Cam Newton’s loss in the Super Bowl – and his sulking afterward – likely won’t have a major impact on his soaring endorsement prowess, marketing experts said Tuesday.
Heading into the NFL’s championship game, one of the side stories was how the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback was gaining on his Denver Broncos’ rival Peyton Manning as a marketing powerhouse. But Manning won the matchup, and Newton caused a stir when he held a glum post-game press conference that he abruptly cut short.
Newton’s behavior may have miffed old-school sports fans, but the quarterback likely didn’t suffer any long-term damage, especially with younger backers, said Chicago-based sports business consultant Marc Ganis.
“There are things that would have fallen into his lap had the Panthers won the Super Bowl, had he been at the press conference with his megawatt simile after a victory,” Ganis said. “But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a very sought-after endorser. Let’s not forget he’s still very young and will have many more opportunities.”
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Newton, 26, was back in Charlotte on Tuesday and didn’t offer any apologies for his actions after the Super Bowl.
“I’ve been on record to say I’m a sore loser,” Newton said at his Bank of America Stadium locker. “Who likes to lose? You show me a good loser, and I’m going to show you a loser.”
Newton’s endorsement portfolio already includes names such as Under Armour, Gatorade, Beats by Dre, Belk and Dannon. And his marketing representative, Carlos Fleming, told the Observer recently that he is likely to add more partners in the offseason.
Forbes magazine estimates that Newton brought in $10 million from endorsements in 2015. That was behind only two other NFL players: Manning ($12 million) and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees ($11 million).
The Super Bowl rivals have showed off their contrasting styles in recent commercials. In a Nationwide spot, Manning, 39, bemoans a bad golf shot while wearing preppy shorts. In an ad for headphones maker Beats by Dre, an iron-pumping Newton takes on critics, saying: “Too bad they don’t make Band-Aids for feelings.”
The younger demographic that is attracted to Newton isn’t turned off by his celebrating after a touchdown – or his despondency after a loss, Ganis said.
“They view it as part of his personality,” he said. “They don’t expect milquetoast.”
Manning may hold on to his title as the “endorser of every mass marketed product on the planet,” Ganis said. “But the appeal that (Newton) has to his followers is not diminished. That demographic is very important to the advertising community and often quite difficult to reach.”
During his MVP-winning season, the Panthers quarterback saw his public awareness rankings soar, according to an international index called CelebrityDBI produced by research firm Repucom.
In January, about 54 percent of U.S. consumers polled were “aware” of Newton by name or face, up from 39 percent in September. In another metric, Newton’s “appeal” was 17th among NFL players in January, up from 43rd, according to Repucom.
But Manning was still far ahead with 85 percent awareness and an appeal score that ranked second among NFL players.
Repucom has not collected new data since the Super Bowl, but Newton’s performance will likely have some impact on the rankings, said Peter Laatz, an executive at Repucom.
“I believe his appeal will be down,” Laatz said. “The trade-off there, is the awareness numbers will go up.”
While Newton didn’t “necessarily cover himself in glory” after the Super Bowl, Laatz said, he may have won points with some for being authentic.
“Ultimately, I think his polarity is something that is part of who he is,” he said. “I don’t think everything he built this season, along with the team, was untied on Sunday.”
Most fans will likely move past Newton’s behavior, especially if he continues to play well, said Michael Colangelo, assistant director at the University of Southern California Sports Business Institute.
In the social media era, “things kind of have a shelf life for a few months at most and then once people get back on the field, the athlete is able to move on from what happened,” he said. “The hard part for Cam is that is not for another six months.”
A clever marketer might even be able to capitalize on Newton’s behavior, Colangelo said. Former NBA star Charles Barkley, for example, famously embraced his bad-boy image in a Nike advertisement in which he declared: “I am not a role model.”
“They have a real chance to almost flip this and use this as something good, at least in the marketing and branding perspective,” Colangelo said.