Delhomme could score Warner-like deals

Updated: January 28, 2004, 10:20 AM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

HOUSTON -- Jake Delhomme, like Kurt Warner, has come from the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. He has gone from backup to starter and from serviceable player to Super Bowl quarterback.

Now the question is, can the 29-year-old turn an unlikely Super Bowl run into $1 million in endorsement and marketing deals like Warner was able to do?

Jake Delhomme
Getty ImagesJake Delhomme could have a million more reasons to smile if his team wins the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
"I won't do anything for a buck," insists Delhomme, who will make $2.53 million for his play on the field this year. "If it's right for me, something I believe in, then I'll do it, but I'm not one to travel all around."

Although the $1 million mark is not hard to achieve for a high-profile NBA player -- where shoe endorsement deals alone have made marketing millionaires of at least 10 players this year -- athletes excelling in America's most popular sport have a harder time.

With more players on the field, the stress on individual player marketing is less than that of the NBA, and the NFL's parity makes it a bit harder for marketers to gauge if a player they are considering for an endorsement deal will play on a winning team.

"Companies can't market a guy on a team that goes 3-13," said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, one of a handful of NFL players in the league who earned more than $1 million in endorsements this season. "Individual success comes from team success, and that's the only way (endorsement deals) come about. With the success that we've had through my career at Philadelphia, individual players receive attention in an environment like that."

But for those who want to enter the elite club, the Super Bowl is the biggest stage, the largest launching pad for players to break through.

"What (parity) does is help spread the wealth," said Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety John Lynch, who scored a deal with Campbell's Chunky Soup after his Buccaneers won the Super Bowl last year. "Jake Delhomme may be pushing something next year, and I think that's good for the league."

"We've had so much interest in Jake," said Rob Lefko of Priority Sports, which represents both Delhomme and Warner. "Before this year, some of these people didn't even know who Jake was."

Now, if the Panthers win the Super Bowl, Lefko says that "if Jake wants to take advantage of the opportunities out there, we'll have no problem reaching seven figures."

Delhomme already has a shoe deal with Nike, he's booked a couple of speeches at more than $10,000 a pop, he's signed a local endorsement deal with Bojangles, and -- like Warner who had Warner's Crunch Time Cereal -- Delhomme fans can soon pour milk over their Jake's Flakes.

He'll appear later this week in USA Today with a milk mustache for the California Milk Processor Board's "Got Milk?" campaign, and a Super Bowl win will put him back in the paper with a milk mustache. If the Panthers win, Delhomme has signed a contingency contract that will enable him to earn some cash by telling the world, "I'm Going to Disneyworld!"

"The Super Bowl helped make Tom Brady and Kurt Warner household names," said Gil Pagovich, a partner at Maxximum Marketing, a sports marketing firm. "Companies want to align themselves with champions."

" He'll move into the top two most sought-after players in the league if he wins the Super Bowl again. "
--Bob Dorfman of Pickett Advertising about Tom Brady

There's more for Delhomme, who started just two games in his NFL career before getting a chance in Carolina this season. His marketing representatives are closing in on a couple of memorabilia deals, including a non-exclusive autograph deal with Tri-Star Productions.

"He's very appealing to us," said Tri-Star president Jeff Rosenberg. "He's not exactly the MVP of the league that Warner was that year, but he's certainly got a great story and his memorabilia will sell."

Rosenberg said an 8-by-10 picture signed by Delhomme will likely sell for $80 to $100, while a signed mini helmet will cost at least $150.

Even with a great performance, demand for Delhomme signatures are still expected to lag behind Warner and Brady, whose teams are known to have larger fan bases.

After his Super Bowl win, Warner did the milk and Disney advertisements and sold the rights to his book, "All Things Possible," to Harper Collins for a deal in the upper six figures.

But riches don't always come for "no-name" quarterbacks who lead their teams to victory. Recent Super Bowl wins didn't do anything for previously unsung Super Bowl champion quarterbacks Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson.

Game performance might also have something to do with how much Delhomme can capitalize. It helps that there aren't many other well-known Panthers, but a good game from running back Stephen Davis could take away some of Delhomme's marketing potential. Davis is on the cusp of sign two local deals with big companies, and his agent David Canter said he's in discussions with several companies for potential national deals.

Of course, if the Patriots win, the big winner will be Brady -- if he wants to do any more endorsements. After his Super Bowl win two years ago, Brady signed with Dunkin' Donuts, Snickers, 989 Sports, and New England Cadillac Dealers.

"He'll move into the top two most sought-after players in the league if he wins the Super Bowl again," said Bob Dorfman of Pickett Advertising, who says Brady and Delhomme are the most marketable players in Sunday's game. "He's in a top market, he's good-looking, he has sex appeal, and he is still single."

If the underdog Panthers do come out on top, Delhomme might have his opportunity to collect his marketing million along with his Super Bowl ring. But he promises that he won't change much when he heads back to his parent's farm in Breaux Bridge, La.

"I'll still clean the stalls," said Delhomme, who has a love for horses. "Without a doubt. It's in my blood."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn3.com.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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