Peyton Manning’s retirement announcement was front and center on every website, blog, TV channel and social media post. For two reasons. Manning, of course, was one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all-time. And he also was one of the greatest endorsers of all time.
Manning retired with roughly $400 million in earnings — $249 million in NFL contracts, according to Sportrac, and $150 million in endorsement deals, according to Forbes — making him the most financially successful NFL player ever. That shouldn’t stop just because he’s not playing.
A lot of Manning’s future earnings will depend on his next steps. It is well-known that Manning owns Papa John’s franchises in the Denver area. He also owns two beer distributors in Louisiana — which is a reason he mentioned Budweiser after helping the Broncos win Super Bowl 50. He will likely see a solid stream of income off those investments.
Manning also probably isn’t going to disappear off fans’ TV screens any time soon. Brands he is associated with can use his retirement in a new ad campaign. Manning could be getting ready for Sunday football, but this time singing the Nationwide jingle while enjoying his retirement. He could drive his Buick to the stadium only to have to pay for parking. Manning isn’t going away any more than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, Wayne Gretzky, and Joe Montana have. They all are effective endorsing products post-retirement.
Manning also could make money as a TV personality. There is going to be a bidding war for his services and he could still endorse products as long as it is written into his TV contract. That would only increase Manning’s earning power. What’s to stop him from being the next John Madden or Jon Gruden?
Only two issues could stop Manning from continuing his endorsement deals. One would be if he becomes GM or purchases a stake in a team. John Elway isn’t shilling products while he runs the Broncos. Jordan has cut back on endorsement appearances with his ownership stake in the Hornets. There is a potential for competing sponsors and team-related business decisions that could limit Manning. He would be paid millions to run a team, but that pales in comparison to his endorsement options.
The other issue comes with the recent HGH and sexual assault allegations. As of now, both stories have been contained. There hasn’t been close to the amount of coverage and scrutiny as there was with PED allegations involving Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds or A-Rod. Or nearly as much as Ray Rice or Jameis Winston faced in their assault cases, Tiger Wood’s from his infidelity, or even a certain QB nemesis allegedly deflating footballs. If allegations prove true, Manning’s earning power certainly could be limited. The quicker those stories go away, the better it is for Manning’s financial future.
Of course, Manning also has the option of taking time off and disappearing for a bit. After all, he has made $400 million and that should last him as long as he wants. But that is unlikely to happen with someone who has enjoyed the limelight for so long, and Manning has never left money on the table.
Michael Colangelo is Managing Editor of The Fields of Green and Assistant Director at the USC Sports Business Institute.