Daily Record Business Writer
January 12, 2009 7:06 PM
Try as he might to maintain his “Joe Cool” composure, Ravens quarterback sensation Joe Flacco is not just your average Joe anymore.
From “I [heart] Joe” T-shirts to buying the Web site “JoeTheQuarterback.com” to the Ravens’ slogan “Wacko for Flacco,” opportunists in the Baltimore region are cashing in on the rookie’s rise to fame as he heads the team’s bid for Super Bowl XLIII.
“He’s a week away from being Elvis,” said Joe Linta, Flacco’s agent and president of Connecticut-based JL Sports.
Linta and Flacco have partnered with Alumni Management Group, a Pikesville public relations agency that also represents Ravens Ray Lewis and Troy Smith, to handle Flacco’s local marketing opportunities. And according to AMG President Seth Katz, interested parties have been chomping at the bit in the last several weeks.
“We have been inundated with opportunities,” Katz said. “We look to treat everyone as a partner between Team Flacco, and while I don’t want to suggest we were rewarding someone who came to us earlier, if they approached us a couple months ago they would have bought into Team Flacco at the ground floor. Whereas now it’s Johnny-come-lately.”
Those who made the early bet on Flacco’s success are now reaping the rewards. Craig Pfeifer, owner of Maryland Screen Printers Inc., contracted with AMG in the fall to purchase the rights to Flacco’s name for his printing business. By early December his company was printing “I [heart] Joe” and “Joe Cool” T-shirts, the Flacco No. 5 sweatshirt and similar items, before Baltimore had clinched its playoff berth.
While Pfeifer said he did make a considerable investment in the licensing fee — the details of the agreement are private — the gamble has more than paid off.
“Sales have been great,” he said, estimating he’s sold well over 10,000 shirts and sweatshirts, which retail for between $15 and $35. “The shirts are flying off the shelves as fast as I can print them.”
According to the licensing agreement, Flacco receives a percentage of every T-shirt Pfeifer sells to his approximately 25 distributors in the area.
Katz said the level of demand for Flacco apparel had reached an incredible level that impressed even him. AMG represents 42 other players in the NFL — he declined to release any names besides Smith and Lewis — and Katz said none of their other clients have created this much consumer demand in the company’s four years of existence.
“We’re astonished by the public consumption of Joe Flacco-related merchandise,” he said. “No other rookies to date have generated that kind of adoration.”
Pfeifer’s screening company has also made a deal with the PressBox Store, the retail arm of the Baltimore sports media outlet that includes a newspaper and two weekly radio shows, to sell “Joe the Quarterback” T-shirts. According to John Coulson, the outlet’s vice president of sales and marketing, Publisher Stan “The Fan” Charles came up with the slogan during the presidential election when Joe the Plumber was popular.
Pressbox bought the domain JoeTheQuarterback.com, then arranged for Pfeifer’s company to print the shirts in exchange for a cut of the revenues.
“It made sense to us to snag [the domain] so if people were going to put out T-shirts they would Google that phrase, then be redirected to our Web site,” said Coulson. “We’ve sold almost 1,000 online just on our site and several hundred just over the weekend.”
Pfeifer, who has been in the business for more than 20 years, said this is the biggest demand for any one player that he can recall.
“I thought Joe Flacco was the best guy to go after,” he said of opting to buy the naming rights before the Ravens’ playoff berth was secured. “He’s a rookie but he’s a team leader. Joe did well and I got lucky in that.”
He and Katz noted they are still bothered by unlicensed Flacco gear...
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