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Super Bowl: Are 49ers or Ravens more ad-friendly?

The Super Bowl is as much about the commercials as it is the football. So which Superbowl team would be better in a commercial: the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers?

Mark Humphrey/AP
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis speaks during media day for the NFL Super Bowl XLVII football game Tuesday in New Orleans.

Forget the football part of Super Bowl XLVII for a minute. That will be decided tomorrow. But before the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers take the field, let’s break them down from a different angle – which team has the most potential when it comes to doing commercials?

On the ad front, this year’s Super Bowl is a departure because it doesn’t feature the usual suspects: namely, an established marquee quarterback. The last five Super Bowls have involved Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Aaron Rogers, one of the two Manning brothers, or some combination thereof. As quarterbacks operating as the face of their respective franchises, all are easily recognizable to the public, and seasoned spokesmen with millions in endorsement deals.

In contrast, both the Ravens and the 49ers are helmed by guys who are relatively new to the national stage: Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernik.  A few other standouts populate each team, but no one on the level of a Manning or a Brady.

Still, whichever team prevails on Sunday will see a slew of endorsement offers coming its way. So which is best equipped? Let’s take a detailed look at each squad.

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are a rarity in today’s NFL, in that the face of the franchise for the last decade and half has not been a quarterback; it’s been fearsome linebacker Ray Lewis. There’s good reason for that: In addition to being widely regarded as one of the greatest defensive players ever, Lewis is renowned for his stirring, preacher-like in-huddle speeches, sideline dance moves, and on-his-sleeve displays of religious devotion.

He may be as gifted a showman as he is a defender, and it has paid off: Lewis has the best endorsement résumé of anyone taking the field Sunday, having done ads for Old Spice, Madden Sports, Under Armour, and a slew of others. When news broke that Lewis would be retiring at the end of this season, ESPN offered him a TV analyst gig almost immediately.

But he isn’t without his problems. The “Ray Lewis retirement show” that has been running since the start of the playoffs has attracted its share of backlash. Some find Lewis’s overt religious displays hypocritical, and his past acquittal in a 2000 double homicide outside an Atlanta club has been brought up a lot lately.

Then there’s the deer antler spray, and the speculation that Lewis’s fast comeback from a torn triceps injury might not have been completely aboveboard.

Still, he’s the Ravens’ strongest entry, and arguably the strongest entry in the league this side of Peyton Manning. Other standouts for the Ravens include quarterback Joe Flacco, whose outstanding playoff run has his star rising fast. But his own father called him “dull” in a New York Times interview this week.  Other players with potential include: receiver Anquan Boldin, who has been tearing up defensive secondaries all season and whose strong hands make him a perfect candidate for hawking gloves.

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are the ultimate team’s team, so much so that last season’s big national commercial involving a 49er involved, well, all of them (see above). But the team has two standouts: its quarterback and its coach.

Colin Kaepernick took over the 49ers offense in the middle of the season, so aside from his quick feet and his cannon arm on the field, we don’t know a ton about him yet. But what we do know is fascinating: He’s’ adopted. He’s covered in Biblical tattoos. His father is an executive at a cheese factory. He owns a 15-year-old, 100-pound tortoise named Sammy (I’d be surprised if at least one ad executive hadn’t called asking about Sammy’s endorsement availability).

But will Kaepernick be good peddling cars and sneakers on TV? We don’t really know yet. But his coach, Jim Harbaugh, already has some solid television credentials. In addition to having the only line in the 49ers Visa commercial, he had a substantial cameo in a 1996 episode of “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” back when he was quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. And his sideline theatrics rival Lewis’s, particularly when a call doesn’t go his way.

Edge: Ray Lewis has the biggest upside, but he’s all the Ravens have. That gives the 49ers team a slim margin as pitchmen. 

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