Russell Wilson looks for brand refresh in Denver
Russell Wilson's debut game as a Denver Bronco is as scripted as his life.
- The $245-million quarterback takes the field in prime time Monday night to face his former team, the Seattle Seahawks, in what's billed as the start of a new, winning era for the state's most notable sports franchise.
Why it matters: Wilson, 33, is the new face of Denver. A Super Bowl champion, philanthropist and businessman whose fortunes are intertwined with the city's future.
The intrigue: Ever since the Broncos signed the QB in March, he's put on a charm offensive in his new city.
- A day before being introduced in Denver, he visited Children's Hospital in Aurora with his second wife, entertainer Ciara, to read from their new children's book.
- He threw out the first pitch of the season at Coors Field, and said it was always his dream to play in Denver after the Rockies drafted him in 2010.
- He opened the fourth location of his retail store, The House of LR&C in Park Meadows mall, where his family's sustainable-sourced fashion brands line the walls.
Between the lines: Wilson's brand is seemingly as important to him as winning on the field.
- Through his agent and public relations aides, "Saint Wilson" has built a pristine public image with his positivity, Christian faith and "picture-perfect family" — a persona collectively worth millions in endorsements.
- He's been studied for how he uses Instagram to reinforce his brand, dubbed a "PR pro's dream" for sticking to talking points and celebrated for being authentic, even when he admitted he bullied and "beat people up a lot" as a kid.
Yes, but: Whether it's a veneer or real is one of the most often debated aspects in coverage of Denver's new superstar.
His stock took significant hits before he joined the Broncos. He made a "dangerous" claim that a water company he repped saved him from getting concussions. He drew criticism for rewriting history in a graduation speech. And he emerged as "a divisive figure" in the locker room.
- Even associates wanted him exposed. For instance, he professed transparency, but made guests sign nondisclosure agreements to enter his box at Seattle Mariners baseball games.
- His team even tried to trade him in 2018, a year after the internal drama became public. And just before his relocation this year, Wilson went on a "scorched earth campaign" trashing his former teammates.
The bottom line: The Broncos offer Wilson an opportunity for a new start, but if he doesn't win, this year his outlook in Denver may crumble under the pressure.
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