In early January, Manziel hired Select Sports Group in Houston to be his agent and LRMR, the company run by LeBron James' business partner Maverick Carter, to handle his marketing. Almost overnight the tone and message of Manziel's Instagram account seemed to change and mature. In fact, of the 20 pics posted to Manziel's account in February, four show him working out and five associate the Johnny Football brand with other athletic icons and world champions like James, Richard Sherman and David Ortiz. There's also a shot of him on Feb. 5 with his buddy, 6-year-old Charlie Dina, a cancer survivor from Houston. Most of the remaining posts are like this one, featuring a young fan dressed in a white No. 2 "Football" shirt, stretching out to get a high-five from his hero.
You've got mere months to change the public perception of your client and he stands to gain upward of $25 million in salary and endorsements -- what do you do? Pose him next to a kid. Click. Post. Repeat.
Call it distasteful and cynical if you want. But it's PR 101, according to Marcia DiStaso, a Penn State assistant professor and social media expert. NFL coaches, scouts and GMs are not necessarily on Instagram or going to be directly swayed by social media, but the mainstream media certainly is (case in point: this story), and that's how Manziel has been able to so quickly and effectively improve his image.
"You want to get your different audiences to like you, and when you're talking football, one of the core audiences is kids," says DiStaso. "Get the kids and adult males behind you and you've got the country. There's also the aspect of, if you're liked by kids, then everyone should like you, because kids don't innately distrust people. It helps soften him quite a bit, to mix in a few pictures with kids along with the rappers."
Posted: Feb. 14
One of the big questions regarding Manziel, or any other potential franchise quarterback, is his work ethic: Just how committed is he to the endless, mundane and superhuman workload, on and off the field? For example: On Fridays during the preseason, Drew Brees doesn't just watch film until he's the last person in the Saints' facility -- he seems to actually love doing it. "It's one thing to have confidence and another to have humility," Jags coach Gus Bradley said at the NFL combine, referring to Manziel. "If you have humility, you can talk about your weaknesses and that's how you improve. The confidence is great and all that, but are you willing to get better and challenge yourself like Peyton Manning and all the great quarterbacks? Can he challenge himself in a way that he's open to being coached and self-evaluate the areas he needs to improve?"