Mark Sanchez’s Hispanic heritage may boost his sponsorship opportunities should he succeed as quarterback of the New York Jets.
Sanchez, 22, is the first quarterback selected by the Jets with a top-5 pick since Joe Namath in the 1965 American Football League draft. As a rookie, he will challenge for the most high- profile position on a team in the nation’s biggest media market.
Sports marketing analysts said that on top of that appeal for potential sponsors, Sanchez joins All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez as one of the most recognizable Hispanic players in the National Football League, which has sought to increase its fan base among the largest minority group in the U.S.
“The Hispanic market is such a desirable market for the major brands that are involved in the NFL,” said Jan Katzoff, executive vice president for sports and entertainment for the Radiate Group in San Francisco. “A young player with a Hispanic background would resonate very well with that marketplace.”
If Sanchez has a successful first year with the Jets, he might make between $5 million and $10 million in endorsements in 2010, said Katzoff, whose Radiate Group is a unit of Omnicom Group Inc., the world’s largest owner of advertising agencies.
“What makes you stand out from the crowd and make more money like stars such as Peyton Manning is having something beyond football to offer,” said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. “Everyone is searching for a source of differentiation.”
Manning, a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player with the Indianapolis Colts, is the league’s most marketable player and has done commercials for companies such as Sprint Nextel Corp., Sony Corp. and MasterCard Inc.
Among the NFL’s other top pitchmen are fellow quarterbacks Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Eli Manning of the New York Giants, both of whom also won Super Bowl titles, and Sanchez’s predecessor with the Jets, three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre, who retired from football after last season.
“It’s all about what goes on on the field, as with the others in New York,” Steve Rosner, co-founder of 16W Marketing LLC, said in a telephone interview. “That started with Joe Namath, continued with Phil Simms (of the Giants) and now with Eli. These opportunities will present themselves naturally if he proves himself.”
Namath is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl title with the Jets and “Broadway Joe” was a television pitchman for products ranging from shaving cream to pantyhose.
Sanchez, who started one full season at the University of Southern California, will compete with fourth-year quarterback Kellen Clemens for the Jets’ starting job. Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said Sanchez’s experience at USC, which is 88-15 and won two national championships since 2001, has prepared him for the demands of playing in New York.
Sanchez said yesterday that he’s excited about making the transition from Los Angeles to New York.
“At USC, they put a lot of emphasis on the quarterback with Heisman trophy winners, All-Americans and national champions,” said Sanchez, whose 34 touchdowns for the Trojans last season ranked second in school history. “They want results, just like the fans here, just like the press here. That’s what I’m prepared to work for.”
Sanchez and Sprint
Leading up to the draft, Sanchez worked as a spokesman for Sprint, the NFL’s official wireless telecommunications service provider. Since 2005 the company has used two college players as part of its NFL draft promotions and this year chose Sanchez and University of Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford, the first overall pick of the Detroit Lions.
Sprint spokesman Dave Mellin said heritage factored in the decision to align with Sanchez, who follows fellow Trojan quarterbacks such as Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Matt Cassel in the NFL.
“He was going to be a top-10 pick, he was a quarterback at USC, he’s a good-looking kid, he’s very charismatic, he’s a leader, he’s got all those intangible things,” Mellin said by telephone. “But the fact that he’s a Mexican-American made a big difference for us. We’re always trying to find ways to reach out to the Latino community and we felt Mark would do a great job to help us accomplish that.”
Mellin said Sprint is considering an extended partnership with Sanchez, who also had a sponsorship agreement with PepsiCo Inc.’s Gatorade before the draft.
Sanchez’s great-grandfather came to the U.S. from Mexico and was among those displaced from the Chavez Ravine area in Los Angeles when Dodger Stadium was built. His father played quarterback at East Los Angeles College and his older brother Nick was Yale University’s signal-caller from 1992-94.
The NFL, which has more than $7 billion in annual revenue, played a regular-season game in Mexico City in 2005 and has reached deals with Spanish-language broadcasters in an attempt to lure Hispanic viewers.
The Hispanic market has a projected buying power of $1.1 trillion this year, according to a study by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. That may benefit Sanchez during a recession where companies are looking more closely at their marketing spend.
“Being Hispanic, there’s a strong desire by the league to reach that market,” added Swangard of Warsaw Sports . “Mark may be able to benefit from that.”