The Cowboys cornerback is off to a historic start, but still faces hurdles to becoming one of the rare defensive players to crack the NFLPA’s top 50 list for merch and product sales.
When the Dallas Cowboys face off against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night, they’ll attempt to match their win total for all of 2020 only eight weeks into the current season.
The team’s breakout defensive star, cornerback Trevon Diggs, will also attempt to keep his interception streak alive.
Diggs’ seven picks are tied for the most interceptions through six games in the Super Bowl era. He’s also the only player in NFL history to record seven INTs and multiple pick-sixes. With the former Alabama wide-receiver-turned-corner playing for the world’s most valuable sports franchise and leading the league in takeaways, he’s got a terrific chance to crack the NFLPA’s Top 50 Players Sales list, which takes into account all player-specific products licensed by the players union.
That would be a truly rare feat for a player who lines up in the secondary.
Defensive players rarely make the NFLPA list, full stop. Last year’s included 44 offensive players to just six on defense. It’s also important to note there were no defensive backs on the list last year, and since 2014, only 13 DBs have made the list with Richard Sherman reaching the highest ranking at No. 4.
Marketers say there’s a reason cornerbacks don’t normally appear on the list.
“If you’re really good in the defensive backfield, you pretty much get ignored,” Bob Dorfman, sports marketing analyst and creative director at Pinnacle Advertising, told Boardroom. “What happens is, offensive coaches are looking and going, ‘Wow this guy has seven interceptions. We have got to stop calling plays to his direction,’ and so their names aren’t called very much. If they are not throwing at you, your name is not mentioned, you don’t have opportunities for interceptions or making great plays just because you are out of the picture.”
Diggs hasn’t received such treatment just yet; his numbers are proof. And another advantage in Diggs’ column? Playing for the Cowboys, the most valuable sports franchise in the world.
Because of that popularity, the team is in a 10-way tie for the most nationally televised games in the NFL this season, and is also a consistent subject on sports talk shows like First Take and Undisputed. The constant circulation and re-circulation of all things Big D does wonders for keeping his name on fans’ minds.
“My guess is if he was playing in a small market, we wouldn’t be having this conversation,” says Steve Rosner, co-partner at 16W Marketing, a marketing firm that represents Howie Long, Cris Collinsworth, and Phil Simms. “That has a lot to do with it because that’s just added exposure versus being in a smaller market where 15% of the country is watching that game.”
Dallas’ Cornerback Legacy
Dallas is no stranger to having standout cornerbacks. Pro Football Hall of Famer Darren Woodson was a member of all three Cowboys Super Bowl teams in the 90s, and Deion Sanders was a member of the ‘95 team that won Super Bowl XXX.
Sanders is eternally “Prime Time,” the nickname he carried with him for his entire career. (The energy and excitement even traveled with him to Jackson, Mississippi, where he coaches Jackson State and now goes by “Coach Prime.”) But the key, Rosner said, is that Sanders differentiated himself from basically all others in a multitude of ways.
“He is talked about as one of the greatest to ever play the position,” Rosner said, “and his flamboyancy is obviously part of it. He was one of the first guys who was a ‘me guy.’ One of those guys that wanted people to say, ‘okay we were doing it as a team but I was doing it as an individual.’ Deion checked all the boxes. That’s who he was. That’s something you can’t try to force. It came natural to him.”
Though Diggs may be standing in the shadow of the great Cowboys cornerbacks, Dorfman said he can still cash in. But the potential dollars come with a condition.
The Cowboys must make a deep postseason run and Diggs has to continue his outstanding play.
“It really comes down to getting your team in the playoffs and getting to the Super Bowl,” Dorfman said. “That’s when you get that attention from the casual fan and build your marketability and build your brand and become more recognizable.”
2021 Marketing Potential
But with the playoffs over two months away, Dorfman has ideas about what could resonate with fans before Wild Card weekend begins in January.
“You could have the “Diggs Hole” or the “Diggs Ditch” where receivers go to get buried,” he said. “You could tie it into the Cowboys side of things where you have the Diggs Corral where receivers get tied up. And you could definitely do something with his brother.”
Diggs’ older brother, Stefon, stars for the smaller-market Buffalo Bills. Last season, he was one of the NFL’s best receivers, leading the league in catches, receiving yards, and targets. This season has been quieter for the elder Diggs sibling by comparison — he’s ranked 22nd in receiving yards and 18th in catches.
And has as many touchdowns as his younger brother: two.
Rosner agrees with Dorfman.
“His brother is a great player in the league in his own right,” he said. “Depending on if they want to think about doing something jointly that might be another avenue that might be profitable for both of them.”
The Cowboys and Bills don’t play each other in the regular season, so that leaves only one place the brothers could meet this year: the Super Bowl. And the smack talk between the two has already started.
Trevon said “it would be easy [to guard my brother], ” to which Stefon responded, “Countdown begins…”
However, the younger Diggs can’t get ahead of himself. The Cowboys are off to a 5-1 start, but the season isn’t even halfway over. That leaves plenty of time for him to continue to make a name for himself without a single bit of help from anyone else.
Except the unfortunate quarterbacks of the NFC East, of course.