Rus’sell’ Wilson

Shakespeare famously wrote, “What’s in a name, that which a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” as a monologue in “Romeo and Juliet.” In the monologue, Juliet expressed frustration that her family held assumptions about Romeo because of the actions of others within his bloodline. Many superstar athletes are also stereotyped, and are seen as interchangeable dollar signs in selling tickets, merchandise and TV time because of their position and excellence on the field. With success that extends beyond the field and world of sports, starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks—Russell Wilson— is one rose that stands out among the rest.

There’s no doubt that Wilson’s recent performance on the field has brought in revenue for marketers and merchandisers across the county. After just two seasons in the NFL, Wilson helped lead his team to a 43-8 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos. His NFL jersey was the second best-seller in 2013 behind Peyton Manning. Sponsors such as Nike, Alaska Air, American Family Insurance, EA Sports, Seattle Children’s Hospital and Levi’s have attached themselves to Wilson’s image, and are benefiting from his 670,000 Twitter followers and 708,000 Facebook Fans. Winning Super Bowl quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning can attest to this experience, and are making millions more than Wilson in the process. It is Wilson’s emotional background, diverse athleticism and humble attitude that make him more than just a brand.

Wilson grew up with a passion for sports and excelled in baseball and football. At the age of 22 and student athlete at North Carolina State, Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft. After a brief stint with the Rockies, Wilson and his agent agreed that he should focus on football, which led Wilson to transfer in his last year of eligibility to the University of Wisconsin. There, Wilson led his team to the Rose Bowl and set the pace for his NFL career. Statistics aside, there are two things about Wilson’s athletic career that make him a notable and appealing brand. The cross-appeal from two sports, baseball and football, increases his visibility, fan base and makes him a more marketable spokesperson. Perhaps more relatable is Wilson’s “underdog” aura. Wilson was drafted in the third round and 75th overall primarily because of his height of 5’11—on the shorter side for an NFL quarterback. As a consumer and a fan, Wilson’s determination and ability to overcome this setback is not only admirable, but gives us hope that we too can achieve things that are seemingly “out of our league.”

Wilson has stated that his relationship with his father is the driving force behind his success. While many star athletes have great familial relationships, Wilson bonds with fans on an emotional level as he shares the story of his father’s passing in 2010, on the night Wilson drove home to share the news about his pick in the MLB draft. In various sponsorship advertisements, Wilson dwells not on the passing of his father, but the lessons he learned from him—most notably the “three P’s:” to have a great perspective, to have a great purpose, and to always persevere.

As previously mentioned, Wilson has a wide range of endorsements thus far, but my favorite is the Levi’s “Go Forth” campaign. This two-minute commercial focuses on the character behind Wilson, and the positivity and determination that have carried him throughout his career. Whereas many athletes sell products that have “influenced” the way they train, play or celebrate success, Wilson sells an outlook—one of dedication, responsibility and self-confidence. He demonstrates these qualities along with the three p’s in his off-field performance as well. Wilson visits sick children and their families at Seattle Children’s Hospital and runs a football camp for inner-city kids, another example of his good-nature.

Russell Wilson sells more than just a brand—he sells a mentality. Ron Washington, manager of the Texas Rangers (who invited Wilson to join them in spring training on Monday), said it best, “[Wilson] can teach kids about commitment, work ethic and application. That is what life is about, period.”

*Update: Russell Wilson files for divorce from wife

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