As Johnny Manziel signed big marketing deals with the likes of Nike, Nissan, MusclePharm and Panini, Brian Hoyer was quietly winning the starting quarterback job for the Cleveland Browns with little interest from corporate America.
Now, one restaurant chain that signed Hoyer in the spring is reaping the benefits of picking the man who eventually won the job.
Mr. Hero, which has 95 stores (all in Ohio), signed Hoyer in the spring; the chain filmed TV and radio spots and allotted marketing dollars for billboards and buses wrapped with his image.
"We didn't quite anticipate that they'd draft Johnny, so we were sweating a little bit," said Dan Traci, owner of All Media Design Group, an ad firm that has the Mr. Hero account and advocated picking Hoyer as spokesman.
As Hoyer and Manziel battled for the job, Manziel vaulted to the best-selling jersey in the league, while Hoyer's jersey, at one point, wasn't even available on the Browns' website.
Hoyer wasn't exactly a slam dunk pick. After spending years as a backup, he tore an ACL last year, and then the Browns selected Manziel with the 22nd pick in this year's draft. Hoyer celebrated his 29th birthday on Sunday with a 31-10 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team's largest margin of victory over its rival in 25 years and Hoyer's sixth victory in eight games as the team's starter.
"Let's just say, as Brian and the Browns continue to do well, the deal gets better for us and perhaps less so for him," Traci said.
Traci wouldn't divulge specifics of Mr. Hero's deal with Hoyer other than to say it's for less than six figures annually, comes with incentives based on on-field performance and accolades and, if Hoyer turns into a real star, allows Mr. Hero the option to retain Hoyer for next year at the terms already agreed to.
Hoyer, who will be making a 1½-hour autograph appearance at one of Mr. Hero's stores next Tuesday, also gets plenty of free food in the deal.
"We gave him some gift cards with this deal," Traci said. "And let's put it this way: He could eat Mr. Hero every day of the season and would still have money left on those cards."
Hoyer's agent, Joe Linta, told ESPN.com that pitching his client to companies before the season wasn't the easiest job. One company he approached said to call back when he's named the starter.
Hoyer, who has 77,000 Twitter followers, has tweeted only four times this season. Three have been apparent endorsement deals. One for Mr. Hero, another for a bed brand called Reverie and another for Distillata, a Cleveland-based spring water company.