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Chris Isidore Commentary:
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Get ready Peyton, Eli's coming

Eli Manning is already following brother Peyton's path to the Super Bowl. Now he's poised to follow his off-field endorsement success too.

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A weekly column by Chris Isidore, CNNMoney.com senior writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Those rare sports fans who think there aren't enough Mannings in commercials can take heart. Peyton's little brother Eli could soon be Madison Avenue's new go-to guy.

Peyton Manning was already at the top of the endorsement game when he showed up at last year's Super Bowl, pulling down $11 million from sponsors ranging from MasterCard (MA) and Sprint Nextel (S, Fortune 500) to Reebok and PepsiCo's (PEP, Fortune 500) Gatorade, according to an estimate at that time from Sports Illustrated. He's added about $2 million to that total since he won the big game and its MVP award.

But Peyton and his Indianapolis Colts made an early and unexpected exit from this year's playoffs, while brother Eli's New York Giants have pulled off three road playoff victories to make an appearance that surprised even most of their fans.

Now, advertising and athlete endorsement experts say they won't be surprised to see the younger Manning showing up in a ton of new spots in the next year, even if the Giants lose to the heavily favored New England Patriots.

A upset win could catapult Eli into the top echelon of athlete endorsers.

"He could do $3 million just in local New York spots even if the Giants lose," said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Partners, and author of the Sports Marketers' Scouting Report. "I'd say a Super Bowl ring is worth another $3 million to $5 million in national spots."

Eli is helped by the fact that the other quarterback in Sunday's game, Tom Brady, has so far been reluctant to do much in the way of commercials despite tremendous on-field success and model-like good looks. That opens further opportunities for Eli, even if he's not the winner in the big game.

Big brother's hand-me-downs. To date, most of Eli's commercial appearances have been in supporting roles in spots where his brother is a star -- such as a recent spot for Kraft Foods' (KFT) Oreos or satellite television provider DirecTV (DTV, Fortune 500).

Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations, which does the Q-score ratings used by sponsors to judge an endorser's appeal, said just getting included in more of Peyton's spots could give Eli an enviable lineup of sponsors.

"I think that will certainly become more a serious consideration for many sponsors," said Schafer. "Two Mannings may be better than one."

Most of the experts said that no matter how far Eli takes the Giants, he's got a long way to go to develop the same on-camera personality that his brother enjoys. It's that acting skill that helped make Peyton Manning a hot property with advertisers, even when he was still suffering from the Can't-Win-The-Big-One label that normally would be a significant drag on an athlete's endorsement potential.

"What would certainly help is if Eli took the off season taking some charisma lessons from Peyton," said Dorfman.

Where everybody knows his name. Still, Eli already has an enviable level of familiarity, which is one of the top attributes that advertisers value. The Marketing Evaluation survey found he is already familiar to 75 percent of sports fans surveyed.

That puts him just narrowly behind Brady, who is known by 77 percent of fans. Just brother Peyton, at 82 percent, and the Packers' Brett Favre also top Eli in familiarity among team sport athletes. And only Tiger Woods and NASCAR's top drivers come in higher overall.

Ratings from another survey conducted by talent agency Davie Brown show a similar ranking in terms of the awareness among U.S. consumers overall, with Eli only narrowly behind Brady.

Darin David, account director for The Marketing Arm, which helps negotiate endorsement deals between sponsors and celebrities, said that familiarity is something that advertisers will look to tap into, especially if they can't afford brother Peyton.

"He's already pretty high on the food chain," said David. "In name recognition and appeal, he's ahead of [Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback] Ben Roethlisberger, who's already won a Super Bowl. He clearly wouldn't be this highly ranked if not for the Manning name. That all comes into play."

Sure, nobody is rushing to crown the younger Manning as Broadway Eli. But if he pulls off the biggest Super Bowl upset since the Jets beat the Balitmore Colts in 1969, we may see more of Eli in commercials than we did of Joe Namath in his heyday. We just wonder how Eli looks in pantyhose. To top of page

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