Driver's marketing prospects seem endless
Donald Driver was a popular marketing figure long before he twirled his way into the hearts of America on "Dancing With the Stars."
But ever since Driver, the genial Green Bay Packers wide receiver, outlasted every challenger to win the show's final dance competition, his services have been requested in especially high volume.
"We haven't been able to say yes to everything, that's for sure," said Brian Lammi, owner of Milwaukee-based Lammi Sports Management.
Lammi, who has spent a decade working with Driver on his marketing career, said requests have picked up considerably since Driver earned the Mirror Ball trophy May 22 with dancing partner Peta Murgatroyd. Some have been pleas to attend birthday parties on a day's notice, while others are offers from local restaurant chains.
Lammi's focus is paring down those requests to make sure Driver signs the right deals.
"The key for us is to really go deeper with a couple of quality groups rather than looking at doing a ton of different things," Lammi said. "We are still looking to be selective, even though there is this exciting time and the iron is hot. We also feel there is this long-term strategy with Donald, even long after he's done playing football."
The 37-year-old Driver, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, has been a legend in Wisconsin for quite some time. He is the Packers' all-time leader in catches (735) and receiving yards (10,060) and recently signed a one-year, $2.5 million restructured contract to stay with the Packers. He has played for Green Bay throughout his entire NFL career, which began as a seventh-round pick in 1999.
Now that Driver is known for more than football, his appearances make international news. Take, for example, his charity softball game on Sunday, which spawned "cleat-gate," when a woman ripped a pair of Driver's cleats away from a 12-year-old boy after Driver tossed them into the stands.
Video of the incident went viral, and Driver quickly tracked down the boy through Twitter to present him with autographed Packers gear, including a pair of cleats. Media requests for Driver after the incident spilled in, according to Lammi, and Driver even appeared on CNN.
"What we are finding is anything Donald is involved in is certainly getting a lot more attention on a national scale especially," Lammi said. "I was surprised by how quickly the story spread. I think we're all aware that the news cycle is less 24 hours and probably more instantaneous these days."
Previously, Driver has held endorsement deals with Goodwill, Kwik Trip, AirTran Airways, Sharpie and McDonald's, among others, and also has traveled for personal speaking engagements. Lammi said he spent five of the 10 weeks during filming of "Dancing With The Stars" in Los Angeles helping to facilitate future endorsement deals for Driver, whose smiling face was seen by 18.1 million viewers during the final hour of the "DWTS" season finale.
Lammi recently signed Driver to a 25-year deal — the longest contract his agency had ever signed — to continue their marketing partnership.
What makes Driver such a popular figure?
"He's an authentic, quality guy," Lammi said. "He has an omnipresent smile, and he's a skilled position player who's had an incredible career playing for one team.
"The unique thing about Donald and his relationship with Wisconsin fans that a lot of national folks became aware of is the amazing story that he has and how he's lived his life since then. I think he is a role model for a number of folks out there."
Driver's well-documented history includes spending part of his childhood homeless and dealing drugs, while he and his family sometimes got by on eating mayonnaise sandwiches. In 2001, he and his wife created the Donald Driver Foundation, which donates money to local charities and provides housing for the homeless.
Driver has said in the past that he'd like to play until age 40, though Lammi admitted he hadn't heard Driver mention that goal much lately.
"I know that he's enjoyed his entire Packers career," Lammi said. "He loves being a Packer, loves the relationship he has with the fans, and the goal is certainly to finish up with the Green Bay Packers, regardless of what season that ends up being."
While Driver's focus remains on football, other off-the-field ventures will be waiting when he decides to call it a career. Given Driver's increased national appeal, Lammi is certain of that.
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