"I'm just here so I won't get fined."
In the lead up to this year's Super Bowl, Seattle's star running back Marshawn Lynch was required by league rules to be available for a press conference. Notoriously media-averse, Lynch had previously been fined $100,000 for skipping out on press conferences. When he stepped to the podium this time, he made it perfectly clear he was there for only one reason.
Lynch was asked 25 different questions, and 25 times his response was the same: "I'm just here so I won't get fined." The media immediately turned his performance into a national debate. Was Lynch being rude to people just trying to do their jobs as reporters? Was it unfair for the NFL to require a player who appears to suffer from social anxiety to give a public Q&A every week? Was it a hilarious change of pace from the usual stream of football clichés?
One thing did become perfectly clear in the aftermath: for all his animosity toward the media, Lynch is a very savvy self-promoter and used the opportunity to make himself a lot of money. While the (much duller) interviews that the rest of his teammates gave got almost no replays on ESPN, Lynch's stubborn answers were shown again and again on every sports, comedy and news show around the country. And millions of people watching couldn't help but notice the hat he was wearing.
That hat had the logo of his personal "Beast Mode" brand on it. And, wouldn't you know it, it was available for sale, along with a wide range of other branded shirts and gear, right there at the Super Bowl site at a Beast Mode Pop Up Shop. That shop, along with the online version at BeastModeOnline.com, sold out of the hats in just a few days. According to sponsorship valuation company Front Row Analytics, by wearing that hat in the viral clip of his interview, Lynch generated the equivalent of $2.6 million in advertising for his brand. In just three days.
The NFL is notoriously obsessive about how it and its major sponsors are presented. Every stitch of clothing worn on sidelines is prescribed in exacting ways by the league, ensuring that Nike, Gatorade, etc. all get their money's worth. The players are cast as billboards for dozens of brands that they have no direct connection to. Lynch, though, has managed to take the league's own powerful PR machine and turn it to his own benefit. By not following their rules, he was predictably given an even bigger spotlight that netted him potentially millions.
While the Super Bowl coaches Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick are often called "masterminds," Lynch proved that even a player of few words can pull off a brilliant game plan.