Ben Roethlisberger has two Super Bowl rings and he’s heading for his third. But not many people are talking about the marketing bump he can receive if he joins an elite group of quarterbacks (Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and Tom Brady) that have won three titles.
That’s because Roethlisberger’s off-the-field troubles have completely taken him out of the marketing game.
Roethlisberger was accused of sexual assaultin 2008 and last March. Although neither resulted in charges Roethlisberger lost a marketing deal with PLB Sports, which made a beef jerky product he endorsed for five years, in April 2010. He has been on Nike’s roster since his rookie season, but the company hasn’t used him in advertising since they used him in a co-branded spot with Dick’s Sporting Goods in the summer of 2009. Those who did business with Roethlisberger also cringed when the quarterback got into a motorcycle accident in the summer of 2006.
One of the latest polls to survey the public about Roethlisberger was the folks at Nielsen/ E-Poll N-Score. Data from the company suggests that, as of its last poll on Dec. 30, 2010, 30 percent of the general public said they liked Big Ben, while 20 percent said they disliked him. The average athlete has 47 percent of the general public liking him or her, while only five percent of people, on average, dislike a particular athlete.
“A third Super Bowl appearance and possible win would rehabilitate him slowly but surely among fans and men,” said Gerry Philpott, CEO of E-Poll Market Research. “However, women have shown with Kobe, Tiger and Vick that they take a long time to forgive, if they ever forgive at all.”
Although he wasn’t charged in the alleged sexual assault case in Georgia last year, he became completely untouchable in the marketing world. As of May 2010, the folks at Davie-Brown Index said he had the appeal of troubled singer Amy Winehouse, the aspiration qualities of cycling cheat Floyd Landis, the endorsement qualities of Barry Bonds and the trust levels similar to Roger Clemens and Pete Rose.
“People didn’t like him, they didn’t trust him, they didn’t find him to be aspirational,” said the DBI’s Chris Anderson. “After last night’s performance his scores will be on the upswing, though it will be interesting to see just how much they bounce back.”
In a poll taken before the season, in which Roethlisberger was suspended for the first four games because of his conduct, Roethlisberger’s positive Q Score dropped 33 percent, while his negative Q Score rose 124 percent.
Henry Schafer of Marketing Evaluations, which produces the Q Scores, said he’s not so sure that on-the-field success will bring Roethlisberger more fans in the marketing world.
“He hasn’t really done much talking about the negative,” Schafer said. “And we’ve found that athletes that don’t do a good job of explaining what happened don’t recover as fast as those that do.”
UPDATE: Roethlisberger's agent Ryan Tollner disagrees that Roethlisberger is unmarketable, but acknowledges that his client doesn't care about scoring deals.
"Ben is not concerned with endorsement deals at this point, but he is deeply concerned with public perception," Tollner said. "A lot of guys don't care about how they are viewed. But Ben was raised well, has strong values and was faced with really horrible but false accusations."
Tollner doesn't think the polls taken last summer or at the beginning of the season reflect how people perceive his client today.
"It has already been a dramatic turnaround," Tollner said. "From the city of Pittsburgh to the local media, who named him the most cooperative Steelers player this year. "I know there is going to be an array of negative stories heading into Super Bowl coverage, but this guy has been working so hard to change public perception. Not by listening to a PR company or a publicist and not by doing a national sitdown, they all offered. He wants to win people back with the day to day interactions with them and that's what he has been doing."
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