In January 2015, I conducted a small survey to figure out who the biggest names in American sports were. At the time, it was done to show the impact that Derek Jeter had on baseball in his last season and how the Yankees, sports media, and brands had done a great job of celebrating him. On top of that, it was to show how baseball might have an issue filling the void in having a superstar.
This year, I wanted to do the same thing with no specific mission in mind. Who are the biggest names in major American sports? Who are the athletes that brands can use as endorsers for products? Who are the stars that the public and the media gravitate to?
This focuses on the NFL. Last year, Peyton Manning dominated the vote with 41% of all voters choosing him. Would his recent Super Bowl win changed that? Or did another member of the elite group of quarterbacks overtake him?
THE BIGGEST NAMES IN THE NFL
Number 6: Aaron Rodgers
- Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers
- Achievements: Super Bowl XLV MVP, 2x NFL MVP, #1 all time in QB rating
- Endorsements: State Farm, Adidas
Many people consider Rodgers to be the best quarterback in the NFL today. I wrote an article on his statistical achievements and on how the only direction he can go is up. This year, he made it to the 2nd Round of the playoffs despite losing Jordy Nelson for the entire season. Not only that, but he continues to do more with State Farm and their popular “Discount Double Check” ads that air regularly around sporting events.
Number 5: Jim Kelly
- Retired Quarterback for the Buffalo Bills
- Achievements: Hall Of Fame Inductee, 4x AFC Champion
Note: the votes taken were predominantly done in Western New York and Kelly has had a massive influence on that region. His achievements on the field and the ups and downs he has experienced off the field have inspired many, as shown at the NFL Draft last year.
Number 4: Roger Goodell
- Commissioner for the NFL
Love him or hate him, Roger Goodell is one of the most powerful people in sports. The decisions he has made will affect the sport for as long as it is played, from the decisions surrounding various “-Gate” controversies to the handling of concussions for those active and retired.
Number 3: Cam Newton
- Quarterback for the Carolina Panthers
- Achievements: 2015 NFL MVP, 2015 NFC Champion, 2011 Rookie Of The Year
- Endorsements: Oikos, Gatorade, Beats by Dre
The MVP might not have won The Big Game, but Cam Newton rose to join the elite this season. The excitement he brings on the field shined brighter than ever in 2015, and brands like Beats and Oikos took full advantage of it during the season. Expect TV appearances to increase more and more, especially if Carolina continues to win.
Number 2: Peyton Manning
- Quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts & Denver Broncos
- Achievements: 2x Super Bowl Champion, 4x AFC Champion, 5x NFL MVP, #1 all time in passing yards & touchdowns
- Endorsements: Papa Johns, Nationwide, DirecTV
Regardless of how his form was this past season, Peyton Manning will go down as one of the greatest of all time. The Sheriff on the field is one of the kings of TV off the field. His Nationwide jingles have been hummed over the last couple of years. He has appeared in numerous commercials with Papa Johns, DirecTV, and MasterCard from the middle of his career to the end. Expect to see him a lot more on TV after he retires as well.
Number 1: Tom Brady
- Quarterback for the New England Patriots
- Achievements: 4x Super Bowl Champion, 6x AFC Champion, 2x NFL MVP, 2x Offensive Player Of The Year
- Endorsements: Under Armour, Uggs, Movado
Despite being in the news a lot over the past year thanks to “Deflategate” in the offseason, Brady still was able to lead the NFL in touchdown and win 12 games. Brady led the Pats to a Super Bowl win after the 2014 season. This, combined with the fact that he is Under Armour’s poster boy for the NFL and that the Patriots will be a top contender as long as he plays, will mean he could be the face of football for a few years after Manning retires.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league, as they are the ones that control the pace of an offense and have the game on their shoulders. It shows in these results, as all of the top selections in this pole play that position.
While the top two spots are players who are near the end of their careers, younger players like Newton and Rodgers (as well as others like Russell Wilson) are ready to represent the league when they retire.
Lastly, it’s understandable when people say that Roger Goodell is the most powerful man in sports. His decisions help drive a day of the week in the fall. that, too, shows as he got more votes as a commissioner than any other one in any sport.