Richard Sherman Will Be More Popular But Not Richer
Richard Sherman gained 300k twitter followers overnight after he called out Michael Crabtree in a post game interview. Some called his rant a genius self-marketing move. The problem with the interview is that Sherman instantly became a polarizing personality. While Sherman may have gained more followers and made himself into a household name, don’t expect any money to come along with it because controversial celebrities don’t make good spokespeople.
Being brash has worked for celebrates in other professions. A couple of years ago teen pop star Miley Cyrus was the face of the Disney Channel and had her own Wal-Mart brand. She decided to completely change her image became the hot controversial topic. Unlike Sherman, Cyrus makes money from keeping her name in the paper because the more relevant she is, the more likely people are to listen to her music and attend her shows. These are her main streams of revenue. When she was a lesser-known teen star she had tour sponsors but her popularity began decreasing. In 2011 she didn’t tour in the United States she said because, “I just think right now America has gotten to a place where I don’t know if they want me to tour or not. Right now I just want to go to the places where I am getting the most love and Australia and South America have done that for me.” Now she has no sponsors but it does not matter because her controversial transformation from innocent teen to raunchy adult brought her back to relevancy. Richard Sherman’s bullish personality will make the Seahawks games a bigger draw, and people will pay attention to everything he does on the field. Unfortunately for Sherman extra ticket sales and higher TV audiences don’t have any impact on his salary.
The Miley Cyrus model can work for athletes in individual sports because essentially they are their team. Floyd Mayweather has more baggage than any athlete in sports but that didn’t stop him from making more money than any athlete last year: $90 million. Zero dollars came from sponsors. His edgy personality draws attention and the money from the ticket sales and PPV buys go directly into his pocket.
Sherman cannot capitalize on his popularity unless he has sponsors and the sponsors won’t come calling. Terrell Ownes was one of the biggest names in football during his career but didn’t have any major sponsorship and even said in a 2005 interview, “With the league labeling me as being controversial, I think some companies … would want to do some things, but at the same time they may look at bringing me on-board may tarnish their image.” (“The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch,” CNBC, 4/14.)
Spokesmen are like politicians, they need to be as universally likeable as possible. Companies don’t want to run the risk of offending customers with any of the faces they use to market their brand. By all reports Sherman is a nice, smart guy but if his end goal is to bring in sponsorship money he needs to find a better way to do it. His own agent, Jamie Fritz, was quoted at the end of 2013 saying, “There are a number of successful players in the NFL who don’t have endorsement deals,” Fritz said. “At the end of the day … people have to like you. If they don’t like you, they won’t buy the product you’re endorsing. Richard has a perception of being loud and in-your-face, but off the field, he’s very sincere, approachable and likable.”(Puget Sound Business Journal 12/30/13).
I wonder what he would say now.