Rick Burton, a former chief marketing officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee and now a sports marketing professor at Syracuse, cited the NBA’s quirky Dennis Rodman and hot-tempered former soccer star Eric Cantona as examples.
“These athletes with controversial images sometimes end up in demand because they have the capacity to break through the clutter,” Burton said. “But I don’t think Roethlisberger wants to be an anti-hero. … I don’t think he wants to go down the ‘bad boy’ route.”
Burton suggested the Steelers quarterback may have different advantage.
“He actually may be more affordable, because he’s in recovery mode, recovering his brand, his reputation,” Burton said. “Companies may look at him as a lot cheaper than if Peyton Manning was winning the Super Bowl.”
Roethlisberger himself, during the run-up to Sunday’s game, has tried to deflect talk about his suspension and off-field problems.
“I want to be the guy people look up to,” he told reporters in Dallas. “I want to be that kind of husband, father and grandfather someday if I am lucky enough.”
Say what he will, the spotlight stays on him. A video of his outing Tuesday night, at which he treated his offensive linemen to dinner and drinks at a barbecue place and (badly) sang Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” tore up the Web on Thursday.
Roethlisberger’s agent, Ryan Tollner, didn’t respond to a request for comment on the marketability issue, made through his firm, Irvine, Calif.-based Rep 1 Sports Group.
The firm’s website says the marketing portfolio assembled by Tollner for Roethlisberger “generates millions of dollars per year, with creative deals such as Big Ben’s BBQ Sauces, Big Ben’s Beef Jerky, a T-shirt campaign, memorabilia arrangement and profitable website.”
“I don’t care if he scores seven touchdowns — he doesn’t deserve a single endorsement,” said Erin Matson, a vice president of the National Organization for Women. “If companies were to partner with him as a result of this game, they would see an enormous backlash.”
Anna Holmes, a sports fan who founded the women’s-interest website Jezebel.com, said she was unsure she would even watch the Super Bowl because of Roethlisberger.
“There would be a bad taste in my mouth to seeing him on the screen,” she said.
A die-hard Chicago Bears fan, writer Veronica Arreola, said she wouldn’t even pick Roethlisberger for her fantasy team.
“I don’t think on-the-field performance redeems off-the-field behavior,” she said. “As a feminist and a mom, I would never buy a Roethlisberger jersey or anything for my daughter. … He has not come off as remorseful at all.”