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Manning, Bush: Marketing The NFL's Most Bankable

On the day the NFL season kicks off, we're running two stories on marketing of Reggie Bush & Peyton Manning. The New Orleans Saints running back will appear in 12 national spots (including promotional, non-paid commercials) this year, while the Colts' Manning will be doing his thing again--you'll see a series of fun spots coming out from the likes of Sprint and MasterCard today.

We sat down with IMG's Alan Zucker, who handles Manning's marketing and Mike Ornstein, Bush's marketing agent, to discuss the business endeavors of the league's most bankable stars.

Peyton Manning
AP
Peyton Manning

Me: Weird fact that I just researched. Peyton Manning was the only player in the top 10 in jersey sales last year that has played for the same team for more than eight years. And no offense, but the Colts jersey is among the most boring in the league. Just blue and white. Why is his jersey so popular?

Zucker: Well, I can tell you this. Wearing a Colts jersey doesn't offend too many people. If you live in Boston, you might have a problem with a Lakers jersey. If you live in LA, you might not like to see someone in a Miami Heat jersey. Being in Indy has helped him in that respect in that he really doesn't have too many natural rivals.

Me: Is Peyton doing too many deals?

Zucker: We don't feel that as an organization at IMG that he is doing too much and he doesn't feel like he's doing too much. He really feels like he can handle what he has and that the brands that he represents are not conflicting with each other.

Me: Why do you think people think that Peyton might be overexposed?

Zucker: When you turn on television on Sunday and you watch golf you see Tiger Woods who is representing the face of golf. When you turn on NASCAR on Sunday and you see Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., they're the representatives from that sport. Same thing with Peyton. He certainly isn't the only representative, but he's one of them and when you're on television quite a bit through the national game, through winning football games, you're going to see a lot of him.

Me: What's next for Peyton?

Zucker: Peyton is certainly the CEO of his own brand and he is the decision-maker in the end. When we have talked recently if there are things that comes up that he really fits what he's looking to do, then we explore it and take a look at it, but there's nothing right now actively that we're looking for. I will tell you this, we've turned down a couple of things when Peyton decides that it's not something that's the right fit for him or decides that it's not something that he wants to do then it doesn't get done.

Me: What happened after the Super Bowl victory?

Zucker: There was an onslaught of calls for different opportunities for Peyton off the field and it was great. He took a look at things that made sense. He sized them up and the ones he felt would be interested in for him personally and the ones he thought would help his brand are the ones he chose. One example was Saturday Night Live. That was something that he thought was interesting that he wanted to do personally, that he thought would enhance what he's doing off the field and it was something that he really enjoyed.

Me: What did SNL do for Peyton?

Zucker: What I think it did was it opened people's eyes to an audience where he normally wouldn't be at, so the viewers that are watching at 11:30 on a Saturday night that normally would be watching football saw Peyton in in a different light. And I think there was big female audience that might not watch pro football on a regular basis that saw it. Or the people that saw it on YouTube as well. So I think it was really good for him.

Reggie Bush
AP
Reggie Bush

Me: Mike, Reggie is everywhere. From adidas to Subway to Visa to Gold Toe Socks to Schutt Helmets to Fathead, how did this happen?

Ornstein: Well, let's go back for a minute. I think it all started the first night he got drafted and we flew into New Orleans. Joel Segal, his agent, myself and Reggie. And we were in a car with Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Peter said to Reggie, "You have the opportunity to be the most influential player in the history of the National Football League." Peter was talking about what Reggie could do for the city of New Orleans. Reggie didn't say anything until we got back to the hotel room that night. And then he said, "I want to do that." And that has been our plan from the beginning.

Me: So being in New Orleans didn't wind up hurting him from a marketing perspective?

Ornstein: No, it has helped him. Sponsors want to do things in New Orleans and Reggie has been a great spokesman for the sponsors. We just couldn't have written a better script. Last week was the two-year anniversary of Katrina and the city of New Orleans today is no better off than it was two years ago. So the need for corporate America to continue to work with the city with Pepsi who did a program called "Yard by Yard with Reggie," with Hummer, which gave cars to the police department and with adidas, which has donated through Reggie's programs over $200,000.

Me: It looks like the Beckham experiment for now is a bust, but what was it like for Reggie to be in that adidas commercial with Beckham?

Ornstein: The Beckham thing was very unique. About 175 million impressions was the last count I got from adidas on worldwide exposure. We got The London times, Bangladesh times, there was Reggie and Beckham in places that Reggie would have never gotten to.

Me: People say Peyton Manning is overexposed, but I'm starting to hear that about Reggie. What's your opinion?

Ornstein: I talked to Coach Madden, who I worked for the 70s about overexposure, doing too much with Reggie. And John said, "You don't know how long Reggie is going to be hot, how long he's going to play? I would do anything and everything you can do as long as the company he works with are classy companies."

Me: Reggie's jersey was the league's best seller. You guys said you would donate some money from the sales to New Orleans. Do you know how much?

Ornstein: I think we donated about $200,000 in royalties from the jersey sales.

Me: I know Reggie has an exclusive autograph deal with GTSM marketing in Hawaii, how's the signature market for him?

Ornstein: We've kind of slowed down signing for a while to get the market cleaned out a little bit. Reggie's a hot signature. When we go to a show there's 1,500 people on line to get his autographs

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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