— Good thing there’s no gauge that measures “buzz quotient.” If there were, Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez would have blown it by now.
But what concrete impact does “buzz” have? Has Sanchez increased season ticket sales, personal seat license purchases, ad sales on Jets-related programming? And did the Jets – who are opening a new stadium in 2010 – have an eye on the bottom line in taking the draft’s most charismatic player at the game’s most visible position?
Answering the second part of that question first, the Jets say there’s no link between their trading up on draft day to take Sanchez with the fifth pick and their need to sell tickets.
Matt Higgins, the team’s Senior VP of Business Operations, said the bottom line for the team has nothing to do with the business bottom line.
“There is interest and Mark has brought excitement, but that only goes so far,” said Higgins.
Jets owner Woody Johnson was asked last week what role Sanchez’ marketability had on the team’s decision to draft him. “There's no link,” he said. “There’s no consideration for anything else other than how they’re going to perform on the field.”
As for the first part of the question – how much of a business bump has Sanchez brought – the Jets indicated it was too early to tell how much impact the former USC star has had, but Higgins did note that, web traffic “increased dramatically.” In addition, Sanchez’ jersey – No. 6, by the way – is the No, 1 selling jersey out of all this year’s picks. And it’s selling at a more rapid pace than last year’s hottest shirt, the Raiders Darren McFadden.
The selection of Sanchez has also swung the spotlight onto Gang Green at a time of year when the Yankees and Mets are dominating the back pages of the New York tabloids. The media swarm for the Jets rookie mini-camp at the team’s facility in Florham Park, New Jersey was notably bigger than in past years. And the coverage was more breathless.
Steve Bonsignore, a Senior VP specializing in marketing at global PR firm Cohn and Wolfe, noticed. And he couldn’t help wondering if more was afoot than the quarterbacking ability of Sanchez.
“There was an interesting feel leading into and right after the draft,” said Bonsignore, a “diehard” Jets fan who works in New York. “There was a little sentiment in business circles and I think with savvy fans that it feels like (last summer’s signing of Brett) Favre all over again. There was a sentiment (wondering), ‘Is this a move for the betterment of the franchise in terms of being a Super Bowl contender or from a business perspective because (there was no star power on the roster).”
Now, said Bonsignore, public opinion seems to have shifted. Sanchez’ football ability – not his marketing cache – led to his drafting.
“Based on the way (head coach) Rex Ryan has been interacting and his comments about (Sanchez’ burgeoning potential) the tide seems to be turning,” said Bonsignore. “They are coaching the personnel as opposed to Woody twittering about things. What Ryan is saying about how well Sanchez leads and looks on the field gives validity to his being a franchise quarterback for fans. And oh, by the way, he may also be a great marketing asset who can bring in the Hispanic community and has great poise.”
Bonsignore noted that, while disappointing days for Sanchez are inevitable, he seems well equipped to deal with them.
“How he deals with adversity in the media will go a long way,” he explained. “When you look at someone like Sanchez who seems at ease in front of the camera and engaged and enthusiastic, there’s a sense of competence that exudes. We’ll have to see how he reacts after that (poor) game but there is a sense of resiliency, a sense of ‘I can take it.’ ”
Compared to his Giants counterpart, Eli Manning, Sanchez may have an easier college to pro transition in New York because of his self-assuredness.
“With Sanchez, you get the feeling of a guy who’s saying with his personality and body language, ‘I’m glad I’m here and I’m ready for whatever the city throws at me.’ With Eli, the way he carried himself in adversity – shoulders down, morose – created a perception about his own feeling about his ability to lead that team. Eli is not the guy who looks like he’ll put his hand through the wall because he threw three picks. With Sanchez, there’s that confidence. But it’s easy to do that at this point. Who doesn’t look great at rookie camp?”
Higgins echoes that, saying, “All the great things about Mark’s personality only goes so far. Winning takes care of the rest and it’s important nothing gets in the way of that.”