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 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. "You've got to convince me."

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.

"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 makes the majority of its money selling its trio of cash cows — Windows operating system, Office productivity suite, and server tools — to businesses.

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.

Microsoft has a two-pronged strategy.

First: Chase potential customers, wherever they are.

Microsoft in 2014 waived the licensing fee that manufacturers of phones and small tablets must pay for Windows. The company is also shedding its reputation for pushing people to Windows at any cost, offering free versions of its Office software for devices powered by Google and Apple.

Second: Sell products that plug people into its ecosystem.

The company opened its 111th retail store in November. The outlets boast a broader range of Microsoft-built hardware than the company has ever offered, including the line of phones bought from Nokia in 2014, the Xbox and a new health band. On the software front, the company is hoping the Windows 10 operating system, set for release in 2015, will draw people to Microsoft.

And there's the Surface tablet, which NFL viewers see every Sunday.

The strategy has a test case in the latest Surface, a tablet with a ton of horsepower and relatively hefty price tag. Its natural fans? Think graduate students, creative types, people with an hour to get a pile of work done, Microsoft says. And people like Wilson, the budding Seattle icon.