MANCHESTER - Wayne Rooney's tarnished image will need a complete overhaul if Manchester United are to recoup his huge salary rise through commercial deals, sports marketing experts say.
The England striker, celebrating his 25th birthday on Sunday, can afford an even more lavish party than usual after signing a five-year deal this week that is widely reported to earn him 200,000 pounds per week.
It makes him United's top earner ever and they will need him to deliver on the pitch and off it to get their money's worth.
Months of negative press, ranging from his poor World Cup to speculation over his private life and the handling of his United contract talks, have weakened his brand appeal with Coca Cola dropping him from an on-product advertising campaign this month.
United's best player last season was also conspicuously absent from an advert in this week's matchday programme for Swiss luxury watch maker Hublot, which instead featured Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov, Nemanja Vidic and Javier Hernandez.
"One of the things United will be seeking to do in order to offset the cost of his contract is to use him for commercial purposes but as the Hublot advert kind of demonstrates, the Rooney brand has in many ways got limited appeal," Simon Chadwick, professor of sports business at Coventry University, told Reuters on Sunday.
"It doesn't augur well for the club and what the club are going to have to do is think very very carefully about how they use Rooney now.
"He will need to go quiet now for six months to a year and his advisors will have to re-launch the Rooney brand. It will have to be much more stable and conformist.
"We will perhaps see Rooney re-emerge in a year's time, in commercial terms at least, as a stable family man with children and all the kinds of stories we've seen will have to disappear if his brand is to be commercially successful."
The England striker will have to return to his high work-rate performances that yielded 34 goals last term after a one-goal showing so far in an injury-hit season.
"For Wayne to fulfil his commercial revenue-earning potential off the pitch, he will need to fulfil his considerable playing talent on it in future years," Paul Mace, managing director of independent sports communications agency Macesport, told Reuters in emailed comments earlier this week.
"That, I suspect, is going to be his biggest challenge." By negotiating the pay rise - in a way that has offended fans along the way - Rooney has ensured a secure financial future for himself but handed his club a few headaches.
As well as having to work out how to recover their outlay, United could be faced with other players seeking pay rises since a precedent has now been set - a prospect which has led to some clubs considering the merits of a wage cap.
Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, quoted in British newspaper The Sunday Times, said his club "would seriously consider" a cap but that it might have to be worldwide to stop players moving to countries with no restrictions.
It is not something that Rooney, with the ink still wet on his new bumper contract, needs to worry about.
"In some ways, given what has happened over the last six months, Rooney has opted for the certainty of a high salary rather than the uncertainty of the commecial revenues that could have been generated," said Chadwick.comments