By Barry Janoff
February 1, 2016: Cam Newton and Peyton Manning will be the two starting quarterbacks in Super Bowl 50.
They are also ranked among the most marketable players in the NFL.
Newton, who led the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record and then two post-season wins, topped all players with 24% of the vote. Manning, who missed six games for the Denver Broncos during the season due to injury, came in fourth with 10% of the vote, conducted mid-December through mid-January among the readers of NYSportsJournalism, as well as industry analysts contacted by NYSJ.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson came in second with 15%, New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was third with 14%.
New England Patriots teammates Tom Brady and Ron Gronkowski tied for fifth with 8% of the vote.
Newton earns about $11 million in endorsements, second among NFL players according to industry analysts. His deals include Under Armour, Dannon Oikos, Gatorade, Microsoft, Beats by Dre, GMC, Drakkar Essence, EA Sports and Belk.
Newton, who has 1.6 million likes on his Facebook page and 593,000 followers on Twitter, also is heavily involved with the Cam Newton Foundation, which "is committed to enhancing the lives of youth by addressing their educational, physical and social needs."
Win or lose in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, Newton will be busy. He has signed on to become host of I Wanna Be, the working title of an adventure-docu-series scheduled to air on Nickelodeon in 2016. The 20-episode series is slated to shoot during the NFL off-season.
“Time in the spotlight has made me realize the importance of creating positive messages to inspire the next generation," Newton said in a statement regarding his upcoming show and his work with the Foundation. "I’m very passionate about mentoring young people, and this show will be the perfect opportunity to help talented kids get the chance to pursue their dreams."
Manning leads all NFL players in endorsements, topping $12 million, from alliances that include Papa John's (for which he also owns a number of locations in and around Denver), Nationwide, Nike, DirecTV and Buick.
Even if he wins Super Bowl 50, Manning, 39, nearing the end of his illustrious career, does not have as much room for marketing growth as Newton, especially if the 26-year-old quarterback leads the Panthers to a victory on Super Bowl Sunday, according to industry analysts.
With at least another decade of NFL play in his future, the potential categories into which Newton could expand include travel, airlines, restaurants and insurance.
Wilson, who led the Seahawks to a win in Super Bowl XLVIII and then back to the Big Game in Super Bowl XLIX (losing to the Patriots), has deals with such companies as Nike, Alaska Air, Bose, Braun and Microsoft, earning an estimated $7 million in endorsements.
"Russell Wilson and Alaska Airlines go together like Seattle and 'hometown airline,'" Joe Sprague, svp-communications and external relations for Alaska Airlines, said in a statement when Wilson signed a five-year extension with the airline this past season.
"As Seattle's quarterback, he's an inspirational leader for our employees and for Seattle football fans across our route network. We can't wait to cheer him on this football season and for many years to come," said Sprague.
Beckham Jr., who just completed his sophomore NFL season, has a roster of endorsements that features Procter & Gamble (Head & Shoulders), Lenovo, Nike, Foot Locker, Roar Beverages, Dunkin' Donuts and EA Sports, where he appeared on the cover of Madden NFL 16 making his signature one-handed catch. His deals bring in about $4-$5 million.
“Odell Beckham Jr. is a true playmaker and a perfect fit for this year’s game,” Randy Chase, senior director of marketing for EA Sports, said in a statement. “He’s an unstoppable force out on the field, and the Madden NFL 16 cover is further vindication that the fans believe he’s a player to watch in the coming years.”
While Brady was making headlines due to "Deflate-Gate," he also was taking in an estimated $6 million in endorsements from Under Armour, Ugg and Tag Heuer.
However, Brady may have been outshone in the endorsement spotlight by Gronkowski, who appears in marketing for the likes of Nike, Visa, EA Sports, Monster Energy, Dunkin' Donuts, JetBlue and Capital One. He takes in about $5-$6 million from his deals.
Gronkowski has a "knack for breaking records and partying his way through the season," Monster Energy said in a statement. "He is one of those unique athletes whose popularity transcends team loyalties and is a favorite with fans throughout the league."
Aaron Rodgers this past season moved from Nike to adidas, signing a multi-year pact to endorse the company's football line. According to Mark King, adidas Group President, “It’s a bold statement when the best player in the biggest sport leaves our competitor to join our team. This is just the start, as we continue to reignite our brand in America.”
Rodgers also has appeared in numerous spots for State Farm, touting the insurance firm's "Discount Double Check" mantra. earns about $6 million from deals,
J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans earns about $7 million from endorsements that include Papa John's, Gatorade, Reebok, NRG Energy, Verizon,Wireless and American Family Insurance.
Marshawn Lynch rode appearances in the past two Super Bowls with the Seahawks — and in particular last year's "I'm here so I won't get fined" media day offering — to some $5 million in endorsements, including Pepsi, Skittles, XBox, Vita Coca, PSD and Stop Bugging Me Pest Contol.
He offers the most support and has the most to say, however, for his Fam 1st Family Foundation.
Luck, who dealt with injuries this past season with the Indianapolis Colts, made his endorsement mark in marketing including DirecTV, TD Ameritrade, Nike and BodyArmor.
Not only are these players among the best in the NFL, they also have the best-selling merchandise.
Newton showed one of the biggest sales improvements in the league, jumping from No. 43 to No. 22 among all players in sales of licensed merchandise, according to figures from NFL Players Inc., the marketing arm for the NFL Players Assn.
Among the players with the top-selling merchandise who also made the NYSportsJournalism list of Most Marketable NFL Players are Wilson (No. 1), Brady (No. 2), Rodgers (No. 3), Manning (No. 5), Watt (No. 6), Gronkowski (No. 8), Lynch (No. 13) and Luck (No. 15) of all NFL players in sales of licensed products from March 1-November 30, 2015, according to NFL Players Inc.
Among information shared by NFLPA:
• Brady leads in name and number T-shirts for men, women and kids; OYO Sports, Funko figurines, Skinit phone cases and collegiate co-branded products (Michigan)
• Brady is tied for first with Wilson, Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Beckham Jr. in kids’ toys and apparel, including Bleacher Creatures, Outerstuff and OYO Sports
• Beckham Jr. leads all players in Fathead sales
• Watt tops the list in drinkware from Boelter Brands and Tervis
• Rodgers is No. 1 in Bobblehead sales
NFL's Most Marketable Players
1. Cam Newton QB Carolina Panthers 24%
2. Russell Wilson QB Seattle Seahawks 15%
3. Odell Beckham Jr. WR New York Giants 14%
4. Peyton Manning QB Denver Broncos 10%
5. Tom Brady QB New England Patriots 8%
6. Rob Gronkowski TE New England Patriots 8%
7. Aaron Rodgers QB Green Bay Packers 7%
8. JJ Watt DB Houston Texans 7%
9. Marshawn Lynch RB Seattle Seahawks 4%
10. Andrew Luck QB Indianapolis Colts 3%
Also receiving votes: Drew Brees, Richard Sherman, Tony Romo, Eli Manning
Fans Don't Pass On Newton, Wilson, Brady, Manning NFL Merchandise