Less is More: How Andrew Luck Handles Off-The-Field Partnerships

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Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t particularly enjoy dancing while people are looking at me,” said Andrew Luck, with a laugh, by way of explaining why he donned disco garb and dance battled Mike Trout as part of a new ad spot for BODYARMOR.

His decision to overcome nerves and self-doubt and perhaps a tinge of embarrassment to bust a move in front of millions of people, on repeat, owed itself to the thought that “it’s important to poke fun at yourself regardless of what you do in this world.”

But it was also an exercise in belief, something he told Front Office Sports is the centerpiece for how he selects his off-the-field partnerships.

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“Believing in the people, believing in the brand,” he said of his criteria for ad partners. “I don’t want to feel like I am ever put in a situation where I have to compromise my beliefs and sell something that I don’t use or don’t believe in… I don’t want to feel inauthentic.”

To that end, Luck said, it’s all about less is more. That philosophy is hardly unique among athletes but it carries extra weight for the 29-year-old Indianapolis Colts quarterback, whose advertisement portfolio is relatively measured for being one of the best players at the marquee position within the country’s biggest sport.

After being chosen with the first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck’s only initial high-profile endorsement was his shoe and apparel deal with Nike, something he characterized as deliberate choice “to make sure I could prove myself on the football field before I did anything.” Gradually, he took on additional partnerships, but several high-profile deals like TD Ameritrade and Visa were more short-term agreements than bigger-picture, bedrock partnerships.

The recipe for staying power, then, begins with a partner whose product he actually uses. Such was the case with DirecTV. In BODYARMOR’s case, he first stumbled onto the sports drink during his final season at Stanford. By the time he turned pro, he was using it often enough to take the unusual step of courting the company.

“I was talking to my agent once I graduated and became professional and I was like, ‘You know, I really like this drink BODYARMOR. We had it in our weight room. You think you can reach out to them?'” Luck recalled.

Luck ultimately invested in the company in 2013, and became a pitchman shortly thereafter. Six years later, BODYARMOR is now the official sports drink of the NCAA and features athlete partners throughout the sports world. According to BODYARMOR Vice President of Marketing Michael Fedele, those two developments are intertwined.

“As one our earliest athlete investors, Andrew has been with BODYARMOR since the beginning and has helped us grow from a small brand with regional distribution in select stores into the company that we are today,” Fedele said. “He’s been an invaluable asset to the BODYARMOR brand both in marketing and connecting with consumers but also importantly behind the scenes given his deeper involvement with our company.”

Still, Luck has been careful to compartmentalize his off-the-field work, no matter how strongly he believes in the partnerships that do make the cut. Such was the case from 2016 through early 2018, when Luck missed more than a full season recovering from an injury to his right throwing shoulder. The physical and mental strain of the rehab led him to pull away almost entirely from the public eye, a strategy that other athletes might deem drastic but for Luck proved essential.

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“I had to get away and that was the best thing that ever could have ever happened to me,” Luck said. “It was awesome to have great partners like BODYARMOR that allowed me, in a sense, and I never felt any pressure during that time to do anything, which I very much appreciated. And I needed, in a sense — I don’t want to say sabbatical, that’s the wrong word, but I was unhappy and I had to go figure myself out before I could help anybody else out, that’s for sure.”

Just because he’s back on the field doesn’t mean that approach will change. He has no plans to stop being selective, nor any to stop being open-minded about what else comes his way. He said “yes” to DirecTV because, in addition to liking the service, he thought the commercials were funny. He agreed to the latest BODYARMOR spot because he thought he’d have a good time.

“I try to keep it small, focused and about quality,” he said. Even if, it turns out, that means learning to dance with the whole world watching.