Sunday, January 24, 2010

Slow Down on Marketing Mark Sanchez

Courtesy of Jessica Bader at The Perpetual Post, this article from The Atlantic hit the inbox yesterday.

Though it’s a quick article, here’s the synopsis:

Tony Lee likens New York Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to President Barack Obama. Yes, you read that correctly. Actually, he brings up the revelation in the recently-released “Game Change” how despite publicly showing support for now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, fellow Democrats in Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer were secretly rooting for Obama during the 2008 Presidential primaries. He ponders if NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may be secretly cheering for Sanchez and the Jets over the establishment that is the Peyton Manning-led Indianapolis Colts.

When Sanchez was drafted last April, quite a few business experts lined up at the door to espouse on how he can become a major boon to the NFL’s efforts in marketing the game to Latino communities across the country. Lee is just the latest person to add to this overall perspective.

Further, Lee said:

His marketing potential and reach dwarfs Manning's. And while commentators such as Rush Limbaugh have gotten in trouble for saying what I am about to suggest, that the NFL wants--needs--Sanchez to succeed even more because he's a Mexican-American who embraces his heritage. The NFL has had trouble attracting fans from America's fastest growing minority group, so NFL executives were probably joyous beyond belief at the future when the Jets drafted Sanchez. Surely, the Jets have often won in spite of Sanchez's rookie mistakes.

Now, as you expect to see from articles on the Internet, commenters ripped Lee’s assessment apart, so read them at your peril. Yet, in a less haughty rage, here’s are three issues with the article;

Potential versus reach: At this time, I give you that Sanchez's marketing potential dwarfs Peyton's, but disagree with the idea that the reach does. Potential is something unrealized and yet to be proven. If Sanchez has all this potential, then where's the reach when he just arrived on the scene and done little so far to suggest that he has earned the reach of Peyton other than being of part of a desired ethnic market?

Not only is Peyton the most omnipresent American sports figure as pitchman during the season, but his greatest impact has come in the offseason (that Sony has him alongside Justin Timberlake is a little strange. Might as well pair a player with Janet Jackson, right?) There isn’t another NFL player that appears in the number of national advertisements that he does nor has the league or Madison Avenue exactly picked out another one just yet.

Putting the cart before the horse, again: Too many stars have burnt out before they truly shined. Why we collectively continue to repeat this doomed history is simple; we spend more time immediately reacting to snapshots of people’s careers and lives than analyzing the body of work as time progresses.

In the duration of his career, not just a few games, Sanchez has to not only win, but play his butt off while doing so. He can't be marketable (at least outside of the NYC/NJ metro area) if he doesn't throw for 250, 300+ yards a game on a consistent basis.

Sanchez, if you haven’t heard, had a pretty rocky rookie campaign, something that other than those seasons for Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger, Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, is expected. Now, if he builds upon this by reversing that touchdown-to-interception ratio and making strides year after year, then Sanchez can capture some of this potential both on and off the field.

Yes, the Jets have to win. Nothing sells like a winner, right? Yet, these Jets are looked upon as one of those run-heavy, QB-don’t-screw-up, tough defensive teams that have won Super Bowls in the past. The 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and to an extent, the 2006 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2007 New York Giants fit those moulds (the latter teams had better aerial attacks, but they were better rushing offenses).

To appeal to a broader market, there has to be something exceptional for a marginal quarterback to become a sponsor’s dream. For starters, Sanchez can't be Rex Grossman (that's mandatory). Secondly, Pittsburgh’s Roethlisberger and the Giants’ Eli Manning are certainly two of the top ten QBs in the league, yet they have the advantages of being on two of the more popular teams in the league and for Eli, being Peyton’s brother helps.

If all Sanchez has to offer is his heritage, then, as Jessica Bader reminded her fellow Perpetual Post colleagues, why did the world forget that he wasn’t the only quarterback of Mexican decent playing last week? Leading to point #3;

Wait, the NFL doesn’t appeal to everybody?: Actually, the answer is a resounding no, but that’s stating the obvious. Yet, while Sanchez plays in a larger metropolitan area, it’s Tony Romo who plays for the league’s most beloved and reviled team. Yes, there’s a Mexican-American who plays the so-called most prestigious position in the National Football League; quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys.

Apparently, the league has used Romo in promotional efforts towards Hispanic markets. However, though, we walked though this path before, the only other reason why Romo is known nationwide is because of the tabloid coverage of his relationships with Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood.

That doesn’t sound like marketability at all.

Considering that only the federal government seems to have more of a presence in American media than the NFL, the fact that they need such a promotional push to the Hispanic community is admittedly surprising.

So I ask anyone who comes across Scribe to provide some insight because making assumptions about this topic would be foolish. In terms of that community, would it be logical to think that the league’s greatest pull is at least in the West Coast? Maybe broadcasting on unique Spanish-language channels would have helped the cause as opposed to hitting the SAP button? What’s your take?

Say What?!?!: NFL fans, enjoy today to the fullest extent. These are the games that are for us before the non-fans show up to ruin the Super Bowl.

Photo credits to the Newark Star-Ledger, Obsessed with Sports and ESPN.

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