Lebron James, 2013 NBA MVP and champion, received $40 million in off field endorsements last season. Peyton Manning, who didn’t play the entire 2012 season, received $8.4 million in endorsements. So how much did Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who won the first Triple Crown in baseball since 1967 in 2012, earn in off-field endorsements? $30 million? $20 million? Try $150,00, mostly through his New Balance endorsement deal.
Why wasn’t Cabrera on magazine covers and Wheaties boxes after his historic season. Could it be his past? But then again, people are quick to forgive an athlete over time (and wins). Is it baseball? After all, baseball players traditionally earn much less in endorsements than their basketball counterparts. Could it be that he plays in Detroit, the 11th biggest market in the country, a region where hockey is king (then again, Albert Pujols got Gatorade and Wheaties endorsements playing for a smaller market in St. Louis)? Is it a language issue? A Latin issue? As Peter Keating of ESPN writes:
I think many companies believe American fans (white or black) are reluctant to identify with Latin stars — and have been since the days when Topps issued “Bob Clemente” baseball cards. I also think the first athlete who gets the chance to prove the suits wrong — imagine Pablo Sandoval hawking Panda Express! — is going to generate a bundle of cash for his sponsor
Contrast this with news of Robinson Cano’s new deal to be the face of Pepsi. Cano is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, the same agency who recently signed Kevin Durant (we covered the significance here). This comes off a week where Roc Nation was rumored to be interested in signing Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, two Cuban players. What is the sports agency up to? As David Dennis of the Guardian writes:
MLB has positioned itself to where “tradition” is more important than the individual (which is especially important in case said individual gets outed as a steroid user), and the NFL is about teams, something that is easier when individual faces are hidden behind helmets. This allows the owners and agents to juggle power amongst themselves. Jay-Z, though, is a wildcard who is threatening to upset that balance. By promising to turn individual athletes in these sports into brands, the Brooklyn MC is threatening to diminish the power of the team owner and traditional agent
So is it Miguel Cabrera, or, as the Guardian article states, a structural reason that’s lead to his lack of off field endorsements? A stat line of 35 home runs, 123 RBIs, and .321 batting average per year over a career must amount to something more. Perhaps it is on an upstart like Roc Nation to crack Clemente’s code. A final word from the Dennis:
While the old guard may only see him as a rapper who glorifies violence or drugs, his new venture into sports agency may be the move that defines his legacy more than any bar he’s ever rapped over a beat.