The first Sunday in February – Super Bowl Day – has always been a key date for Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. The second Sunday in May now occupies an important place in his work calendar.
“Before Mother’s Day I think I made 80. Basically 80 Mother’s Day cameos,” says the former Green Bay Packers star. “Christmas looks like holidays, special occasions, it goes up. Maybe five to ten a day. There might be a few days that I don’t do this, and then I show up. But in general, like on Valentine’s Day, it kinda increases.
Favre is the most popular athlete on Cameo, the rapidly growing site where fans pay celebrities for personalized video messages and chats. At $ 400, it’s pretty much more expensive than a card and flowers, but it has an average rating of 4.9 out of five for the shouts and pep talk he records from home in his warm trail of the South.
“It’s a simple and easy way to earn money and be engaged with your fans. How ingenious is Cameo? I mean, my God. And the pandemic strikes and it’s perfect, ”he told the Guardian. “You can’t be close and personal with all of your fans, it’s just impossible, and sometimes you don’t want to be, but it gives you a way to engage. They get something, you get something.
While most of Cameo’s more than 40,000 “talents” hold, to put it mildly, a niche appeal, the site is now attracting world-renowned names. “In my opinion, the floodgates have pretty much opened,” says Favre, who retired in 2011. “I’ve been doing Cameo for what, now maybe three years, gives or takes, and I guess everything the world does.
“Drew Brees for example. Contacted me in June or July, he just asked me if it was legit, he was thinking about signing up and he asked me roughly what he could hope to earn in a year or six months. And I told him, I said, “I just turned 80”. He’s like, ‘you’re kidding me’. I said, “Look, Drew, not that you need the money, but it’s the easiest money you’re ever going to make.” You can do as much or as little as you want. “
Brees, the 2010 Super Bowl quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, charges $ 750 with the proceeds going to his foundation. Cameo offers wealthy stars the chance to interact with fans without the venom that permeates many social media platforms. For the Little Lights, many of whom need an income and purpose after retiring in their mid-30s, this is a handy tool for staying relevant and monetizing the nostalgia inspired by their exploits on the pitch.
Former players who previously had to attend events to earn appearance fees, possibly spending hours signing memorabilia, can sprinkle stardust from the comfort of their own homes using just their phones.
Provided the idol makes a sincere effort, a video greeting can have a powerful impact, according to Angeline Close Scheinbaum, professor of sports marketing at Clemson University. Research she co-authored on branding suggests that compared to text alone, consumers “connect more to video, you can use your senses more.” Unlike autographs, cameos can go viral: “on the one hand, it’s personal but on the other, it’s shareable.”
Cameo had its best year yet in 2020 as the pandemic reduced in-person contact. Over 1.3 million cameos have been made and over 150 personalities have won at least $ 100,000. The company, which is taking a 25% cut, has about $ 100 million in total sales with an average order of around $ 70. If the United States Supreme Court rules this year that current college athletes are free to enjoy their image rights, Cameo is poised to enter what should prove to be a lucrative market.
“In such a disconnected world, we connect people to their favorite person,” says co-founder Martin Blencowe from his home in Los Angeles. “Now they can hit Ray Lewis, they can hit Gabby Douglas, they can hit big names… The Hall of Fame category really works for us. A lot of it is recommendations, talents talking to their friends. “
Once a promising runner, the UK-born 34-year-old moved to California to attend college but injuries thwarted his Olympic ambitions. He decided to become a Hollywood producer and also worked as an NFL agent. In 2016, Blencowe asked his client, linebacker Cassius Marsh, to record a video congratulating a friend on a new baby. “My boyfriend thought it was amazing,” he recalls. Cameo was born later that year when Blencowe and co-founders Steven Galanis and Devon Townsend developed the idea that selfies are the new autographs.
Blencowe and Galanis traveled to Minneapolis for the 2018 Super Bowl, “staying in a really basic motel about an hour out of town” and roaming the city in hopes of persuading skeptical targets to join what was then a small and obscure business. This year, Blencowe visited Tampa and watched the game with Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. “Now the guys are coming over to us,” he said. “It’s really cool.”
Athletes make up one-fifth of the Cameo talent base, from wrestlers to lacrosse players to commentators. American football and baseball are the most popular sport categories. Going through the list feels like stepping into a vast experience where celebrities quantify the power of their own star power.
Spend $ 750 to $ 1,000 and you could buy a moment of personal attention from Jack Nicklaus, Troy Aikman, Mariano Rivera, George Foreman or… Avram Grant. Chelsea’s one-season manager risks pulling out of the market, you say, but pledges to donate the proceeds to charity. Or you can grab Roger Clemens and Sergio Garcia for $ 900 combined. Iconic skateboarder Tony Hawk looks like a good deal at $ 200. Mia Hamm charges $ 125, Michael Owen, $ 180 (both for good causes). Current MLS players Justen Glad and Juan Pablo Torres are among the dozen available for $ 10 and under.
Favre, who led the Packers to Super Bowl victory in 1997, was the second most reserved celebrity in 2020, behind Brian Baumgartner ($ 195), and just ahead of Snoop Dogg (currently unavailable). Baumgartner – who played Kevin in the US version of The Office – reportedly made $ 1 million from the site last year.
Among the most in-demand athletes, Favre leads Lewis, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker ($ 300), actor and martial artist Chuck Norris ($ 450), and former wrestlers Flair ($ 500) and Mick Foley (99 $).
“Most, I’d say over 90%, are general requests, happy birthday to my mom, my son, my cousin, my uncle,” says Favre. “I can’t tell you how many cameos I’ve made when it comes to the Packers. “My dad is a die-hard Packers fan, he’s devastated by the recent loss, can you cheer him up?” These are endless.
“I think the strangest request would probably be to reveal the sex of a baby, or to propose. “Hey, will you propose to my future fiancée if she says yes?” I guess they think they can’t say no to me, but of course they can.