While the sports world speculates about whether Aaron Rodgers will leave his gig as quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, the football star wasted no time signing new deals off the field. Swiss watchmaker Zenith has tapped Rodgers to be its new brand ambassador for 2021.
Considering all of the brands that could have brought the famed QB on as the face of their brand, it is a major coup for Zenith. Despite being owned by LVMH, it is still the smaller player in the luxury conglomerate’s stable of watch brands, which includes Hublot, Tag Heuer and Bulgari. But the brand has seen rising interest, both for its El Primero tribute watches and older vintage versions that are rising in price on the secondary market and at auction. The recognition is paying off, and Zenith is investing big money to continue the momentum.
While brands, of course, do not comment on the brand ambassador salaries, the NFL’s putative 2020 MVP couldn’t have come cheap. And the deal was apparently solidified over Zoom, pre-pandemic. “The first time I talked to him was through a video call and I expected to meet him very soon after,” Zenith CEO, Julien Tornare, tells Robb Report. “I was traveling in the US in New York and he was in California, so we couldn’t meet physically. We said, ‘Okay, let’s do a Zoom and then we will travel and see each other in person soon.’ But a few weeks after it was Covid-19 and we couldn’t make it. But despite all this, we had already built a relationship.”
Tornare says he wanted to sign an ambassador that shared the brand’s values. The current marketing theme of “reach for your own star,” he felt, was in line with Rodgers’s own story about dreaming of the NFL as a child and then becoming an All-Pro player.
But why, of all the global sports legends, did the Swiss brand choose an American football hero? “I believe global is also local sometimes, and let’s not forget that in the US you are not really a country, you are more like a continent,” Tornare says. “When we talk to you, it resonates to the whole world. Even if American football is much more popular in the US than [in] the rest of the world, it’s still driving buzz all around.”
The CEO says that Zenith brand ambassadors have taken myriad forms, from singers in Asia to actors and even a TV producer in Japan. “We have had different profiles, but as long as they are in line with the brand philosophy, for us, it is very open,” Tornare says. “Reaching for your star, could mean in sports, business, art, or just as a person, simply. It’s more about the values that it’s driving. It’s not about the football, so much as the person.” And yet, you don’t see the nice guys on the bench getting the big brand deals.
Aside from a lucrative ambassador contract and a new Zenith Chronomaster Sport 1/10th of a Second on his wrist, Rodgers may also get a chance to put his own stamp on the brand. Tornare hinted that a co-designed watch with the quarterback could also be “in the plan quite soon.”