Roethlisberger Jersey Sales Come To A Halt
CNBC Sports Business Reporter
Ben Roethlisberger's biggest hit this season has been the marketing hit he has taken on the shelves.
CNBC has obtained the latest list of top NFL jersey sales from April through October on NFLShop.com and Roethlisberger is nowhere to be found among the top 25.
The last time he was out of the top 25 was early September of his rookie season six years ago, before he was made the Pittsburgh Steelers starting quarterback.
Roethlisberger began last season ranked fifth in jersey sales and finished the year at No. 11, according to data from NFLShop.com, the league's official store. But after he was accused of sexual assault in Milledgeville, Ga., sales started to precipitously drop off. Charges were never filed in the case, but Roethlisberger was suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the 2010-11 season for violation of the league's personal conduct policy.
"A lot of fans have had it with Ben," said one sports marketing executive. "There was the motorcycle accident in 2006, another accusation of sexual assault in Lake Tahoe in 2008 and now this. And some of it has to do with the fact that the (Steelers owners) Rooneys don't really tolerate this behavior."
In the offseason, Roethlisberger lost a deal with PLB Sports, which made his endorsed beef jerky. Nike hasn't used him in advertising, but hasn't dropped him either. A company official told CNBC on Thursday that he is still under contract with the brand.
While production quantities might have been scaled down, the league still offers a wide array of Roethlisberger jerseys on its Web site -- in home and away, men's and women's sizes as well as those for kids and toddlers.
He's 3-1 in his four starts this year, with six touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Charges of sexual assault were filed in 2003 against Kobe Bryant, but he never fell out of the top 10 in NBA jersey sales, falling as low as 10 for the 2003-04 season. After the civil case was settled and the criminal case was dropped, Bryant began an ascent to the top of the jersey sale list again, driven by his play and a change of his jersey number from 8 to 24. Bryant has had the best-selling jersey in the league in the US, Europe and China for two years in a row.
Also missing from the jersey list is Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, who has rotated with Kevin Kolb as starter this year. Vick jersey sales last offseason soared and gave him a season starting ranking of No. 4 in sales, but it appears like the market for his jerseys might have been the fans who bought the once-maligned quarterback's jersey last offseason.
So what jersey is selling well?
How about Tim Tebow's Broncos jersey, which is still number one in the league even though the Florida Gators great has barely played.
He has run for two touchdowns this season, but has yet to throw a pass.
If Tebow finishes the year on top, he'll be the first rookie since the league began compiling its list that would finish the year at the No. 1 spot.
At No. 3 in jersey sales is Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, who seems to be picking up the slack from Roethlisberger. That spot is a rare feat for a defensive player. And while fans might not be buying Roethlisberger jerseys, they are purchasing product. The Steelers rank second in the league in merchandise sales, according to NFLShop.com.
Off the field issues haven't seem to hurt Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, who comes in at No. 5.
Despite a putrid 1-7 start, three Cowboys are in the top 25 of jersey sales: Miles Austin (No. 8), Tony Romo (No. 10) and Jason Witten (No. 16). The Cowboys, in fact, lead the league in merchandise sales.
The Giants and Jets have gotten off to good 6-2 starts, but fans seemingly haven't been as motivated to make the cash register ring. The Giants rank fourth in the league in merchandise sales this season, while the Jets rank No. 10. The Giants only jersey in the top 25 is Eli Manning (No. 12), while the Jets have Mark Sanchez (No. 11) and Darrelle Revis (No. 22).
Of interest on the list is how far running backs have fallen. Often good for at least one top 10 spot, the top running back in jersey sales is Minnesota Vikings back Adrian Peterson at No. 15. Two others -- Chris Johnson (No. 18) and Ray Rice (No. 21) are in the top 25.
Every team that is in the top 10 of merchandise sales has at least one player with a jersey in the top 25. But it's amazing to see how far the Chicago Bears have fallen. Sure, the team is a respectable sixth in overall merchandise sales on NFLShop.com, but its best selling jersey is linebacker Brian Urlacher, who comes in at No. 24.
TOP 25 BEST SELLING JERSEYS-COMPLETE LIST
Here's the complete list of the top 25 best selling jerseys from NFLShop.com from April 1-Oct. 31, 2010.
1. Tim Tebow, Broncos
2. Drew Brees, Saints
3. Troy Polamalu, Steelers
4. Peyton Manning, Colts
5. Brett Favre, Vikings
6. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
7. Tom Brady, Patriots
8. Miles Austin, Cowboys
9. Donovan McNabb, Redskins
10. Tony Romo, Cowboys
11. Mark Sanchez, Jets
12. Eli Manning, Giants
13. Desean Jackson, Eagles
14. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals
15. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
16. Jason Witten, Cowboys
17. Philip Rivers, Chargers
18. Chris Johnson, Titans
19. Patrick Willis, 49ers
20. Sam Bradford, Rams
21. Ray Rice, Ravens
22. Darrelle Revis, Jets
23. Chad Ochocinco, Bengals
24. Brian Urlacher, Bears
25. Wes Welker, Patriots
Here's the complete list of the top 10 best selling team merchandise from NFLShop.com from April 1-Oct. 31, 2010.
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
3. New Orleans Saints
4. New York Giants
5. Denver Broncos
6. Chicago Bears
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. Washington Redskins
9. Green Bay Packers
10. New York Jets
Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com