The National Catholic Review

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has served as a spokesperson for St. Vincent’s Catholic hospital in Manhattan since 2006, and he plans to continue this work—but from now on he’s doing it for free. The New York Post reported that Manning will no longer accept compensation for his publicity work for the hospital, undoubtedly a considerate gesture given the hospital’s dire fiscal condition. Manning’s decision sets a good example for those on Wall Street who insist on claiming immense bonuses during the recession, but was the hospital’s decision to sign him in the first place really wise considering they did so while the institution was in the midst of bankruptcy? According to the Post,

Over the summer, St. Vincent's inked a new $1 million agreement with Manning as part of a five-year promotional deal.

It was the continuation of its partnership with Manning, who had already netted about $500,000 from the hospital since November 2006 -- when St. Vincent's was still officially bankrupt.

As part of the renewed, unusual financial arrangement, St. Vincent's was to pay Manning and his Ohio-based merchandising company another $250,000 a year from 2009 through 2014. Manning then would donate $50,000 back to the hospital -- reducing his net annual paycheck to $200,000.

St. Vincent's had widely publicized the partnership in May -- but in a far different light.

A glowing press release said only that Manning and his wife, Abby, would be helping to raise funds for a revamped birthing center and that it would be renamed "the Eli & Abby Manning Birthing Center."

As part of the deal, St. Vincent's got exclusive rights to tout Manning in media ads.

Manning was required to make six appearances a year on behalf of the hospital, including fund-raising galas, and provide signed memorabilia.

Perhaps I’m underestimating the power of a celebrity endorsement, but at the time the decision was made wouldn’t it have been more frugal to spend the $250,000 each year on caring for the sick and poor who enter the doors of St. Vincent’s as, most agree, the hospital has done admirably for so many years?

Kerry Weber

Comments

Anonymous | 2/26/2010 - 1:48am
Some would say these aren’t true, but who knows that Manning is really a generous person who wants to help those in need. St. Vincent's hospital recently disclosed that they were $7 million in debt, while they owed Eli Manning $500,000 for marketing work he had done for them – and he told them to keep it when he heard of their constraints.  Seems even hospitals need to run for payday loans at times.  That was a very generous thing for him to do.   Granted, the New York Giants QB had already taken money from them, but he's also agreed to keep working for them for free – if he didn't know about their dire straits beforehand, I'd say he's doing a good deed.
Anonymous | 2/23/2010 - 10:16pm
''Given the staff layoffs and paycuts that followed, perhaps the board should have waited to renew the contract with Manning until the hospital was financially stable and instead directed that money toward saving jobs or lives.''
 
Maybe the Manning deal was a means of making the hospital financially stable and prevented additional layoffs.  He may be generating interest in the hospital that results in additional funds.  I am not saying he did but the hospital supposedly has a way of judging the impact of using him as a spokesman.  Maybe they can point to specific donations due to Manning's association with the hospital.   If such is the case then he might be worth ten times his fee.  People tend to get hung up on money spent on advertising as illegitimate especially if much of it goes for a celebrity endorsement.  But if it raises name recognition for the hospital for those determining where patients get sent especially in a city crazed on sports then it may be well worth it.  Or if it gains access to those with money to donate it could really be valuable.  It is then pure and simple, a good or bad business decision depending upon how much additional revenue it generates.  You could then argue that it is keeping people employed and providing better health care and without the additional revenue fewer would be employed and programs cut.
 
When I was young, a good friend's father was a top salesman and was paid on commission.  He was so successful that he made more than the president of the company who then fired him when he found out how much he made.  A stupid and bad business decision but it made the company president feel better and the company worse off.  So the St. Vincent's decision should be made solely on how much additional revenue Mr. Manning generates and it may be enough to forestal future layoffs and cuts in programs.  To argue that the money might be better used somewhere else is to argue on emotion and is not productive.  If it doesn't generate the additional revenue then it was a bad business decision and that is a frequent occurrence in our world.  One of the things that has made the US economy so vibrant is the constant experimentation with risk and the building of better products.  Something that does not seem to be appreciated by many on this site.
John Scheur | 2/23/2010 - 5:41pm
Here's what smells foul about Manning's deal. It was not made clear to the public that he was a paid spokesman and fundraiser for the hospital. Instead, Manning participated in a story, fabricated by St. Vincent's management, which intentionally created the false impression that he donated the funds - or some substantial part of them - that allowed the hospital to open the birthing center. That's how all of the stories were presented in the press at the time, presumably just as the PR team had intended. Even the phrasing about his ''donation'' (an ''undisclosed amount'') suggested that perhaps the Manning family was too modest to release the impressively generous total of their contribution. In fact, as we now know, their contribution was an invoice.
It's rather hard to believe, but Manning was secretly having his cake and eating it too, smiling for the cameras and kissing babies while quietly pocketing a fat check from a bankrupt charity hospital in an already overstuffed wallet. It's hard to see how that can be characterized as anything other than greed and cynicism on Manning's part. As for the decisions made by hospital management, it's hard to know where to even begin.
ANN ODONOGHUE | 2/23/2010 - 5:27pm
"wouldn’t it have been more frugal to spend the $250,000 each year on caring for the sick and poor who enter the doors of St. Vincent’s as, most agree, the hospital has done admirably for so many years?"
 
I assume you mean  "poor sick people"  and not 'the poor and the sick", and you can't care for a lot of those on 250k per year. If you don't have a hospital you can't care for any - so it makes perfect sense to use money to gamble on a celebrity to try to save the hospital.  
 
 
 
 
Eugene Pagano | 2/23/2010 - 4:15pm
Private hospitals in metropolitan New York advertise heavily and Saint Vincent's may have simply been trying to keep up with its competitors.
Anonymous | 2/23/2010 - 1:14pm
Advertising or publicity can do some amazing things, especially if you have a good product.  It can also be a waste of money.  I use to work in advertising before starting a new business.  Advertising is a form of communication.  Others commonly used methods of communication in business are personal sales, publicity or public relations, the brand name, packaging and even location and today of course a web site.  They all communicate.  To suggest that the money is better spent somewhere else is naive without considering what the potential effects of the communication are.
 
I can imagine some very specific objectives for St. Vincents.  One of which may be access to some high level donors who might want to meet and converse with Mr. Manning and then decide that St. Vincents may be a great place to place some of their charitable donations.  A second is just plain recognition for what St. Vincents is doing and this can attract not only donations but business for the hospital.  
 
There is an old adage that half of the money spent on advertising does not work and the problem is deciding which half.  Maybe St. Vincents is wasting their money and I have seen many advertising campaigns that did no better than keep the status quo and a couple that actually depressed sales.  But one thing that this campaign has just done it to get it on this site and that is a little bit of greater awareness.
 
What advertising in particular and marketing in general do for a business, and St. Vincents is a business, is hopefully create a greater top line.  This greater revenue stream will hopefully create a better bottom line or profit and that will mean better health care.  If the objective is better health care then maybe the expenditure on Mr. Manning maybe very effective.  In my personal business, advertising on google nearly doubled my sales in three or four years.  And that led to the ability to hire another person in a very small Mom and Pop business.
Pearce Shea | 2/23/2010 - 12:52pm
I don't know if it's money well spent or not. The thing with dumping money into advertising is that it's always a risk. Sometimes the risk is worth it. Clearly whatever St. Vincent's was doing with the money wasn't working. I'd also imagine that 200k a year is not as vast a sum as it seems for a hospital with operating expenses in the tens of millions.
 
And as a sidenote - the $250,000.00 fee with a $50,000.00 payback is not at all unusual in this sort of situation. It's usually done for tax purposes. It helps the hospital's bottom line (all advertising is a risk, but this has a minimum return of 50k a year, which helps make you look more financially stable than you are- at first glance) and I would guess that the 50k donation results in a very hefty write-off for manning.