WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Robert Griffin III is not only taking the National Football League by storm, but the Washington Redskins rookie quarterback is already building himself a brand in the mold of Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Peyton Manning.
To say Griffin’s play has been superb to date is selling him short. In 14 games, Griffin has thrown for 3,100 yards and 20 touchdowns, while also rushing for 752 yards and six touchdowns. He has rejuvenated a fan base long looking for a winner as the Redskins are only a win away against the Dallas Cowboys from taking the NFC East title.
Griffin has already earned endorsements from Gatorade, Adidas, Subway, EA Sports and Nissan, among others, surpassing deals No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck received. Griffin’s jersey is even the most popular, top-selling jersey in all of the NFL.
Though some have been less enthused by the young sensation – most notably ESPN’s Rob Parker, who questioned whether Griffin was “a brother or … a cornball brother” on the air, citing his white fiancee Rebecca Liddicoat and supposed conservative politics as reasons for his disparaging remarks – most have been enthused and supportive of Griffin.
Before beginning his headline-grabbing career with the Redskins, Griffin played for Baylor University, a Christian college in Waco, Texas, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2011. And in 2012, he signed a four-year contract worth a reported $21.1 million after being selected second overall in the draft.
Experts who have observed the talented rising star are confident that he could one day earn much more, especially if he maintains the wisdom beyond his years that have so far been a defining characteristic of the 22-year-old Griffin.
Ron Oswalt, CEO of Sports Marketing Experts, has been following Griffin since his high school football days. Throughout his career thus far, he said he has noticed a humility and maturity that, to him, makes RGIII unique.
“One advantage I believe he does have is the great education he received … and his military background and really strict upbringing,” he told CBSDC. “All of those things will really benefit him in the long run – [he is marketable] on and off the field.”
He added, “An athlete giving back who’s well-educated and well-spoken, it’s one of the best attributes of RGIII. He gets out there with kids and the local community.”
Joe Favorito, who has accumulated almost 30 years of sports marketing and strategy experience – perhaps most notably in his former role as senior vice president of communications for the International Fight League – told CBSDC that he agreed with Griffin bringing something different to the game in being who he is.
“He’s different than a lot of rising athletes today. He was so well established before the NFL. He understood the business,” he said. “Baylor [University] gave him really good advice, he has a really good agent, and he comes in immediately and makes an impact.”
It is hard to anticipate whether or not an impressive start to one’s NFL career will translate into a large fortune down the road.
“It’s hard to predict (the future worth of a player). A lot of it comes down to how well they play on the field and how marketable they are off the field,” he said, adding that a lot of the biggest earners in sports are individual athletes such as Tiger Woods or Floyd Mayweather, due to their sole roles in their personal destinies. “Successful athlete brands are parts of teams that win. Look at Peyton (Manning), Tom Brady, Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James), A-Rod, (Derek) Jeter … all of them have rings on their fingers.”
For now, however, Griffin isn’t necessarily doing without – his endorsement deals with big names have led him to smash the rookie endorsement record formerly held by Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush.
Oswalt also noted that his unique set of skills sets him apart from his peers, and could lead to bigger paydays to come.
“He brings a different style to the game. Not only can he pass well, but he can run well,” he noted. “You have [a quarterback like] Michael Vick, who’s a great runner, but not a great thrower. And then you have Andrew Luck, who’s a great thrower, but not a great runner. RGIII is the total package”
And signs are good that RGIII will have what it takes to last.
“It’s about balancing both the business and the professional side, and being successful at both. It comes down to him and his teammates – and his representation – to figure out if he can go long-term,” Favorito said.
Experts are optimistic about Griffin’s prospects for the future.
“He was successful in college, and he was under the brightest of lights already … [i]n a league where usually quarterback positions don’t see stars in their first years,” Favorito said. “He’s a special athlete, and a special person.”
Added Oswalt, “He’s going to light the NFL world on fire. His stats are great, his percentages are great, and he shows what it means to come into the league humble, with respect for the game. He’s excited to play a grown man’s game, and I wish him the best. I’m amazed by what he’s done.”