If at some time during the past three weeks you turned on your television, logged onto the Internet or breathed oxygen, you probably saw Robert Griffin III endorsing a product. Perhaps it was Gatorade sports drink or Subway sandwiches or a new model of Adidas cleats.
On one hand, there’s nothing unusual about that. Griffin, the Washington Redskins’ new franchise quarterback, has Heisman Trophy credentials to go along with a charismatic and sharp personality that is eminently marketable. On the other, though, Griffin is an unproven quantity at the NFL level, a rookie still seeking his teammates’ respect.
That dilemma is why Creative Artists Agency, which represents Griffin, usually limits the marketing exposure of their clients who are NFL rookies. But Griffin and CAA went against that model this summer before he reported to training camp Wednesday and shut down his marketing machine for the season.
“There was never a concern on our part or Robert’s part that it would ever interfere with his preparation for his rookie season,” said Mark Heligman, Griffin’s marketing agent at CAA. “From Day One, any discussions we had with Robert about any deal revolved around ensuring it didn’t interfere with his preparation for football. Unequivocally, that was vital.”
Griffin on Wednesday called his marketing whirlwind “a great experience” but is eager to transition into the season.
“It’s going to be good to just bear down and focus on football,” Griffin said at an evening news conference that was broadcast live by almost every outlet in the area. “All that’s done.”
He began capitalizing on his marketability before the Redskins even drafted him. Griffin was tabbed for the cover of NCAA Football ‘13, EA Sports’ successful college football video game franchise. He also signed deals with Gatorade, Subway, Castrol and Evoshield. A relationship with Nissan is in the offing.
Griffin and CAA discussed the need to balance his exposure with the humility required of a rookie. CAA normally limits its first-year clients, partly to avoid possible negative side effects in the locker room.
RG3 was deemed a special case. To mitigate any potential negative reaction, CAA turned down opportunities for him to endorse products in the D.C. area and kept him on a national level.
“Robert was in a unique situation coming off the Heisman Trophy, coming off a junior season at school where he obviously had unbelievable credentials,” Heligman said. “And equally importantly … he’s just a special guy with a unique personality. Very intelligent, very articulate, and he appeals to a wide array of fans. I think there was a mutual interest on his part and on companies’ parts wanting to work with him.”
Griffin embraced the opportunities. He believes being the spokesman for high-profile, national products puts the whole Redskins team in the spotlight, not just him.
He was pleased by the welcome his teammates offered Wednesday.
“We wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing too much before I had already played, but the situations that arose seemed fine,” Griffin said. “If it wasn’t good, I’d have definitely felt it in the locker room. But when the guys showed up, most of the guys were either laughing about them or just saying that they were really cool. I think they rubbed the team the right way.”
Griffin spoke while wearing a burgundy long-sleeve T-shirt bearing one of his favorite slogans: “No pressure, No diamonds.” Perhaps all the marketing exposure puts more pressure on him to back up his star with victories on the field, but that’s not how CAA perceived it.
“He has a lot of pressure on him just being the second pick in the draft, being the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, one of the highest profile teams in the league, and in a city and community that has been looking for a franchise-style quarterback for decades,” Heligman said. “He’s always going to have that pressure.”
A former Redskins quarterback, who knows a thing or two about endorsements, also knows how Griffin could relieve the pressure.
“None of this works unless he’s the quarterback of the Washington Redskins,” Joe Theismann said. “He understands that as a priority in his life. It’s part of the climate that the young men coming into our game today deal with and are afforded the opportunities for.
“He’s going to be judged by his teammates by what he does on the field. No matter what he does off the field, it doesn’t matter.”
• Rich Campbell can be reached at email@example.com.
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