A year ago, a typical post on Manziel's Instagram account was a shot of him at a Super Bowl party with Patriots wild man Rob Gronkowski. Now? It's a grown-up, Sears-style family portrait, taken just before his pro day, of Manziel and his parents with an American flag on one side and President George H.W. Bush (holding an Aggies helmet) and wife Barbara on the other.
"Those original images of Manziel will never go away," says Messner. "But there's a strategy at work here. You have no way of erasing the bad or embarrassing content about you on search engines, so the only way is to fight it with more good content. As time passes, these things move into the background as other photos and content become more popular."
But even this strategy can backfire. With 75 officials from 30 NFL teams in attendance, Manziel was magnificent, by all accounts, at his March 27 pro day. ESPN's Jon Gruden later compared him with Hall of Famer Steve Young. But despite Manziel's nearly flawless mechanics while completing 63 of 65 passes to six receivers, some NFL execs were taken aback by the atmosphere -- the president, his wife and their two dogs, a DJ blaring music by Manziel's new bestest bud, Drake, and the QB himself decked out in a black Nike jersey and camouflage shorts. New Vikings coach Mike Zimmer described the scene to The Houston Chronicle as a "sideshow."
"It's all about hitting your target audience, and at times he's not connecting," says DiStaso. "With the draft coming up, it's a greater challenge for him to identify who it is that teams will be most interested in. Is it that hotshot kid? Or a professional?"
Posted: April 19
When trying to establish or improve a brand through social media, the most effective tool by far is video, industry experts like DiStaso say. Because it connects to more senses -- both visual and aural -- the retention rate is much higher among followers.
Almost three weeks before the draft, Manziel dropped his second video on Instagram: The first was of him dunking a basketball, and this one was also a testament to his athleticism, showing him making an amazing, one-handed catch. Only he did it while driving a Jet Ski. The video instantly went viral, which was both good and bad for Team Johnny Football.
The good: Swarmed on by traditional media, the lighthearted and highly entertaining viral video pushed all other analysis of Manziel out of the spotlight for that news cycle. So instead of reading about character concerns and other criticisms of Manziel voiced by Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, the narrative was about Manziel's remarkable athleticism.
The bad: Look at the video through the eyes of a fuddy-duddy, middle-aged GM (or worse, an owner) who has probably never been on a Jet Ski and is locked in his windowless war room trying to decide if he should invest millions in Manziel and tie his future and the fate of his entire franchise to Johnny Football. "His peers will watch this and see him as a cool guy," says DiStaso. "But the other folks who are looking at him and trying to figure out if he's going to be a risk worth taking, I would think that video would send a red flag."
For starters, there appears to be an empty beer can in the flower bed by the dock in the video. Then there's the fact that just a few years after Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was seriously injured on a motorcycle, Manziel is racing at high speeds not far from another boater and near a thick concrete dock.
"It's him on a Jet Ski," says DiStaso. "Not him doing something great in the community. Not him playing football. Right now, given how soon the draft is, I don't think that was appropriate. It was poorly timed. It was a big risk."
Of course, so is drafting Johnny Football.