No matter how many different puzzle pieces fit together to make the Kansas City Chiefs a success this season, the perception is that it’s The Patrick Mahomes Show.
The starting quarterback has capitalized on not only being surrounded by high-level skill players, but also a marketing team that has positioned Mahomes to make good money — and for more than just himself.
The Charlie Hustle Clothing Co. marketed a new crewneck sweatshirt last week. It has a caricature of Mahomes and the phrase “Showtime,” which has become the nickname he’s most closely associated with.
Charlie Hustle founder and CEO Chase McAnulty said it’s “pretty much selling out” online and in stores.
He sensed a business opportunity in the spring after all the hype around Mahomes at the 2017 NFL draft. The Chiefs traded up to select the Texas Tech quarterback 10th overall and elevated him to starter after trading Alex Smith in the offseason.
“We were unsure,” McAnulty said about the calculated gamble. “I think everybody was unsure of how good he was going to be. I don’t think anybody thought this good.”
In his first season as a full-time starter, the 23-year old Mahomes is not only rewriting the Chiefs record book but putting himself in the company of the league’s greats. He has more touchdown passes (45) than total TDs scored by 25 other teams. He's nearing the NFL single-season record of 55 TD passes.
And there are still two games left in the season.
Mahomes is one of the league’s hottest items. According to the NFL, Mahomes jerseys will likely be among the Top 5 best-sellers this season.
The sweatshirt in the window of the Charlie Hustle store in the Country Club Plaza district caught the attention Jared Ward, who’s from Kansas City but lives in Iowa City. He was in town to attend the Dec. 13 game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Earlier in the day, Ward saw the image of the sweatshirt on Instagram.
“The hair, the glasses and the headphones. I mean, you gotta get it,” Ward said moments after his purchase. “You gotta look cool.”
On the take
Charlie Hustle has deals with several Chiefs, Royals and Sporting Kansas City players. They get 10 percent of the profits normally.
McAnulty said his deal with Mahomes is different.
“He’s the biggest star this city’s seen since George Brett really,” he said. “From a contractual standpoint, it’s a 50-50 split.”
The key was getting a deal done early. Another Kansas City-based company, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, did the same thing. Negotiations started after the Smith trade, but the deal wasn’t finalized until several weeks after the draft.
CEO Lisa Ginter said no one’s disappointed.
“We got Patrick Mahomes,” she said. “That’s a great deal! That’s a great package in itself and, yeah, we have Patrick and we actually have him for a multiyear deal.”
Mahomes’ base salary this season is $555,000. But he got $16 million in guaranteed money when he signed his four-year rookie contract last year.
When asked if CommunityAmerica’s endorsement deal with Mahomes exceeds his Chiefs base figure, Ginter laughed and evaded the question.
“Patrick’s doing great,” she said.
Toast of the town
Mahomes seems to be enjoying his celebrity status on the field and off. He attended Sporting Kansas City’s last home game in the MLS playoffs against the Portland Timbers. He took in his alma mater’s men’s basketball at Sprint Center in November, as well as last weekend’s Villanova-Kansas game at Allen Fieldhouse.
It helps that the Chiefs are 11-3 going into Sunday’s game at Seattle.
And whatever Mahomes reveals to the media and fans, it becomes a big deal, like his love for ketchup.
“I don’t think it’s that weird, but I put it on my macaroni and cheese,” he said last month. “People seem to think that’s a weird thing. Some people think that’s disgusting, but it’s good to me.”
On Wednesday night, Hunt's Ketchup announced they'd signed an endorsement deal with Mahomes; the terms were not announced. But the commercial itself jokes about Mahomes' mac preferences.
The likeability factor sells in Kansas City.
“He has definitely made his mark in Kansas City. You can’t help and sit back,” Ginter said. “I remember meeting him for the first time and saying, ‘My gosh.’ I guess I would feel like a proud momma.”
The Chiefs fanbase quickly found out in the first month of the NFL season how much they’d love Mahomes. At the Sept. 23 home opener against San Francisco, Mahomes was announced during pregame, but no one could hear it. The crowd cheered that loudly.
Mahomes’ success is paying off for everybody.
Greg Echlin is a freelance sports reporter for KCUR 89.3.