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Selling the city on a quarterback hoping to land a big score on the field and in business

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Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb discusses his off-field endeavors and explains how his recent move to Washington has resulted in a "renaissance."

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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2010

On the 12th and top floor of an Arlington building, the quarterback wore a sharp, five-button suit and led a huddle that numbered nearly five dozen.

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The windows measure 12 feet tall in the Top of the Town banquet room and reveal one of the best views of Washington -- the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument -- but everyone was focused on the front of the room, where the quarterback sat next to a placard that read "Down to Business with Donovan McNabb."

"This isn't just, 'I'm coming here for a year or two and then I'm out of here,' " McNabb told the crowd of area businessmen, government leaders and inside-the-beltway movers and shakers in late July.

And when McNabb finished outlining his beliefs, his character and his goals, the Greater Washington Board of Trade reception adjourned to the back of the room and the sandwich-and-cheese platters in the middle. The Washington Redskins weren't scheduled to report to town for two more days, but his other team -- Team McNabb -- began working the room aggressively. The guest list included people from Bank of America, Verizon, the Smithsonian, Kaiser Permanente and the White House. Team McNabb wanted to shake every hand and let each guest know that the quarterback is going to be active in Washington and is actively looking for partners.

At 33, the Pro Bowl quarterback who's charting his reinvention on the field and beyond has landed with a team badly in need of a championship. McNabb himself is hoping to use his fresh start to reinvigorate his business goals off the field. For everything McNabb brings to the table, he has arrived in Washington without one key asset: a Super Bowl ring.

And in the world of sports endorsements, celebrity doesn't always land the big score. It usually comes down to championships.

"He has an uphill battle based on the fact that he has not won any championships," said Steve Trax, a principal in Bethesda-based MTX Wealth Management, which manages $350 million for 90 clients, most of whom are professional athletes. "Like it or not, in the public's eye, success on the playing field correlates to success in sales."

Team McNabb said its brand stands for leadership and being a warrior on the football field.

Since McNabb was traded to Washington in April, his brand, which has earned him more than $100 million in the past decade, has seen a resurgence, and Team McNabb intends to further capitalize on it. The reception at Top of the Town in Arlington, unusual in the world of athlete marketing, was just the first step.

McNabb's business adviser calls the move to the nation's capital "a renaissance" for the quarterback, and McNabb has aligned himself with new corporate partners, discussed plans to work with the White House and plotted ways to launch his brand to new heights.

"I don't see myself as this big name. I just see myself as Donovan," McNabb said in an interview. "My mom sees me as Little Donovan; my dad, just son; whatever it may be. But I know that from what I've been able to accomplish and the things that I've been able to do, that some things I say and do kind of goes a long way for some people."

'He is a winner'

Andrew Stroth is a Chicago-based attorney and serves as the business adviser on Team McNabb. When trade rumors began circulating with increased fervor last spring, he knew Washington would be a preferred destination. "Playing in the nation's capital gives Donovan access to a vibrant business community, a very committed philanthropic community, as well as the opportunity to work with the White House," Stroth said.


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