Big Ben and mom will be in the soup soon

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Brenda Roethlisberger is about to become a star. Just don't call her Big Brenda or, for that matter, Big Mama.

Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Ben Roethlisberger with his mother, Brenda, in a 2004 photo.
Click photo for larger image.

Ben Roethlisberger and his mother will start shooting a national commercial next week for Campbell's Chunky Soup. The Steelers' quarterback will also be joined by a group of his closest friends: his offensive linemen.

The $2 million shoot will take place at Heinz Field over the course of a week and employ 55 to 60 people, including a local crew. It is the latest in Chunky Soup's Mama's Boys campaign that has featured Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb since 2001.

Chunky Soup also will film two other commercials as part of its series, with McNabb and Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and their moms. All three will be shown starting the week of Sept. 7.

Roethlisberger -- because of his youth, his victory in the Super Bowl and the fact McNabb has done the Chunky Soup commercials the previous five years -- could become its new star, along with his mother. Wilma McNabb became a national icon through the series of commercials with her son, the Eagles' quarterback. Actresses played the parts of the players' mothers until their real moms were used in 2002.

"She can't wait, she's excited about it," Roethlisberger said. "It should be fun."

Linemen Alan Faneca, Kendall Simmons, Jeff Hartings and Max Starks also are scheduled to participate as will linebacker James Farrior and the chunkiest of them all, nose tackle Casey Hampton.

"That's the fun thing, to have them in it and having an experience with them," Roethlisberger said. "I'm sure they'll probably make me the star, but I'd rather it be them."

Roethlisberger isn't the only one excited about the commercial.

"National spots, which we usually get once a year, are great economic generators," said Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office. "They hire local people, spend money and Pittsburgh looks great. It's one more benefit we're getting from the Steelers winning the Super Bowl."

Ryan Tollner, one of Roethlisberger's agents, said, "It should be a great thing for Ben. Ben's mom should be popular in Pittsburgh and around the country."

Even though the Steelers' offseason workouts end today, Roethlisberger's teammates were more than happy to stick around for the extra work.

"I'm just as excited as heck they picked us to do it," Simmons said. "It helps winning the Super Bowl and stuff."

Said Starks, "I think partly it's the fruits of winning the Super Bowl. Plus, when you have a young, hot quarterback like Ben, that brings attention, and by the luck of the draw we got asked to be part of it also."

Four different companies from New York and Los Angeles bid for the commercial. Go Films of New York will shoot three separate commercial spots with Roethlisberger next week here. This type of commercial can generate more in a short amount of time than some feature-length films, Keezer said. As an example, "Graduation" was a $3 million film shot over six to eight weeks here last summer.

"It's a big national spot," Keezer said. "They can bring in more money than a film."

It's also another in the line of careful marketing and selling of the Big Ben product. Agent Leigh Steinberg had predicted that winning the Super Bowl could help put $20 million more in Roethlisberger's pocket through marketing over the next three years, but his agency does not want to overexpose him either.

"Oh, yeah, we definitely worry about that," Roethlisberger said. "That's one of the things we talk about, you don't want to have too many national commercials and do too much stuff.

"This year we figure to have only two or three national commercials, this one and one with Nike. That's probably it. That's the two we know we're going to have."

He's making money for others, too.

The NFL yesterday announced that Roethlisberger's jersey accounted for nearly one-third of all Steelers jerseys sold through the fiscal year that ended March 31. Roethlisberger had 32 percent, Troy Polamalu 19 percent, Hines Ward 16 percent and Jerome Bettis 9 percent.

"For the guys who touch the ball," Simmons said, "there's a little bit more stardom."


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