FORTUNE — In a 2011 TV spot for Vicks VapoRub, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees applies some cooling rub to his little boy’s chest, then falls asleep curled up next to him. It’s the kind of ad that leaves women saying “awww” and men with little to ridicule. And it’s just one of many ads that have built Brees a golden-goose image as an endorser of wholesome, family products.
In addition to Vicks, Brees has a relationship with Tide, another Procter & Gamble (PG) brand. He won’t be at the Super Bowl this year (nor will he be rooting for anyone, he tells us), but he’s in New Orleans serving as a Tide spokesperson as the company prepares to roll out its new “Stain Saver” ad blitz, a counterintuitive campaign around stains people don’t want to wash.
The idea hits close to home for Brees. “We’ve got a little jersey that my son Baylen wore in a Pampers commercial back when he was just one year old,” he said. “He was rolling around in the Superdome on the turf. And we haven’t washed it. It still smells like him, and it’s one of those things we can’t bring ourselves to wash.”
Brees spoke with Fortune by phone on Thursday, and we steered the conversation toward some questions we’ve always had about big-brand endorsement deals and the attitudes that football stars have toward their own and each other’s. A condensed and edited transcript is below.
Between Vicks VapoRub, Tide, and the Chase ad with your son breaking a neighbor’s window, it seems like you specifically select family brands to endorse. You’re cultivating a dad image. Is that right?
Absolutely, that’s very fair to say, and that’s 100% my focus. To be honest with you that’s because I see myself as a husband and father before I see myself as a football player or anything else. I’m doing the same research and the same shopping that a lot of people are, you know, I’m trying to figure out what the best diapers are, what the best laundry detergent is.
Your kids have in fact appeared in a number of your ads.
My son was in a Vicks VapoRub commercial with me, and that was one of the cutest commercials we’ve ever done. He was such a little rockstar. I can’t believe we got him to sit still for it.
Do you actually pay attention to what brands the other guys in the league endorse? Are the players all aware of that stuff, and what’s out there? And who do you think has done the best job with theirs?
Oh yeah, definitely, we all notice. You know, it’s fun to watch guys get involved with different brands because you can see how the ad campaigns fit their personalities.
A guy that has obviously been involved in a lot of marketing campaigns over the last ten years has been Peyton Manning, right. He’s been involved in some pretty funny ones. I think his MasterCard ad from way back was hilarious. “Cut that meat! Cut that meat!” [He starts laughing] It was kind of a Monday morning quarterback type of ad. He’s been in some funny ones.
And then you see Subway has gone out and gotten a lot of guys, right, like Ndamukong Suh, Justin Tuck, and RGIII now. It’s interesting for me to see the rookies come in and what type of deals they do. RGIII is such a great personality, and he has a personality that is very fitting for a lot of brands. He’s a real personable guy and a guy a lot of people can relate to, so I think he’s done a good job with the deals he’s done.
I think the Aaron Rodgers State Farm ads are great, with the Discount Double Check, because it’s recognizable. Everyone kind of knows his touchdown move, with the Championship belt thing. So they work that into an ad and it becomes something everyone can relate to and laugh about, and it sticks.
That’s the thing with any marketing campaign, is you want it to stick. You want it to stick with the consumer and what they think about, and you want to be a guy associated with the right things.
Do you think most guys actually follow the public reaction to an ad they’re in, do they track that stuff, or once they shoot the ad, they’ve done their part of it and just move on?
Well, yeah. Not in an obsessive way, but it’s more for general knowledge. With the internet and social media, and the way things travel so quickly, and the way you can engage fans now online with such ease, I want to stay up with what are people talking about, how’s it being received, what kind of traction is it getting.
On my social media, how interactive are fans being with my social media, and when I post to it, what’s the response? How can I continue to engage them more?
So, I follow all that stuff. I think it’s important. And the things I’m associated with are really important to me. I’ve had the opportunity to align myself with some great brands that have some social responsibility to them. They know we support certain causes, and they do too, so it works. The relationships matter.