Vernon Davis spent nine seasons playing tight end for the San Francisco 49ers. After being traded to the Denver Broncos in November, he found himself having to transition to not only a new team, but a vastly different city.
Fans will now get a peek into what the move was like for the tight end, who heads to the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, thanks to a new three-part digital series on AOL called "The Ultimate Crossover." The entire project is in partnership with Lexus.
"Some of the things that I was able to do with them, going to different restaurants, going to the art museum, experiencing Denver for what it was, it made me cognizant for what Denver has to offer," said Davis. "It was a great opportunity for Lexus, and a great opportunity for me."
During the season, football is the main priority for Davis. But it doesn't mean that he can't start prepping himself for a post-football career, which makes it important for him to build his personal brand outside of what he does on the field.
"Whenever we're doing something, there always has to be a platform for doing something else," Davis said. "You always have to have goals and visions."
Of course turning athletes into brands is nothing new, New York Giants quarterback Frank Gifford sold Lucky Strike cigarettes in the early 1960s when smoking was still cool; Joe Namath promoted pantyhose and shaving cream to appeal to both women and men. But making an athlete a trusted brand these days is a much more complex and complicated endeavor than simply putting him or her in front of a camera for a 30-second commercial.
Today, social media like Twitter and Facebook and digital video platforms make it easier to share a curated personality. And, Davis is clearly been thinking about his brand: In 2014, he was the first athlete to debut with Fantex, an exchange where people can trade securities tied to athletes' worth. He's also got 889,000 followers on Instagram and 1.96 million followers on Twitter. Add to that more than 686,000 likes on Facebook.
"It's about creating another career outside your athletic career," said Ted Murphy, CEO of online marketing firm Izea, which has worked with Davis in the past. "These guys are smart enough to know they are only one big injury from being out of the game. They have a limited time frame to deal with their fame."