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Mannings on the Spot
Lisa Altobelli
July 23, 2007
The NFL's first family shoots a new commercial
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July 23, 2007

Mannings On The Spot

The NFL's first family shoots a new commercial

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AFTER EARNING an NFL-high $13 million in endorsements last year (he had seven national TV commercials), Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning is rolling again this summer, and his family is part of the act. Four Mannings and Cardinals QB Matt Leinart, who has known the quarterbacking clan since he got the 2004 Manning Award as the NCAA's top QB, convened at a house near Peyton's off-season home in Chattanooga to do a daylong shoot for DirecTV. SI went behind the scenes at the filming of the ad, which starts airing this month.

When Peyton and his brother Eli visit their parents after their seasons with the Colts and the Giants, their mother, Olivia, barely looks up from making lemonade. She directs them to the backyard, where they find their father, Archie, eagerly giving Leinart quarterbacking advice. Seeing his sons looking hurt and dumbfounded, Archie says defensively, "C'mon, boys, I always wanted a lefty."

The backyard scene took more than three hours and 20 takes because of variables such as background noise from boats and Jet Skis on Chickamauga Lake—and some erratic acting by a hired 4-year-old golden retriever named Oz, whose role involved running up to Leinart on cue for a pat (furthering the new-favorite-son theme). Said Peyton, "I guess the success or failure of this shot depends on how well the dog does." Leinart noted that this was his second commercial-cum-canine and that an NFL Network spot last year with an English bulldog inspired him to get one of his own, which he's named Max. "Oz just needs a swim in the lake," said Leinart, as the heavy panting of the dog (the sun was high, the temperature in the upper 80s) also led to several retakes. "In Arizona, I can't keep Max out of my pool."

Oz wasn't the only one there who was eyeing the lake. "It's a perfect day to take out one of those Jet Skis," said Eli, 26, the Giants' fourth-year quarterback. "They told us we were going to be here for eight hours. I don't have cellphone service out here to make calls or send e-mails. We're pretty much stranded."

This is only Olivia's third commercial (she's also done ads for ESPN and Kraft), but Archie, 58, has shot countless spots since his rookie season with the Saints in 1971. He says the most memorable was for an outdoor spa company in the early '70s that showed how he used a whirlpool to relax with his friends after games. "When they panned out from my face, my 'friends' were eight ducks, and when ducks are in water, they tend to have accidents," said Archie. "After a few takes that spa wasn't a pleasant place to be in."

Peyton has a 40 Q score—not far behind Tiger Woods's 48, which is the highest among active athletes. (The Q score, developed by the research company Marketing Evaluations, measures likability and name recognition through consumer surveys.) Manning, who performed in school plays, has also been lauded for his solid acting chops; his March 24 performance on Saturday Night Live drew critical praise as well as the show's highest ratings in 10 months. Says veteran commercial director Matt Cooper ( Bud Light, Volkswagen), who handled the DirecTV shoot, "Some people are just really natural in front of the camera, and Peyton's one of those people."

Peyton says he liked the DirecTV script, cowritten by Deutsch writers Mike van Linda, 28, and Laurenne Sala, 27, "because it's honest—my parents use the Sunday Ticket to keep up with the both of us." He said he liked the family theme because "[this] way we get to spend some time together."

What real advice would Archie give Leinart (page 46)? "As a quarterback you're like a yo-yo, up and down. But he has a good disposition and takes a cerebral approach to the game. He doesn't need my advice."