February 1, 2016
The Super Bowl is once again upon us, and the matchup – Peyton Manning versus Cam Newton – has many industry commentators asking which quarterback is better.
On paper, that question is laughable. Peyton Manning is one of the best of all time. A five-time NFL MVP, Super Bowl champ, and advertising powerhouse. Acknowledged as one of the best-prepared players to ever take the field, even Newton calls him “The General.”
Manning has inspired and informed a generation of QBs. He has been a model of how to play the game. And that’s where the rub is. Manning “has” and “has been.” While clearly he’s not a “has been” quite yet, Peyton is clearly in the twilight of his career. Pretty much everyone is taking for granted this will be his last Super Bowl appearance.
When it comes to marketing, Peyton still holds sway. He can be in commercials without ever mentioning his name. He can get you humming his brand’s theme song just by making a few self-mocking sketches in a 30-second spot. Crawfish shorts? Really?? That’s Peyton Manning, advertising juggernaut. While players before him have taken a Superman approach to marketing, by hyping themselves as much as their products, Manning seems content to laugh (at himself) all the way to the bank.
Newton is hot on his heels. As I’m writing this, the NFL MVP for this season has yet to be announced, but most prognosticators expect Newton to be a lock. They also expect him to massacre the Broncos in next weekend’s Super Bowl 50. And, of course, Manning is likely considering retirement. Sure, retired QBs like Brett Favre and Joe Montana still cash checks from advertising, but the NFL is a young man’s game. The fattest checks always go to the established, but still up and coming superstar. Cam Newton is that guy.
Newton is made for Madison Avenue. He’s literally bigger than life, and he absolutely loves the spotlight. Plus, he’s figured out the same thing Peyton has, but in a slightly different way. It’s all a game. Football is big business, but that business is fun, so if you bring the energy, people will love you. On the field, Manning is stoic and controlled, but still deadly. Newton is a wrecking ball. He literally and figuratively steamrolls opponents. Then he celebrates in front of their fans. Imagine what advertisers could do with that sort of attitude. Sports marketing hasn’t had someone that much fun since Bo Jackson.