- Associated Press - Thursday, February 3, 2011

NEW YORK | By Sunday night, Ben Roethlisberger could be in rarefied company as a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback.

Yet even if he joins the likes of superstar Tom Brady and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, marketing experts say the Steelers QB probably won’t overcome his off-the-field notoriety — including two sexual assault accusations — and pick up the flurry of endorsements NFL champs typically enjoy.

“You don’t build back trust with a one-game performance, even if it’s the Super Bowl,” said Bill Glenn, senior vice president of the Dallas-based sports-business firm The Marketing Arm. “I’d be surprised if there’s a long line outside his agent’s office even if he wins MVP.”

Roethlisberger has had a minimal presence in advertising since he was accused in March of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old college student — the second time since 2008 that he faced assault allegations. Georgia authorities declined to bring charges, but he received a four-game suspension at the start of this season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

His sturdy play since his return, particularly in the playoffs, has won back the hearts of some Pittsburgh fans who had soured on him. But nationally, according to marketing experts, his image remains tarnished, and he needs more time to rehabilitate it.

“The best thing Mr. Roethlisberger can do is have a very quiet week off the field and a very loud week on the field,” said Kevin Adler, CEO of the Chicago-based sports consulting firm Engage Marketing.

Even with a championship, Adler said, “there’s a significant percentage of corporate America that would a still be a little gun-shy.

“But with good game and a quiet offseason, there’s an opportunity to develop a maturation of his brand in the future.”

The challenge facing Roethlisberger is starkly illustrated in the so-called N-Scores which the Nielsen Co. compiles to rate athletes’ endorsement potential based on their appeal, name recognition and other factors. His score has plummeted from above 140 in 2008 to 24 in the wake of the assault cases; by comparison, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ score is 39 and Peyton Manning’s is 262.

A comparable rating system run by The Marketing Arm — the Davie Brown Index — shows Rodgers ahead of Roethlisberger in endorsement potential and trust, even though the Steeler star is better known.

Chris Anderson, a Marketing Arm spokesman, said Roethlisberger’s trust levels were on par with celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Allen Iverson and Kim Kardashian.

John Sweeney, a professor of sports communication at the University of North Carolina’s School of Journalism, noted that Roethlisberger — even pre-scandal — was never in Manning’s league as a pitchman.

He won deals to represent a barbecue sauce, a Pittsburgh auto dealership and a beef jerky brand, although that company dropped him last year. He also remains on the roster of athletes signed by Nike to wear its gear, although Nike confirmed it hasn’t used him in recent advertisements.

“When people talk about marketability with Ben, how far is he going to fall anyway?” Sweeney asked. “He’s not a huge player in the huge sponsorship market, so there’s not as much that’s threatened.”

Sometimes, there’s a marketing niche for athletes with edgy reputations.

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