personal brands

As Tim Tebow Brand Falters, Marketers Try to Make Sense of the Future

Posted by Ben Berkon on May 1, 2013 12:52 PM

Claiming Tim Tebow was a bad quarterback in 2012 is almost an unfair statement. The former Florida Gators standout only threw the ball eight times as a New York Jet—and to his credit, completed six of those passes. Surely fans, prospective front offices and even vocal ex-teammates would need a slightly larger sample size to evaluate the talent and future of a player.

Yet, there will not likely be any more chances for Tim Tebow to prove himself in the National Football League—at least not in the foreseeable future. The New York Jets released their fourth string QB after surprisingly drafting West Virginia star Geno Smith 39th overall, making Tebow an unrestricted free agent. Apparently, only the Omaha Beef indoor team has knocked on Tebow's door since. Heck, even the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League passed on him.

Tebow has become somewhat of an enigma in the professional sports circuit. While his performance on the field has been anything but exceptional, his sterling brand has remained remarkably strong. Very strong, in fact, according to Henry Schafer, the executive Vice President of The Q Scores, which rank athletes and celebrities based on their positive impressions in the public. This now-mainstream analytics measurement has helped Tebow land a variety of endorsements throughout the years, and may ultimately contribute to a stay in his popularity. 

Tebow's "awareness rating" jumped to a whopping 83 percent (with a Q score of 22 percent) after the Denver Broncos playoff upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers in early 2012, and despite sitting on the bench and playing second fiddle to Mark Sanchez on the Jets, Tebow’s awareness rating was still at 82 percent in 2012. Even though his Q rating dropped to 16 percent, the rating is still considered average among prominent athletes—a class of athletes Tebow has no business being a part of. But somehow, in his relatively short pro career, Tebow has managed to achieve the same public recognition as the Manning brothers, David Beckam, Michael Phelps and Dale Earnhardt Jr.—and that public familiarity hasn't waivered in a year, despite his fall from football grace. 

But why is Tebow so popular? Aside from leading the Broncos to a miraculous win over the powerhouse Steelers in the 2011 playoffs—prompting even one presidential candidate to aspire to be him—one cannot underestimate his appeal to the religious Christian sect of the country. As of 2012, 73 percent of Americans identify themselves with the Christian faith. While not all Christians are necessarily football fans—or fans of Tim Tebow, for that matter—Tebow's unrelenting devotion to the faith is perhaps more well known than his on-the-field achievements. 

In addition to admitting his plan to "save himself for marriage," Tebow also appeared in an anti-abortion advertisement that aired on February, 2010 during Super Bowl XLIV. But instead of responding to criticism or apologizing for his involvement in the spot, Tebow moved forward, and, ironically, rode the negative attention to an even brighter public spotlight. With Christianity and football being the prevailing religion and sport in America, respectively, it doesn't quite seem to matter whether Tim Tebow actually plays the game to continue being the king of it.

So what's in Tebow's future? Jim Andrews, senior vice president of content strategy for IEG told ESPN that Tebow won't likely be able to hold onto his marketing worth if he doesn't remain in the NFL. "Even if he was a starting quarterback on an AFL or CFL team, that’s not going to attract a lot of marketers. When you talk about million-dollar deals and being worth it for a significant level of endorsements, you have to be a starter in the NFL," Andrews told ESPN. It's not likely that Nike will keep Tebow on their roster if he's no longer an active athlete, and previous endorsements for Jockey, TiVo, FRS Health Energy and EA Sports could be in question, too. 

But Andrews reassures that even if Tebow's athletic career ends, he could likely make a career simply based off the fact that people seem to like him. “Could he do something in media? Could he be a talk-show host?” asked Andrews. “Maybe be a spokesperson for good causes? There’s potential there, I think.” 

Despite not being the most versatile player on the field, Tebow seems to have amassed quite the business acumen. Over the last few years, the athlete has accumulated a handful of investments privately and under XV Enterprises, a sports management venture headed off by brother Robby Tebow and a longtime friend. Tebow has stakes in FRS Health Energy and D1 Sports Training facilities, where he trained prior to the NFL draft, and is planning on expanding Florida's PDQ chicken chain. If all else fails, it looks like he's got a bright future as a south Florida businessman. 

All in all, even with the dramatic Jets release and general fall from grace, it doesn't appear as though the Tebow camp is sweating too much. If his endorsement deals stick around for a bit longer, Tebow could still make upwards of $2 million a year doing what he does best—being Tim Tebow. 

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