Urban Dictionary defines a corporate shill as “A person engaged in covert advertising. The shill attempts to spread buzz by personally endorsing the product in public forums with the pretense of sincerity, when in fact he is being paid for his services.”
Well said, Urban Dictionary. Now is it possible to add a photo of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to that page?
It was easy to root for Manning heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl. After all, over the past 18 years, he’s cultivated a likable “aw-shucks” persona and starred in a number of funny commercials. This year’s struggles (abysmal in-game performance followed by injury) along with his rumored retirement made him a feel-good story waiting to happen. Even a diehard New England Patriots fan like me didn’t mind the prospect of Manning going out on top.
Until about 30 seconds after the Broncos completed their upset of the Carolina Panthers.
Standing amidst the on-field celebration, Manning was asked by a CBS reporter, “Is this your final game for your career?”
Rather than reflecting poignantly on all he overcame this season or the possibility of his storied career coming to an end, Manning decided to focus on his adult beverage of choice: “I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that.” He threw in subsequent Bud references during his press conference, Monday morning appearance on CBS and, who knows, probably conversations with his mom and dad.
Of course, NFL players are prohibited from officially endorsing alcohol brands. Later Sunday evening, the head of marketing for Anheuser-Busch InBev tweeted, “Budweiser did not pay Peyton Manning to mention Budweiser tonight. We were surprised and delighted that he did.”
Okay, so it wasn’t a paid endorsement. But given that Manning owns a piece of two Anheuser-Busch distributorships in Louisiana, there clearly was some financial motivation behind the plugs.
And even if he didn’t stand to gain a dime by professing his Bud love? Manning’s overall performance on Sunday night, which also included a staged pregame shot of him guzzling a Gatorade and an on-field, postgame embrace of the founder of Papa John’s Pizza, sure as hell was tacky.
You can bet Tom Brady would’ve handled the situation with more class.