Former NFL Greats Rake in Big Bucks During Super Bowl Week

Some players can earn over $50K for appearances.

Jan. 28, 2014— -- How much would you pay to watch your favorite former player from the National Football League do his end-zone dance live?

While players for the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are the star athletes on the field this Sunday, in the days leading up to the Super Bowl, it's the old-timers who are making the big bucks long past their glory days. Former greats compete to get paid by companies for appearances before the big game, sometimes earning $10,000 or more for shaking hands for two hours.

Some players are better-suited for speaking engagements and other players can be used for less traditional appearances.

Former Cincinnati Bengals player Elbert "Ickey" Woods was booked for an event strictly to do his signature "Ickey shuffle" end-zone dance, said Robert Tuchman, president of sports and entertainment marketing firm Goviva. After his dance, Woods left.

"Super Bowl is when tons of former players come into town specifically looking to make money and work as many events as possible to collect appearance fees," Tuchman said.

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The list of participating football greats this time of year is long. Among the popular players who are booked this week are Phil Simms, former quarterback with the New York Giants, now a CBS sportscaster, and Boomer Esiason, former quarterback with the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals, said Tuchman. Those two are particularly adept at public events because of their sportscasting work, he said.

"Both have Super Bowl experience and stories to tell from playing in the game. Both are even more popular this year because they appeal even more to New York-based companies doing events," said Tuchman, who declined to name his Fortune 1000 clients.

Fees for former NFL players at these events typically range from $1,500 to up to $40,000 to make an appearance at a large corporation's event, Tuchman said. Most players receive anywhere from $7,500 to $10,000 for a two-hour appearance, he said.

Tuchman's events typically last a minimum of two hours. For rare one-hour events, players will sometimes lower their fees a bit. Most events are question-and-answer sessions about their careers and the upcoming game.

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What determines a player's appearance fee during Super Bowl week? Players from the local market in the Super Bowl town tend to get more work. Former players from the teams that are playing in the game are also in high demand. This week, former Denver Broncos who have been active in promotions include linebacker Karl Mecklenburg and running back Terrell Davis.

Star power like that of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, who has four Super Bowl victories under his belt, can earn $50,000 to $60,000 for an appearance. His former 49ers teammate running back Roger Craig, who won three Super Bowls, will likely earn less.

Most players fly in on Wednesday or Thursday and try to get three or four appearances to make it worth a trip, Tuchman said.

The majority of the business surrounding the Super Bowl will wrap up by Saturday night, so there's usually an exodus Sunday morning as the players head home to watch the game from their couch, said Matt Dzamba, director of sports marketing at Zambezi.

Because this year's Super Bowl takes place in the large media market of New York, ex-athletes will be visiting "Radio Row," a long gauntlet of news outlets, along with events on behalf of brand partners, said Dzamba.

For the big money, Dzamba said some athletes can earn six-figures to be a proactive "face" of a marketing program, including media appearances, social promotion and hospitality.

"Some athletes are better equipped to handle media and communicate the brand's messaging, while others are best served in a "meet and greet" capacity," Dzamba said.

In 2008, Tuchman said he booked former Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles player, William "The Refrigerator" Perry, to play at a golf tournament during Super Bowl week in 2008. But Tuchman needed Perry to leave the golf tournament early because he was booked at another event.

"It wasn't fun trying to stop him," Tuchman said, adding that he was contracted to stay. "These guys come in and try and knock off four or five appearances and then usually head home before the actual game is played on Sunday."