LOS ANGELES — The number kept coming up at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere. The average NFL player has a 3 1/2-year career. That means most NFL players retire before age 30. Players must plan for their future, because, in all likelihood, football won’t be create enough income to get them through their lives.
This is where the NFLPA and NFLPI, the marketing arm of the NFLPA, come in. During the conference, the overarching theme was educating rookies on the business of football. As NFLPI president Keith Gordon said, “We want players to be the driver of their brand.” A few players such as Johnny Manziel come in with a public persona, but the public and sponsors may not know a lot about most of the 40 rookies at the event. Players are also transitioning from students to professionals. “Our goal is to educate them about the business,” explained Ahmad Nassar, NFLPI executive vice president of business affairs & general counsel.
The goal is to educate the future stars of the NFL. When one player signs a mega-endorsement deal, it sets a standard for the next. Players may be competing on the field, but the Rookie Premiere teaches them that a single player’s success can help everyone. So what about the other 300 plus rookies coming into the league? The NFLPA’s goal is to create a touch-point for every one of them. After all, the NFLPA/NFLPI wants to be there to help the next Peyton Manning (No. 1 pick) and the next Tom Brady (No. 199).
The conference educates the sponsors as well. Brands want to know who they are getting involved with. That is why the NFLPI keeps an extensive database to help match brands with players. The NFLPI also helps brands by explaining the importance of brand image, social media, and what Gordon calls the 10:1 rule: “I tell players they should have at least 10 good things they’ve done on the field and in their community to counter balance their mistakes. We hope the Rookie Premiere helps them avoid some of those mistakes.”
The NFLPI is taking a more active role in helping players build their brands. It is setting up licensing deals on Twitter, educating its membership and constantly keeping in touch with players. The NFL has one of the strongest brands in sports, now players are being educated to strengthen their own, and the NFLPA/NFLPI’s, brand.
Michael Colangelo is Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.