Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo expands his field
Saturday, November 13, 2010; 11:57 PM
Brian Orakpo is getting ready for his close-up. His makeup artist for the afternoon, Trish Martinez, goes with CARGO blu-ray around his eyes, Make Up For Ever on his cheeks and Burt's Bees on his lips. But the final touch for the day's photo shoot is the most important - the milk moustache, for which she opens a small carton of Greek yogurt and dabs it on Orakpo's upper lip.
"Me being naive, I thought it was actual milk they use," says the Washington Redskins' talented linebacker.
Orakpo's emergence as a dangerous pass rusher came last season, when he tallied 11 sacks as a rookie and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl. Now in his second year, Orakpo has seven sacks through eight games and is on pace to surpass last year's total.
He's trying to take full advantage of his football success by capitalizing away from the field.
Orakpo and Creative Artists Agency, which represents him on and off the field, have been methodical and deliberate in their marketing approach. CAA encourages its clients to focus on football during their rookie seasons. If they thrive on the field, year two is the time to spread their wings away from it.
It's a similar approach that CAA uses for most of its young stars, from Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons to rookie Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams.
"I think you have to be careful going into year one," says Howard Skall, Orakpo's marketing agent with CAA. "Even if you have a guy who went high in the draft and played at a national school like Rak did, you also want to have them established in the local marketplace. You don't want them out there too much before they've ever set foot on the field."
Says Orakpo: "It would have been too much of a burden last year. It would've been too much on my plate."
He's been busy this season, though. In addition to a handful of preexisting deals, Orakpo recently launched a Web site (BrianOrakpo.com) with a blog, joined Twitter (@rak98), signed a local sponsorship deal with Verizon, agreed to take over for former Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell hosting a golf fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and began making preparations for his first football camp, which is scheduled for next spring. He's trying to get out in the community more, too - he made an appearance at a Tysons Corner mall Saturday after practice and last Tuesday paid a visit to an Arlington elementary school prior to the milk moustache photo shoot for Dairy Management Inc.
Most NFL players can't aspire to the national deals that put the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady on television commercials every week.
But that doesn't mean there isn't money to be made. The vast majority of endorsement deals in sports are of the regional and local variety, experts say.
"The really big ones, those are rare," says Stephen Greyser, a senior professor at Harvard Business School, where he specializes in marketing, sports and branding. "Those are for a certified big star or someone who flashes across the sky like a meteor. Most aren't going to get those kinds of deals. The vast majority of players get nothing. Or very little."