The telephone rings nonstop these days at Endless Ink in Reno, Nev., where the Super Bowl run of Colin Kaepernick has tattoo seekers waiting four months to use the same artist as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
Business has really, really picked up, doubled, says Nes Andrion, 35, Endless Inks owner who just might emerge as Super Bowl Sundays big winner.
Andrion will get his work displayed for free while companies such as Anheuser-Busch, the worlds biggest brewer, BlackBerry and PepsiCo., sponsor of the halftime show, pay up to $4 million for a 30-second ad during the National Football League championship game between the 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.
They are paying to be part of one of the rare telecasts that still draws a large live audience. An average of 111.3 million people watched last years game, in which the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots, the most in U.S. television history, according to Comcasts NBC. This years game in New Orleans is being shown by CBS, which reaped an average $3.75 million per 30-second commercial.
Kaepernick, 25, and the tattoos that cover most of his chest, back and arms will get about two minutes of so-called focus time during the broadcast, said Eric Wright, president of Joyce Julius & Associates, sports advertising evaluation company in Ann Arbor, Mich. That translates into about $16 million in exposure on game day.
With Kaepernicks tats expected to be front and center, his tattoo artist will certainly be a major beneficiary without having to spend a dime, said Bob Dorfman, executive director at San Francisco-based Baker Street Advertising. He wont be as talked about as the marketers who score the best ads of the game, but for pure return on investment hell be very hard to beat.
The 49ers have been hard to beat since Kaepernick became the starter, going 7-2, including playoff wins over Green Bay and Atlanta. San Francisco is a 3 1/2 -point favorite in the Super Bowl.
Kaepernicks relationship with Andrion, who charges up to $120 an hour, began as a freshman at the University of Nevada. A number of the schools athletes had tattoos done by Andrion and word of his work eventually reached the 6-foot-4, 230-pound quarterback. Now he goes nowhere else.
I had him do one piece, Kaepernick told reporters last month. I really liked it and Ive been going to him ever since.
The first tattoo, on his throwing shoulder, was Psalm 18:39, which reads, You arm me with strength for battle.
The good fortune isnt lost on Andrion, who says he came to the United States in 1990 after growing up poor in the Philippines, often sleeping on a dirt floor, eating only bread for breakfast and walking the 1 1/2 miles to school in flip-flops that didnt match.
Kaepernicks tattoos became a topic of debate after AOL columnist David Whitley wrote on Nov. 28 that an NFL quarterback shouldnt look like a convict.
NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility, Whitley said. He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you dont want your CEO to look like he just got paroled.
Andrion laughs, saying Kaepernick is everything youd want your kids to be.
Andrion, who says hes never made more than $28,000 a year, wants to focus on building his business and passing along his good fortune by offering apprenticeships to anyone with a desire to learn the tattoo trade.
Give them a chance to be who they want to be, said Andrion, who declined to disclose how much the quarterback has spent on his tattoos.
Hanging in the shop is a picture of Kaepernick and Andrion, who had just put the finishing touches on his favorite of the quarterbacks tattoos, the one that reads, God Will Guide Me.
Part of that one will be visible to viewers on Kaepernicks left biceps. Other illustrations include Scripture verses and the slogan Against All Odds.
Andrion ponders whats next for his business while driving the 30 miles to work each day in a 1998 Honda Prelude whose odometer has logged 188,000 miles.
Not even Kaepernicks friendship, visibility and promotional possibilities are enough to prompt a change of football allegiance for Andrion.
Im a Patriots fan, bro, he said. Colin knows.
But come Super Bowl Sunday, Andrion said, hes willing to become a 49ers fan, just this once.
Im really going for him, Andrion said. He puts money in my pocket.