Jerry Rice finally has entered a partnership he’s waited on for years.
The Hall of Fame wide receiver is heavily involved in a new campaign with Rice-A-Roni and Pasta-A-Roni, and he couldn’t be happier to be partnered with the brand that shares his name and a city.
“We’re both San Francisco treats,” Rice said, in reference to the brand’s famous tagline. “I’ve always wanted to do something with them and it was just meant to be that it’s happening now.”
The San Francisco 49ers legend hasn’t played since 2004 with the Seattle Seahawks – he also played for the Oakland Raiders. But the new retirement gig for Rice is one he’s not taking lightly. The Rice-A-Roni campaign includes a website, GoTeamRice.com, and a YouTube series featuring Rice.
As a way to energize the Rice-A-Roni brand with the campaign centered around football, the brand felt it was time to finally bring in Rice, said Katie Scupham, marketing director at Quaker Foods North America, which manages the Rice-A-Roni portfolio.
“We wanted to put the brand front-and-center this fall by tapping into football season and teaming up with a natural, memorable partner – Jerry Rice,” Scupham said. “We’re thrilled with the result – we love our San Francisco treats – and hope people have as much fun with it as we are.”
Rice said his post-career life has opened up his personality, so much former teammates don’t recognize it. The multiple activations of Rice with Rice-A-Roni has somewhat reenergized the 56-year-old, who said he’s open to doing more as he enters another stage of his life.
“I’m totally committed to this 100%,” Rice said. “I wanted to be the best I possibly could be and now with Rice-A-Roni, it opens new doors for me and I can feel my personality come out and enjoy myself.
“If I represent a company, I’m going to do it the right way.”
His all-in collaboration is likely key for a brand, said Vassilis Dalakas, professor of marketing at California State University-San Marcos. While Rice holds numerous NFL receiving records – including all-time receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns – he’s more than 15 years removed from the field.
For that reason, this smaller brand with natural name and location tie-in makes sense, Dalakas said.
“Marketability-wise he does not have the appeal for a big brand that a current star like [Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Pat] Mahomes does,” he said. “The partnership comes across as authentic because of [the name tie]. Reinforcing that in a whimsical way only adds to the authenticity. On top of it, there’s the added bonus that they both have the San Francisco connection, which, very wisely, is highlighted in the promotions.”
Dalakas said Rice’s name still has more than enough name recognition, and fans even outside the Bay Area will get the name and location connection and immediately understand the partnership.
While he’s finally in a partnership that would have made sense years ago as a Super Bowl Champion with the 49ers, Rice is just excited to help upgrade tailgates across the country. He joked about how hard tailgating can be and how he’s more comfortable running routes, before saying his favorite Rice-A-Roni flavor is the jalapeño cheddar.
“I always held myself as being a little spicy,” he said. “Just like when I caught the ball, I wanted to do a little something with it.”
He’s still in San Francisco, despite debating a post-football move to San Diego. So much of what made him stay put was the connection between the city and the 49ers fans.
“I couldn’t leave, my history is here,” he said. “When I was first drafted here, I was terrified to death of coming to this big city, but then I thought about meeting Joe Montana and have the opportunity to play for the best franchise, the greatest coach and the greatest players. It’s something I’ll never forget.”