Peyton Manning to remain endorsement star

@CNNMoney March 7, 2012: 5:25 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Peyton Manning's career with the Indianapolis Colts has come to an end, but his career as one of the nation's leading product endorsers should continue undisturbed.

Manning and the Colts announced Wednesday they were going their separate ways. The National Football League team couldn't afford the $28 million bonus he would have been due, especially since he'll be attempting to come back from a neck injury that kept him off the field all of last season.

But sports marketing experts say Manning's appeal has transcended his career as the Colts' quarterback. And they say that whether his next stop is a big- market team, a small-market team or retirement won't have much effect on his marketability.

"He's an established national brand," said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "I don't think location, wherever it is, will be a step backwards for him."

Among the products he has pitched in the past are MasterCard (MA, Fortune 500), Papa John's Pizza (PZZA), DirecTV (DTV, Fortune 500), as well as Kraft's (KFT, Fortune 500) Oreo cookies and PepsiCo's (PEP, Fortune 500) Gatorade.

According to athletes earnings rankings by SI.com, Manning has by far the most endorsements of any football player, and is among the leaders among all athletes. Only golf's Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, basketball's LeBron James and NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon topped Manning's annual $15 million in endorsements.

And Manning tops all those active athletes in a combination of familiarity and positive appeal, according to a survey of consumers conducted by The Marketing Arm, a firm that arranges celebrity endorsement contracts.

Can Eli be the next Peyton?

Experts say Manning is well positioned to continue to rake in the endorsement dollars even after he retires, much like Michael Jordan, who remains a top pitchman years after he stopped playing basketball. And that should be the case even if Manning's remaining playing days prove to be a disappointment.

"His story is already written. What he does in his last year or years will have little impact on what he does endorsement-wise, post retirement," said Bill Glenn, senior vice president of The Marketing Arm.

Tiger's endorsement deathwatch

Glenn said Manning will be able to extend his endorsement career further if he stays visible, such as with a career in broadcasting or coaching. His endorsement potential is now being driven almost as much by his public image as by any on-field accomplishments.

He's helped by the fact that he's remained completely scandal free, unlike some other top athlete pitchmen such as Woods.

"He's likable, personable. He's got every attribute you look for in celebrity endorsement," said Glenn. To top of page

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