There’s a flurry of contract activity underway prior to the Super Bowl.
Many players are busy inking potential memorabilia deals in case they have a breakout moment on sports’ biggest stage, said Edward Schauder, a partner at the law firm Phillips Nizer and former general counsel and executive vice president of licensing at Steiner Sports.
Players, agents, and companies are signing licensing and marketing contracts, addendums and bonus clauses with brands to lock in potential earnings.
“You never know will happen in the Super Bowl, and the implications are all the way around the horn,” Schauder said. “There are signings going on, escalators being written in — contingent on the Pats winning, contingent on the Rams winning, and meet-and-greets that depend on the game going one way or another.
“Brands want to make sure they are able to immediately catch the lightning in a bottle if their player hits big. I love these contingency deals because if you don’t have them in place, it’s a bidding war if a player hits.”
Last year, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles went from a backup to Super Bowl champion with a lucrative book deal set for an offseason release. Schauder also noted New York Giants wide receiver David Tyree’s remarkable catch in 2008 at Super Bowl XLII. Tyree never made another catch in the NFL, but has a household name for football fans and collectors.
Schauder used a hypothetical wide receiver to demonstrate how the deals might work. Currently, the receiver receives $10 per inscription, but should he win the Super Bowl MVP, his inscription rate could jump to $25.
“It’s gambling in a sense, but the only money lost is the time it takes for attorneys to draft up the paperwork,” he said, adding the deals often run up to Sunday. “Everything around the Super Bowl is gambling, companies spend millions on commercials that will be a hit or miss. Even national anthems, like Fergie.”
“It’s smart business,” he added. “If someone tied up Tyree beforehand, that’s someone you’d want as someone you can roll out.”
Many of the contracts are with players on the fringe of celebrity, Schauder said. Yet, again, there are plays — like Tyree’s catch or the 1972 Pittsburgh Steelers’ Immaculate Reception — that become part of the modern day lexicon.
“They might do something one way or another, become a hero or a goat,” he said. “That, to me, is the exciting part.”
Other figures might be quarterbacks who cement their legacy with a Super Bowl win or two, like Kurt Warner or Eli Manning. For a young quarterback like Los Angeles Rams star Jared Goff, a Super Bowl victory early in his career could set him up for a potential all-time great career.
Similar deals are in motion prior to other major events and series in sports, like the World Series and even the Triple Crown in horse racing.
Often times the escalators might not kick in, but the Super Bowl offers a stage for athletes to potentially build their name to a level unlike most others in their sport. Even just signing “Super Bowl Champion” can bring an uptick in value.
“You can potentially win a mini lottery ticket,” Schauder said. “Once you can say you’re a Super Bowl MVP or wear a ring to a signing, it’s something magical.”
Even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady could see a boost, and Schauder said the Super Bowl offers a major pain point for some collectors of Super Bowl memorabilia. Should Brady win a sixth Super Bowl ring, there are collectors who will no longer find much meaningful value in a “five-time Super Bowl champion” signed product.
“I would bet there are people rooting against him from winning for that reason; I know that sounds crazy,” Schauder said. “To a collector investing hundreds, if not thousands, that comes into play. There’s a lot of money at stake.”