After hearing Peyton Manning yell "Omaha" more than 40 times at the line of scrimmage during Sunday's victory over the San Diego Chargers, an official with Omaha Steaks says the company is considering offering the Denver Broncos quarterback an endorsement deal that could include calling out its name during the big game.
"Omaha Steaks is always looking for awesome promotional opportunities that get our brand in front of customers and potential customers," said Todd Simon, a senior vice president at the company his family owns. "So if the economics were right, Omaha Steaks would consider a deal with Mr. Manning, especially given his apparent affinity for Omaha."
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league doesn't have a rule in place that forbids such a deal, and Alan Zucker, who is Manning's marketing agent, wouldn't comment on whether his client would accept it in the first place.
But a potential deal between Manning and Omaha Steaks might be frowned upon.
The NFL already bans players from wearing non-league-approved brands and logos on the field and has even fined players for wearing non-official sponsors during Super Bowl media day. In 2007, Brian Urlacher was fined $100,000 for wearing a hat with the Vitaminwater logo on it to the media event.
Officials at Fox, which is charging an average of $4 million per 30-second ad in the Super Bowl this year, likely wouldn't be thrilled if a company that chose not to advertise in the game sought to get a bang for its buck by paying off a quarterback to have its name picked up by field-level microphones.
ESPN.com asked two sponsorship-evaluation companies, Front Row Analytics and Joyce Julius & Associates, to project how much, in equivalent ad value, a quarterback's mention at the line of scrimmage would be worth to a brand.
For this weekend's conference championship games, Front Row Analytics says each mention during an audible would be worth $150,000. Joyce Julius projects the value to be higher -- $500,000. For the Super Bowl, Front Row Analytics says each mention would be worth $400,000 in equivalent ad value, while Joyce Julius says each mention during the title game would be worth $1.3 million.
Given those numbers, there's potentially a lot of money at play. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made $526,217 this season, while San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made $740,844. One of their teams is guaranteed to be playing in the Super Bowl.
But marketers for Wilson and Kaepernick immediately dismissed the idea as a Hail Mary.
"If a company offered Russell this opportunity, I honestly wouldn't even take it to him," said Mark Rodgers, who works with Wilson on his marketing deals. "The idea that a quarterback, in the middle of the Super Bowl, would be thinking about working in the name of a company really flies in the face of having respect for the game."
IMG's Carlos Fleming, who works with Kaepernick, agreed but left the door open if the team knew about it and potentially could be cut in.
"It would be difficult to imagine the team allowing a quarterback, in the Super Bowl, to promote one of his sponsors when he's at the line of scrimmage calling plays," Fleming said. "You also have to consider the damage to a player's credibility in the eyes of his teammates during such an important moment.
"But let's not be too naive. If there were a significant enough financial incentive for the team, anything is possible."
When the Broncos played the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4 this season, a microphone picked up a player yelling "Papa John's." It was an Eagles defensive player and not Manning, who has an endorsement deal with the company and owns 24 of its franchises in the Denver area.
"Peyton Manning has too much respect for the game to do something like this," said Steve Rosner of 16W Marketing, whose firm represents quarterback greats Phil Simms, Jim Kelly and Boomer Esiason. "But, for others, I couldn't ever see it happening. There's no way something wouldn't leak and the NFL wouldn't put a stop to it."