Tebowmania

Is Tebowmania symbolic of U.S. in 2012?

Reprint. Originally Published in Sports Business Journal, January 30, 2012, Page 24

Most of us love sports because at some point in our lives, an athlete performed an act of such heroic proportions that we became sports fanatics for life. That moment sticks with us forever. These personalities drive the popularity of spectator sports. They keep us watching, attending and debating. Recently, we’ve all witnessed the ascent of one of the most interesting athlete icons of our generation. Tebowmania has swept the nation, crossing over beyond the sports pages and into the mainstream. But is Tebowmania a fad, or will Tim Tebow establish himself as an icon with real staying power?

In spite of his college national championships, his Heisman and his well-known devotion to Christianity, it wasn’t long ago that he was just one of many intriguing personalities in sports. But when he took over the starting job in Denver, and led the team to the playoffs, Tebowmania “went viral.” During the Broncos’s 7-4 run, Tebow averaged 150 passing yards per game. Hardly the stuff that legends are made of.

But he captured our imaginations. Whether it was his fourth-quarter come-from-behind victories or his “Tebowing” postgame posture, everyone was talking about him. An improbable thumping of the defending AFC champion Steelers in the first round of the playoffs sent Tebowmania into the stratosphere. The victory resulted in more than 9,000 tweets per second on Twitter. Tebow finished the season as the No. 11 most admired man in the U.S., with the No. 2-selling jersey in the NFL, and the most popular athlete in America in ESPN’s annual poll.

How marketable is he?

Four key components determine athlete marketability. At BDA, we measure athlete marketability as follows: athlete marketability = (talent + success) + (integrity + charisma)

The first two components are on the field, and are listed first because traditionally they carry the most weight. The next two components express the importance of the athlete as an individual. Brands want to affiliate with talented, successful and charismatic spokespeople who their consumers can trust.

In Tebow’s case, talent continues to be the component most questioned by his detractors. Yet his marketability overcomes talent issues because he is so strong in the other critical areas. He is a winner. Above all, however, it is Tim Tebow the person that makes him so appealing to brands. Countless articles on Tebow produce the same descriptives: humble, charming, wholesome, selfless, hardworking, authentic. Brands today are risk-averse when it comes to endorsement deals. Tebow’s success, combined with his character and personality, make him an extremely marketable athlete.

In an August 2010 article, I wrote about the “Tiger Recession” and expressed my belief that in the wake of controversies surrounding Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Tiger Woods, brands would focus much more on character than ever before. Brands are insisting that their athlete spokespeople demonstrate character and integrity. Tebow’s well-known humility, generosity and selflessness are exactly what brands are looking for in 2012. Perhaps talent and success mean less to brands today than they used to.

Or maybe it isn’t just about Tebow. Perhaps Tebowmania is indicative of America in 2012. People have been kicked around by unemployment, shrinking retirement accounts and disappearing equity in their homes. Tebow has been kicked around, too. In spite of it, he stays focused, humble and faithful. In a way, he represents many Americans trying to fight on in the face of very challenging times. Perhaps we are shifting away from our obsession with wealth and glamour. If the country is indeed moving toward “regular guy” heroes, then Tebow will likely become an athlete icon with real staying power.

Tebow’s outspoken devotion to Christianity makes him polarizing, generally something brands try to avoid. Yet somehow he doesn’t come across as preachy. His faith doesn’t seem to bother Jockey, Nike or FRS, and I think more brands will jump aboard. And Tebow will absolutely need to continue winning to maintain his stratospheric marketability. Regardless of his success, I believe Tebow has established himself as a public figure who brands will have interest in associating with for many years to come.

Bill Sanders (bsanders@bdasports.com) is chief marketing officer at BDA Sports Management and author of the blog “An Athlete Marketing Guy” at http://www.athletemarketingguy.com.

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About Bill Sanders

SVP of Personal Brand Management at PMK*BNC. Helping icons from all walks of life to connect with their fans and monetize their brands.
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6 Responses to Tebowmania

  1. Good post! This article makes me thing about the marketing potential of Jeremy Lin. Obviously we need to see if he can continue his on-court success, but if he does, he will be a brand’s dream. His work ethic, team-oriented attitude, humbleness and presence off the court will appeal to any company. Jeremy will be especially appealing to a brand that is trying to reach an Asian customer segment.

  2. Jimmy says:

    Great post Bill! Tebow is definitely a symbol for the United States in 2012. Jeremy Lin could be Tebow’s apparent, except on more of an international level.

  3. Michelle F. says:

    Tim Tebow is All-American as they come. He is definitely a symbol of the U.S. in 2012. Tebow has displayed integrity and charisma through his endeavors on and off the field. This man does have character, and his character makes him a very marketable person. Some have said that his faith has made brands avoid him. Tebow’s faith should make him the kind of person a brand would want to work with. Tebow has talent, has proved his success and is the kind of person a company can trust and rely on.

  4. dj says:

    this is a great article tim teebow is definetly an american idol someone you would want to follow.

  5. wkuswimdive says:

    Tim Tebow is extremely marketable…until he does something wrong. He has made his mark being outspoken about his devotion to Christianity so the second he turns his back on that, or does something even the least bit “unchristian” his name forever doomed. Brands do typically try to avoid because religion is such a risky factor is trying to promote products, but Tebow is influential without being pushy and over the top with his belief. This could hurt him in the long run because he has built himself up to be the best thing out there. For now, it is working and it will continue to work as long as he keeps playing a good game and stays out of trouble. He is reaching those customers that typically may not be interested in sports. He is doing a lot for companies to draw in religious people and other devoted Christians. His brand is reaching people that no other athlete or brand has been able to reach. Which makes me think of Jeremy Lin and how he is reaching an audience that is typically not into basketball- the Asian community. Lin is creating a brand that is marketable to a whole other race that is willing to buy into the “Linsanity” and stand in line to buy his jerseys and anything else that marketers can get his name and picture on. Lets just hope that he can continue his success and remain a big name brand.

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