Have you seen the Under Armour TV spots featuring some of the top NFL draft picks? There’s Ohio State’s AJ Hawk running agility drills and Maryland’s Vernon Davis whipping through some sprints. Each college phenom looks like the lean, mean fighting machines they undoubtedly are.
But, here’s the problem with companies like Under Armour spotlighting these guys before they’ve ever played a minute in the NFL: the odds are good one or more of these athletes will be a big bust. For a precedent, one need not look further back in the rear-view window than the most recent Winter Olympics where advertising poster boy Bode Miller stunk up the slopes in Torino.
The NFL’s "hall of shame" is chock full of top draft college picks like Hawk and Davis who advertising agencies featured in commercials only to see them flame out on the field. Among the more prominent were Ryan Leaf, Blair Thomas and Johnny "Lam" Jones (the latter two cut particularly close to the bone since they both bombed for my beloved Jets). The all-time, high-profile top draft pick flame out, though, had to have been the "Boz." Brian Bosworth was all-everything in his college days as an Oklahoma Sooner. And, the advertisers couldn’t wait to feature his bizarre crew cut or snarling visage in an endless number of print and broadcast spots. So, what happened? The Boz bombed in the biggest way possible and was summarily drummed out of the NFL.
So, here’s hoping (but not expecting) that advertisers like Under Armour will "exercise" a little restraint in the future and at least wait for these college stars to actually prove themselves in the NFL before paying them big bucks to flex and frolic on the boob tube. In my opinion when these guys flame out, their personal reputations also take a beating because of all the incessant TV chest thumping they did "before the fall." It’s too bad the advertisers aren’t held accountable as well. Sadly, like the Energizer bunny, they’ll just keep on going and going, spotlighting one unproven jock after another.