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ADvantage, Eli: MVP's marketability rises

Eli Manning on a float during the Super

Eli Manning on a float during the Super Bowl victory parade. (Feb. 7, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

Now that Eli Manning has done what Super Bowl MVPs do -- Disney World, Letterman, Canyon of Heroes, etc. -- and the dust has begun to settle on his latest triumph, what's next for the Giants quarterback?

Ka-ching, right?

Well, yes and no. On one hand, Manning certainly is more marketable than ever as a two-time Super Bowl winner, and as his current deals expire, he will be able to command more money to renew.

On the other, it's not as if he were toiling in obscurity before Sunday. "To be honest with you, it doesn't change very much,'' his marketing agent, Alan Zucker of IMG, said Thursday, "because he already is playing at a high level in terms of number of endorsements and quality of companies.''

According to Sports Illustrated's survey of the highest-paid American athletes, Manning ranked third in 2011 endorsement income among active NFL players at $7 million, behind only his older brother Peyton ($15 million) and Tom Brady ($10 million). Eli's football salary for 2011 was $8.5 million.

Zucker would not comment on dollar figures, but two sports marketing experts said the estimate for Eli likely is on the low side.

And with a roster of companies that includes Samsung, Oreos, Gatorade, DirecTV, Reebok, Citizen Watches and Toyota, there is little room for more, although Zucker said there might be a place for one major addition to his portfolio.

The difference another ring makes might not become evident until years from now, according to Doug Shabelman, president of Burns Entertainment, which helped SI calculate its figures. He said winning multiple championships will help Manning resonate 10, 20 or even more years beyond his playing career.

"I think Eli can gain in the short term, but it's not as if he had no endorsements going in,'' Shabelman said. "Longevity-wise, it will put him into a different stratosphere.''

Shabelman said the only thing that might hold back Manning as an endorser is his laid-back personality. But he said that is more of an issue for non-quarterbacks, who must stand out from the helmeted crowd.

His reserved personality actually can be a plus in an era in which athletes' off-field misdeeds get more attention than ever.

"Companies are risk-averse; they are extra, extra careful about what guys do off the field and what kind of person they are,'' said Frank Vuono, co-founder of 16W Marketing, which represents Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks.

"Think about it. You just never see Eli anywhere. He's like stealth, like Derek Jeter in that regard. For corporate America, that's a good thing.''

Those closest to Manning insist he has a sense of humor, which he flashed on "Late Show with David Letterman'' Monday. But mostly his brand suggests stoicism, leadership and reliability. "I think companies have to customize, if they're smart about it, to Eli's personality,'' Vuono said.

Several experts said Manning's latest victory will make him more viable as a stand-alone endorser not reliant on Peyton. But Zucker said Eli already was at that point. "I don't see him as being compared to Peyton,'' he said. "He plays for a different team and he plays in a different marketplace.''

Manning has done local commercials for Toyota since soon after he arrived, but most of the national endorsements came later. "He first wanted to make sure he could be the best quarterback he could be,'' Zucker said. "He needed the time to spend on the playbook and learning the rigors of NFL life.''

And even then, Zucker said, "the strategy is less is more, and it's been very fruitful for him.''

Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Manhasset-based The Q Scores Company, said that before the 2011 season, Peyton was recognized by 65 percent of Americans, and 28 percent of that group rated him among their favorite personalities. Eli's figures were 60 and 19 percent, respectively. Schafer expects Eli to close the gaps with Peyton on both counts.

"No. 1, he has performed on the field,'' Schafer said. "No. 2, he stays on the straight and narrow, clean-cut, never gets into trouble. No. 3, in campaigns I've seen so far, in my professional opinion, his personality is different. He has a looser way about him. He's jocular, funny, isn't afraid to poke fun at himself.

"I think he has his head so screwed on right, he's going to continue to be a valuable marketing commodity.''

New York Sports