More than Ws and Ls riding on Favre’s return
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – As Brett Favre mulls over whether he has another season left in him, a lot more hinges on the decision than just wins and losses for the Minnesota Vikings.
Favre not only led the Vikings to their most successful season on the field in more than a decade, his presence was a boost to everything from the team’s box office and merchandise sales to sponsorship deals and its pursuit of a new stadium.
“It has a lot of far-reaching implications,” said Matt Delzell, a director for Los Angeles-based Davie Brown Talent, one of the largest talent coordinators in the United States. “Not just on the field, but financially it’s a huge hit to the Vikings if he decides to retire.”
Favre’s first season in Minnesota was a banner year in more ways than one. The Vikings won 12 games in the regular season and came achingly close to advancing to the Super Bowl, losing at New Orleans in overtime of the NFC title game.
It was also a big year for the Vikings on the business side. Favre’s Vikings jersey was the No. 1 seller throughout the league, the ticket office was deluged with requests in the days following his signing in August and the team locked down some lucrative sponsorship deals that were sorely needed to offset the lack of revenue generated by the Metrodome.
“Certainly he had an impact,” said Steve LaCroix, the Vikings vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s hard to quantify it exactly, but there’s no doubt he helped.”
LaCroix would not release financial details, but said merchandise sales from the team’s Web site and official team stores in the Minneapolis area had record sales this season. The team also secured naming rights for the field for the first time in franchise history, from the Mall of America.
While that deal was in negotiation before Favre signed with the team, LaCroix said the quarterback’s presence helped wrap it up in time for the highly anticipated Monday night game against his former team, the Green Bay Packers, on Oct. 5.
“You can’t say it was all because of Favre,” Delzell said. “But with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, it probably doesn’t get done that quickly.”
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the local economy benefited from Favre’s surprising relocation.
“In the middle of a horrible period for retail, they single-handedly lifted the economy with massive numbers of sales of pink and purple clothing,” Rybak said. “Brett Favre helped old men like me think they could still have a chance someday to play for the Minnesota Twins or the Minnesota Vikings.”
That comes as no surprise to Delzell. According to market research conducted by Davie Brown, Favre is known by nearly 85 percent of all U.S. consumers.
“That’s a pretty darn good score,” Delzell said.
Favre’s influence was also felt at the state capital, where the Vikings have been desperately trying to gain traction for a new stadium to replace the outdated and revenue-poor Metrodome.
Lester Bagley, the team’s vice president of stadium development, said he has seen more momentum toward the cause.
“Is that due to Favre? Perhaps not solely, but certainly he contributed by bringing the team forward and excelling,” Bagley said. “So in terms of the stadium, our fans are intense, they are watching the stadium debate. They are supportive. We are working on mobilizing them to connect with legislators and weigh in. We’ll try and capitalize on the support for sure.”
Stephen Ross, an associate professor of sports management at the University of Minnesota, said it was his opinion that the Vikings would not suffer a significant financial hit if Favre decided to retire. The team was having some difficulties selling tickets before Favre arrived, but there were no blackouts. And the Vikings have to split the revenue generated from merchandise sales that take place anywhere outside of the team’s Web site and official stores.
The big money, Ross said, comes from the sponsorships.
“One of the things that Brett Favre has been so good at is really protecting his image and really being very selective in the endorsements that he does personally,” Ross said. “Some corporation saying I want to have Brett Favre endorse us, it’s not as simple as that.
“The Vikings, as a third-party middle man, have a lot of people knocking down the door.”
So who stands to benefit the most of Favre returns? The man himself, according to Ross. Favre would make about $13 million next year as part of the two-year deal he signed in August and his ability to continue serving as a top pitch man would be aided by his staying in the game.
“He’s probably the biggest winner financially in the end,” Ross said.
He could be the biggest loser if he goes through another offseason of flip-flopping, Delzell said. If consumers feel like Favre, who holds big endorsement deals with Sears and Wrangler jeans among others, is holding the Vikings hostage by delaying his decision, it could lead corporations to look elsewhere.
In a list of 10 of the most recognizable retired quarterbacks compiled by Davie Brown, Favre had the second-highest overall rating as an endorser, just below Terry Bradshaw. But his “trust score” was the second-lowest thanks to his reputation as being indecisive.
So if he retires in a dignified manner, Delzell doesn’t see that score being harmed. But if it’s a messy exit similar to his final days in Green Bay, that could affect Favre’s ability to secure endorsements in retirement.
“It’s happened a couple of times now. If it happens again, it’s the boy who cried wolf,” Delzell said.
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report.