Like a lot of Americans born in the late 1980s, Russell Wilson didn?t exactly consider himself a Microsoft person.
The Seahawks quarterback was 6 years old when Windows 95, Microsoft?s era-defining operating system, was released in 1995.
By the time Wilson was spending his own money on electronics, the hip corner of technology culture had migrated to portable music players, smartphones and gadgets usually made by Microsoft rivals, as the Redmond company was increasingly relegated to the office. Wilson took an iPad with him on road games after the Seahawks drafted him in 2012.
So it was something of a shift when Wilson became a Microsoft pitchman.
?I told them I?ve always been an Apple guy,? he said in an interview. ?You?ve got to convince me.?
Wilson, endorsement deal and Microsoft Surface tablet in hand, was convinced.
Microsoft in 2013 inked a five-year deal to persuade the rest of the National Football League, at a reported cost of $400 million, to integrate some Microsoft brands and eventually get Surfaces in the hands of Wilson and his counterparts on the sidelines, among coaches and in broadcast booths. Microsoft is hoping that, with the aid of Wilson, a $2 billion-plus advertising budget and investments in everything from smartphones to retail stores and snazzy Web-based versions of its software, it can make fans out of the generation more familiar with Facebook?s Mark Zuckerberg than Bill Gates.
?It?s all part of a very focused marketing campaign to change the perception of Microsoft,? Daniel Ives, a financial analyst with FBR Capital Markets, said of the NFL deal. ?Microsoft is kind of viewed as that legacy technology vendor. You don?t need to have a Microsoft product as a consumer. That?s the uphill battle they have.?
Microsoft, at 39 years old, is firmly in middle age by the standards of technology companies. It makes the majority of its money selling its trio of cash cows ? Windows operating system, Office productivity suite, and server tools ? to businesses. The company also has long run a profitable business selling Windows and Office to individuals.
But the consumer-technology battlefield of the 2000s was brutal to Microsoft. The company had a hit with its Xbox gaming consoles, but was an also-ran in the Web search, music player, smartphone and tablet trends that followed.