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Will Redskins Get a Rush from Madison Avenue?

February 2, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Only seconds after leading the Washington Redskins to a rout of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, quarterback Doug Williams smiled into the camera and made a commercial for a theme park.

A few hours later, General Mills Inc. began churning out a million boxes of Wheaties that showed the Super Bowl’s most valuable player passing from behind the Redskins’ huge line on one side and a Redskins team photo on the other.

Marketers struck quickly in the wake of Sunday’s game for the National Football League championship, which Washington won 42-10.

But some advertising experts doubt whether anyone emerged from the game with the big-league advertising appeal of former New York Jet Joe Namath or the Chicago Bears’ Jim McMahon or William ″Refrigerator″ Perry.

Marty Blackman, a New York talent broker who matches sponsors with athletes, said Williams, the first black to play quarterback in the Super Bowl, played ″beyond the call of duty″ in leading his team to a win, setting a Super Bowl record for passing yardage and being named the MVP.

But he said advertisers generally look for sustained achievement rather than an extraordinary single performance in signing a celebrity.

″Endorsement opportunities are going to come Doug Williams’ way, but I don’t see the floodgates opening,″ he said.

Lloyd Kolmer, another talent broker in New York, said Williams’ story of overcoming adversity on his way to the Super Bowl could attract some advertisers. Williams fell out of favor in Tampa Bay and toiled in the USFL and his young wife died before he signed on as a Washington reserve.

Daisy Sinclair, head of casting for the ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, said Williams gives advertisers a chance to associate themselves with someone who embodies ″sticking with it″ until you succeed. ″He has a very good chance of landing a commercial,″ she said.

Jerry Saviola, vice president for casting services at Grey Advertising, said Williams’ performance puts him among the four or five quarterbacks that advertisers always consider when looking for an athlete for a commercial.

He said the list includes Denver’s John Elway, San Francisco’s Joe Montana and Miami’s Dan Marino. ″Doug Williams will be on that list and wouldn’t have if he had lost yesterday,″ Saviola said on Monday.

David Burns, who runs Burns Sports Celebrity Service in Chicago, said a lack of pre-Super Bowl exposure will probably diminish chances that any of the Redskins will get major television commercial offers.

But he said Redskins lineman Dexter Manley could get the call if someone needs a tough guy for a commercial. ″Mean″ Joe Greene of the Pittsburgh Steelers once played that role in a commercial for Coca-Cola Co.

Blackman said even if commercial opportunities are scarce, most of the Redskins will find themselves in greater demand this off-season for guest appearances.

″If the starters want to go on the rubber chicken circuit, they could be busy five out of seven nights a week at $1,000 to $5,000 a pop,″ he said.

Steve Bowen, president of J. Walter Thompson USA, said football players have a harder time than other sports figures establishing an identity with fans because their helmets keep them ″anonymous, faceless.″

The exceptions, he said, are the ″engaging characters″ like McMahon, who parlayed irreverence for authority into a commercial contract for Honda motorcycles, or players who can be used as ″an instant metaphor″ such as the huge Perry, who happily displayed his appetite in ads for McDonald’s hamburgers.

A year ago, quarterback Phil Simms was the MVP in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXI win over Denver. He was the first player to appear in what Walt Disney Co. is turning into a ritual event for major sports events.

″What are you going to do next?″ an announcer asked Simms as the camera followed him as he left the field.

″I’m going to Disney World,″ the well-coached Simms replied.

Disney has since persuaded Magic Johnson of basketball’s Los Angeles Lakers and Frank Viola of baseball’s Minnesota Twins to say the magic words as they walked off with league championships, Disney marketer Tom Elrod said.

On Sunday, Williams got his turn as the Redskins won.

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