But if Manning’s mind stays as sharp as his image, he will likely find himself recruited heavily by NFL owners looking for a new offensive coordinator or even head coach. I would expect Colts owner Jim Irsay to be at the front of that line.