Daniel Murphy, once a largely anonymous second baseman for the New York Mets, has set the baseball world afire by hitting a home run in six consecutive postseason games, along the way propelling the Amazins to a National League pennant and a spot in the World Series. But Murphy's barrage of homers, which has gripped even the most casual of MLB fans, could be worth more than just championship banners.
The stunning hot streak has certainly boosted the Mets' title hopes, but Murphy's new and unlikely hero status could also prove to be a major boon to the second baseman's future earning potential. Along with a the prospect of signing a more lucrative contract in 2016, Murphy stands to rake in a substantial payday through endorsements and ads should he choose to capitalize quickly on his newfound success and public exposure. The second baseman's stellar October could be worth millions in future earnings.
As far as Murphy's brand goes, his streak "blows off the roof," said Bill Sutton, director of the University of Southern Florida's sport and entertainment management program and a longtime sports marketing consultant. "The performance, which is unequaled in history, will catapult him into the rarefied air of money he wouldn’t have seen."
— Sports on Earth (@SportsonEarth) October 20, 2015
A New Phenomenon
Murphy's streak of home runs is unprecedented and approaching on miraculous. His sixth straight playoff game with a home run bested Carlos Beltran's former record of five. The 30-year-old has batted .421 in nine 2015 playoff games and both Sports Illustrated and ESPN have ranked his postseason run among the greatest of all time. All of this from a relatively pedestrian second baseman who is a career .279 hitter with one All Star appearance.
"I can't explain what I'm doing," he told ESPN's Scott Van Pelt after the Mets completed a sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series to earn a spot in the World Series and the chance to play either the Kansas City Royals or Toronto Blue Jays.
That underdog story has endeared Murphy to fans. "He’s done something in sports that transcends the game," said John Favorito, a sports marketing professor at Columbia University in New York City. "He’s what everybody aspires to."
Should Murphy take advantage of his newfound exposure, his performance could translate to significant local endorsements with products like consumer package goods, insurance companies or baseball specific products, Favorito said. National deals could be harder to come by, but cumulatively, these newfound endorsements could expected to be worth $3 million to $5 million, he said.
There is a precedent for players capitalizing on the firestorm of attention following a major playoff performance. Most similarly, former St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese, for instance, led his team to a comeback 2011 World Series win with a clutch triple and home run in Game 6. He would later be named the series MVP, which was then parlayed into endorsements, including becoming the spokesman for the Imo's Pizza chain based in St. Louis.
But Murphy's situation could play out differently than Freese's in 2011, or even Hideki Matsui's stunning 2009 World Series MVP run, because it has lasted so long and captured prolonged attention.
"In a sport where you’ve seen these heroes come along pretty quickly, this is kind of a different one ... it [has] extended itself already over two weeks," Favorito said. "[Murphy] keeps surpassing himself."
Murphy is getting to be a household name. The Marketing Arm, a marketing and promotion agency that measures engagement, pulled new data on Murphy Thursday and found about 21 percent of consumers were aware of him, putting the second baseman on par with people like star golfer Jason Day, Washington Wizards point guard John Wall and rapper Rick Ross. Matthew Delzell, managing director at The Marketing Arm, said if he were Murphy's agent he'd be pleased with that data, adding he was a quite surprised by how far Murphy had risen from practically no public awareness at all. But that could prove to be fleeting, akin to the sudden fame of a star in a weekslong Olympics game.
"[Olympics stars] have an incredible bump in awareness … then the Olympics end and football season starts and nobody talks about them anymore," Delzell said. "It’s a little bit similar with Daniel Murphy ... He should try to capitalize quickly."
One way Murphy might be able to make money off his newfound attention has nothing to do with endorsements but rather his contract situation. He's due to be a free agent following the end of the season. The Mets, who are reportedly hesitant to commit to the aging player long-term, could attempt to hold on to Murphy with a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer. But New York already has a notably threadbare budget, so such a move could be unlikely.
The New York Daily News has reported that if the Mets hold steady on their current payroll, it's nearly impossible Murphy, who made $8 million this year, will stay in New York. Team sources told the paper that while his postseason play has been stellar, he is likely going to have to find a new home. The New York Post listed the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Los Angeles Angels as possible future landing spots. Newsday has pegged Murphy's likely contract, with the Mets or otherwise, at four years and a rate of upwards of $10 million per year, citing league executives. The 30-year-old has created a clear rise in value.
"Teams that would not have had an interest in him before probably have an interest in him now," Sutton said.
A Family Man
Should Murphy move on from New York, perhaps for a bigger contract, a lot of his endorsement opportunities would likely dry up in the short term, since the local market is his best shot at landing deals. In the long term, however, he'll likely be able to push product as a folk hero in the New York area for years, especially if he continues his stellar play and the Mets win it all.
Murphy is relatively workman-like and not much for flash. That has fueled his recent rise in popularity but could prevent him from lasting on the national scene, where big personalities often fare best. His past could also come into play when considering national deals. He suffered somewhat in the eyes of the public earlier this year when he commented in March about not supporting a gay "lifestyle." But Murphy also brushed aside sports-radio-fueled debate about his skipping two games for the birth of his son in 2014 and earned a reputation as a family man, which helps earn endorsements.
Regardless of which team's uniform Murphy wears next season, or if he signs on with a number of companies, there's one area he can without a doubt make some quick cash: merchandising. Everybody is going to want a piece of this historic run through autographs, game-worn gear or anything else attached to the streak.
"You’ve got to believe people there are scraping every piece of dirt off his shoe," Favorito said.