JuJu Smith-Schuster Refuses To Sell Out As An Endorser
There is nothing new about the concept of athletes endorsing products and services. Doing so has the potential to serve as a valuable second stream of revenue for high-profile athletes. For some, like New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, off-field income is substantial enough to pay off all bills, allowing them to not touch any of their salaries if they so choose.
The problem with many athlete endorsements is that there is little-to-no true connection between athlete and product or service that is being promoted. Companies are far too willing to pay an athlete his going rate in exchange for some appearances and social media posts, merely based on follower counts and engagement data. They do not spend enough time on conducting diligence to determine whether the athlete will actually enjoy the product or service the companies disseminate.
Athletes are also guilty of being too willing to outstretch a hand even if there is no chance that they will or have actually used the product or service. Further, some athletes will engage with a company despite the knowledge that they will continue to use competitor products. While that is almost always considered a material breach of the deal terms, it occurs quite frequently and is even sometimes an enforced term by the company that is supposed to be endorsed.
“You have to be true to yourself and true to others,” said Smith-Schuster. “I’m not going to go with a brand I don’t like who pays me more money if I don’t like that brand. I’m going to go with the brand that I like that will pay me less money.”
He compared Pizza Hut to Subway, saying that Pizza Hut is “organic JuJu,” but that he would not do an endorsement deal with Subway, because he does not like the company’s product. Very clearly, Smith-Schuster said he will not promote something that he does not want.
Some people call that an unwillingness to “sell out.” I think it only adds to the potential value of off-field deals concerning Smith-Schuster in the future. Surely, he will be required to perform on the field to take advantage of his unique and quirky personality for off-field opportunities. If he continues to succeed for the Steelers; however, the sky is the limit for someone with JuJu Smith-Schuster’s outlook when it comes to brokering endorsement deals.