On Tuesday, the Kansas City Chiefs made two prominent player personnel moves, making Eric Berry the highest-paid safety in the National Football League and releasing running back Jamaal Charles.
While both of these moves will have ramifications on the field, there are also consequences for the franchise in terms of how it affects the brand as well.
While Jamaal Charles was a powerful asset to Kansas City’s image in his Chiefs’ prime, the amount of notoriety that he has brought to the franchise has declined with his missed time due to injuries. Thus releasing him shouldn’t hurt the Chiefs’ brand that much.
One of the strongest indicators of any NFL players’ personal brand power is player jersey sales. Dicks Sporting Goods and NFLShop.com both make their jersey sales figures publicly available. Charles’ jerseys have not been performing well as of late on either site.
Charles’ Brand Weakening
Charles had the 65th-best selling jersey in the NFL during the 2016-17 in terms of Dick’s Sporting Good sales, and never claimed more than one percent of the total NFL jersey sales from the sporting goods giant. The top-selling Chiefs jersey according to Dick’s belonged to tight end Travis Kelce, who was 45th on the list. As a team, the Chiefs were 15th in Dick’s sales for the season.
The NFLShop.com numbers look pretty similar, and they have the added feature of breaking down sales on a state-by-state basis. Kelce claimed the top-selling NFL jersey in the state of Kansas for the 2016-17 season. Kansas was the only state in which a Chiefs player claimed that honor for the past season. In Missouri for the 2016-17 season, the top-selling jersey was New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Jersey sales are only one part of a player’s brand, however. Product endorsement deals and investments in other ventures offer a fuller picture of a particular player’s personal brand power.
While Charles played for the Chiefs, his off-the-field public activities were somewhat successful. In 2013, Charles landed an endorsement deal with Puma, for which he made a video series and was featured on company advertising.
A deal between Charles and Lincoln, Nebraska-based Opendorse was announced in 2015. Opendorse plays the middle man or finder for companies seeking spokespeople and/or celebrities seeking endorsement deals.
Charles also has an endorsement deal with Cutter gloves along with availabilities for public appearances and speaking. While it’s unclear how much any of these deals have been worth for Charles, TheRichest.com puts his net worth at $30 million.
In releasing Charles, the Chiefs lost a player who once carried an enormous amount of brand power, but has seen a steady decline to where it’s an understandable loss given his injuries and the rise of other players. Extending Eric Berry could actually be enough to make up for the loss of Charles from a business aspect.
Berry’s Brand Power Rising
Berry didn’t spend much time in the NFL before landing his first endorsement deal, signing with Adidas in May of 2010. He renewed that effort to promote Adidas this past season by wearing the company’s new Ultraboost cleat on the field.
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While Berry’s cancer diagnosis wasn’t good for his health and threatened his football career, it wasn’t all bad for his personal branding. Berry’s charity foundation received a $20,000 donation from Nationwide Insurance in 2016, and Kansas City apparel company Charlie Hustle produced special shirts to support his foundation as well.
It could be argued that Berry’s brand is hurt by his position on the field, as offensive players still hold more of the most powerful positions among NFL players when compared to defensive players.
TheRichest currently lists Berry’s net worth at $21 million. That figure could easily rise to equal or surpass Charles’ if he continues to stay healthy, on the field, and productive. Proof of that concept is the fact that Berry’s jersey is 58th on Dick’s list, topping Charles along with Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
With limited funds under the salary cap, the Chiefs have several tough decisions to make this off-season. Whether or not releasing Charles and extending Berry will be the best on-field decision remains to be seen.
From a perspective of which player currently does more for the Chiefs’ brand, however, they seem to have made the correct decision.