We don't know yet if Johnny Manziel will be the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft. But he apparently was the No. 1 target of Nike among this year's NFL rookies-to-be.
The athletic apparel company fought off bids from Adidas, Under Armour and New Balance's Warrior brand for Manziel's marketing rights, according to ESPN's Darren Rovell.
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Manziel wore Adidas for his two years of playing at Texas A&M, where he won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and helped embody the "Johnny Football" nickname that made him one of the most famous — and infamous — college players in several years.
You'd have to think that Nike will try to capitalize on the "Johnny Football" nickname, even though Manziel tried to separate himself a bit from that at the NFL scouting combine in February when he spoke with the media. Manziel was involved in several incidents at A&M — as well as hobnobbing with celebrities — that have raised questions about his character and maturity.
But after all, this is the company that built a brand around Michael Jordan, introduced the world to Tiger Woods and have thrived with a LeBron James campaign that has helped make him more likable in the public eye. Phrases such as "Just Do It," "Bo Knows" and "I am not a role model" still resonate today.
Nike also is the NFL's officially licensed uniform provider, and it also represents several other quarterbacks, including Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.
The success of the 5-foot-11 Wilson, who led the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs in both of his years starting in the NFL, including a Super Bowl victory, has helped open the eyes of NFL evaluators to shorter quarterbacks. Manziel recently measured at the combine at just below 6-foot tall.
But Manziel's presence is far larger, and Nike is hoping to capitalize on that. He's not yet anywhere close to MJ, Tiger or LeBron, but Manziel has a chance to be a marketing icon.
The deal is for multiple years (financial terms were not released), per Rovell, and was negotiated by James' business partner, Maverick Carter, of the Fenway Sports Group.
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