Power 100: Dusty closest we’ve got to Beckham, Jordan
The tatts, the trademark mohawk and football genius make Richmond superstar Dustin Martin the most marketable athlete in the country, experts say.
With a "vibe" likened to English soccer legend David Beckham, Dusty is quietly building a multimillion-dollar endorsements empire.
The triple premiership Tiger has added Archies footwear to a stable that boasts Bonds underwear, Jeep, Voost vitamins and watchmaker Kennedy Luxury.
Martin, 29, will release his own fitness app and a second book next season, and is closing in on a lucrative new boot and runners contract.
A documentary tracking the rise of the kid from Castlemaine in country Victoria to the top of Australian sport is also due in 2024.
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The three-time Norm Smith medallist comes in at No. 6 in a News Corp ranking of Australia's 100 most powerful and influential sports industry figures.
UK-based Supernova Entertainment boss Richard Beck, who has worked with Guns N' Roses, INXS and Bruce Springsteen, said Martin was on the radar of some international advertising agencies.
"Dustin is a super interesting case study of a big fish in a little pond that rightly on merit, deserves to swim in the wider ocean," Beck said.
"I've followed not just his footy career, but the way his management team have brought showbiz acumen and sensibilities to his business and brand.
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"He is unique enough of a talent and character to become whatever he wants and attain success previously unheard of.
"Healthy food, lifestyle accessories, cars, tech, sports products, you name it. They are all about to open up to him. He's that marketable."
Martin's agent, Ralph Carr, said he believed his client was "not only one of the best players that has ever played the game, he is probably the most bankable sports brand in Australia".
"Our research shows he has one of the most recognisable faces in the country and he is strong in all states, which is extraordinary," Carr said.
"I always thought with the right support and guidance he would become Australia's Michael Jordan or David Beckham.
"He has real reach, real sell-through and will have strong currency well after he retires.
"Brands need athletes just as much as athletes need brands. When they're paired together by the magic of sports endorsement deals, both can make big money.
"Many people get inspired by athletes and end up doing great things on their own, and inspiration is not something which can be priced."
Emily Small, general manager of brands at Hanes Brands Australasia (owner of Bonds), said the company's partnership is "not just with Dustin the athlete, more the original and unique man he is off the field".
"Dustin likes to collaborate and is always fully engaged whether it be a trick shot, photo shoots or running through Melbourne's streets in his undies," Small said.
Martin, who also has investments in property, is contracted to Richmond until the end of 2024 on a deal worth about $1.3 million a season.
Melbourne marketing expert John Tripodi, of Twenty3 Sport & Entertainment, said "there are a few dynamics at play which allow the likes of Dustin Martin to rise above the clutter".
"First, it helps when you're arguably the best player in the competition," Tripodi said.
"The AFL is dominated by private school-educated footballers and Dusty represents a different narrative. He has his own backstory which provides some colour at times, but also gives him an authenticity which resonates with fans and sponsoring brands. Some may call this an 'X-factor'."
Yet despite his pulling power, Tripodi said there was still "somewhat of a ceiling that restricts an AFL player's earning capacity relative to other sports such as golf, cricket, tennis, F1 and European soccer".
"The AFL is one of the most tightly regulated sports in the world where its clubs are governed by a salary cap and an 'efficient' collective bargaining agreement," he said.
"The AFL's business model is very strong relative to other codes, and part of that success is to ensure player salaries do not spiral out of control like we see in European football.
"Through the CBA, AFL players' share of revenue approaches 30 per cent, while athletes in the US professional leagues share around 50 per cent of league revenues.
"Also, relative to other larger countries, the Australian marketplace for player endorsement deals is quite small. Footballers - whether AFL or NRL - featuring in national advertising campaigns for brands and companies are more infrequent than they are frequent."
Originally published as Power 100: Dusty closest we've got to Beckham, Jordan