Joe Kukura

You don't often see big-bucks endorsement deals immediately handed out to the 249th pick in the NFL Draft. But you will see the 249th guy picked in this year's NFL Draft starring in a new set of Visa advertisements, the first of which (seen above) is already in Web and TV circulation. Michael Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player after being selected 249th overall by the St. Louis Rams, has signed a deal with Visa and is on his way to becoming a mainstay in marketing and advertisements.

Michael Sam's Visa ad is not going to be the only time you see the Rams' new defensive end in an advertisement. According to ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell, Sam has "received dozens of endorsement deal offers, which is unprecedented for an expected late-round pick."

So get ready to see more of Sam in advertisements now that Michael Sam has signed an endorsement deal with Visa. The Visa ads started playing before Sam was even drafted Saturday, a moment made even more iconic when Sam kissed his boyfriend on live TV.

You think it's risky to have an openly gay spokesperson for a major financial brand? Just the opposite.

Brands are becoming increasingly aggressive at courting gay and lesbian customers, because gays tend to have more disposable income. Marketers often refer to gay households as DINKs (Double Income, No Kids) because fewer gay couples are parents, so they tend to spend more on luxury items. The purchasing power of the US gay community is estimated at about $2 trillion a year.

And Michael Sam is a particularly hot commodity. Even though he was picked way down at No. 249, Michael Sam has sold the second-most jerseys of any player selected in this weekend's draft. Just two days after being picked at the bottom of the draft, Sam has already proven himself a lucrative commodity in the NFL.

"Should a company want to go after [Sam] and use him to appeal to gay America, then I think that's a tremendous opportunity given the large disposable income that gay America represents, that corporate America has targeted for years," ESPN's Darren Rovell said. "This is a completely new potential opportunity."

Michael Sam is a somewhat quiet and subdued player for a marketing campaign, compared to other flashier NFL personalities like Troy Polamalu or Peyton Manning. But Sam has garnered tremendous respect from the gay community for voluntarily announcing his sexual orientation. He's rightfully seen as a trailblazer and makes up in gravitas and courage what he might lack in personality.

And if Sam plays even reasonably well for the Rams, don't be surprised if No. 249 becomes the No. 1 pick for NFL advertisers.

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