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

Eli Manning followed brother Peyton's path to the Super Bowl victory. 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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Eli Manning's appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week wasn't a curse for his Super Bowl performance, and it certainly didn't hurt his efforts to do more commercials.
Eli Manning's appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week wasn't a curse for his Super Bowl performance, and it certainly didn't hurt his efforts to garner more endorsements.

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 is likely about to 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 one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history to deny the New England Patriots a perfect season. And Eli now has a Super Bowl MVP award to go along with his brother's.

Now, advertising and athlete endorsement experts say the younger Manning is almost certain to show up in a ton of new spots in the next year, catapulting Eli into the top echelon of athlete endorsers.

"I'd say a Super Bowl ring is worth another $3 million to $5 million in national spots," said Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at Baker Street Partners, and author of the Sports Marketers' Scouting Report.

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 experts say that even with his own Super Bowl win, Eli has 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 went into the game with an enviable level of familiarity, which is one of the top attributes that advertisers value. The Marketing Evaluation survey found he was already familiar to 75% of sports fans surveyed.

That puts him just narrowly behind New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is known by 77% of fans. Just brother Peyton, at 82%, 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.

That level of familiarity is only likely to climb higher after Eli was at the center of a game that rang up huge viewership on News Corp.'s (NWS, Fortune 500) Fox network.

Initial ratings from Nielsen Media Research showed television ratings up 6 percent from a year ago, giving the game the chance to be the most-watched Super Bowl of all time, topping the 94.1 million people who tuned into the Dallas-Pittsburgh game in 1996, and the second most-watched television program of any kind in history, behind only the farewell episode of M*A*S*H in 1983.

Darin David, account director for The Marketing Arm, which helps negotiate endorsement deals between sponsors and celebrities, said 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. He points out that in name recognition and appeal, Eli went into the big game ahead of Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had won the Super Bowl two years earlier.

"He clearly wouldn't be this highly ranked if not for the Manning name," said David ahead of Sunday's game. "That all comes into play."

Sure, nobody is rushing to crown the younger Manning as Broadway Eli, even after he pulled off the biggest Super Bowl upset since the Jets beat the Baltimore Colts in 1969. But get ready to 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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