Tim Tebow might be the greatest brand in the history of NFL bench players, but can it last?

by Dan Orlando

Tim Tebow is a brand. But can that brand survive an eroding on-field career? Can he still be a viable face of a product without the ball in his hands?

The Jet’s QB dominated ESPN’s programming throughout mid-to-late 2012 despite being the backup signal caller on a team in flux. He’s a guest speaker, a vocal religious advocate, and for some he’s an inspiration.

One thing he apparently is not is a starting NFL QB.

But while Tebow struggles to find a more prominent role in professional football, he has yet to see his endorsement clout get benched with him.

Immediately after finishing up his college career, Tebow commanded between $30K-$50K per public appearance and carried a $300k endorsement deal with Nike under his belt.

He has endorsed items such Jockey shirts, FRS energy drinks, and starred in a 6-ad TiVo television campaign, and drawn news microphones and cameras to him like a streetlight beckoning flies.

According to Athlete Promotions, Tebow’s booking agency, the former UF standout now rakes in approximately 6 figures per two-hour autograph signings.

In January, it was announced that the Jets star had teamed up with rap icon Ludacris to push Soul’s SL300 headphones. Ironically, he will also be the face of the company’s upcoming “Jet” headphone’s which are aimed at consumers who want to experience private listening in a business setting.

Just as the reserve role has yet to stem the tide of extra-curricular money making opportunities, it also has failed to douse the blazing media bonfire that has steadily burned for him since he first entered the league.

Last spring, Tebow drew a mass of reporters to the Jets New Jersey practice facility where he was officially introduced as the team’s next (backup) quarterback.

Speculation ran rampant suggesting that he was there to unseat a disappointing Mark Sanchez, New York’s 2009 1st round pick. He graced the front pages of the city’s daily papers and drew a considerable amount of airtime from ESPN’s SportsCenter.

But Tebow would spend the 2012 campaign as reserve player, completing 6 out of 8 passes for a mere 39 yards.

He currently has two years left on a five-year deal worth $11.25 million.

If he stays with the Jets in 2013, the team would owe him $1.055 million. If his passing numbers doubled during reserve or mop-up duty this season, he would essentially be earning 88K per completion.

If his $11.25 million dollar contract was split evenly amongst the five year span, Tebow would have made $375,000 per completion last season.

That amounts to a 2012 earnings of $375,000 per completion.

But a season spent watching from the sidelines while Sanchez stumbled his way to an embarrassing 2,883-yard performance must have torpedoed the UF alum’s future marketing mojo right?

Not according to Athlete Promotions it hasn’t. On their website, the agency touts Tebow as one of the “Top 5 most coveted celebrity endorsers.” Deals like his recent one with Soul’s headphone lines backup the agency’s claim.

But his merchandise stats seem to state otherwise.

Heading into 2010, Tebow sat comfortably at number 1 in jersey sales despite being a rookie on a team with no immediate plans to start him.

When he entered the 2011 season as a member of the Broncos, his jersey sales hovered between 8th and 10th in the league. A late season playoff push, including a Wildcard round victory over the Steelers kept those numbers afloat.

As of November, Tebow’s numbers stayed in that neighborhood. He found himself only three spots behind QB Tom Brady who sat at 5th.

This week’s numbers show him knocked out of the top ten and straddled at 13.

According to AdAge, Tebow was on pace to begin earning $10 million a year in endorsements had his run as a starter continued in Denver. With Tebow losing that spot, and the opportunity make memorable on field plays that number may not be in his immediate future.

“The Jets reduced him to practically worthless the way they used him last season,” one New York marketing rep told me.

The on field dismantling may go beyond 2012.

The Jets, arguably a team without a solidified franchise QB, have actively sought out a replacement for Tebow. The team brought on David Garrard, a former starter in Jacksonville. Garrard is the leading contender for the role Tebow currently holds.

That Jacksonville team, which is near the QB’s alma mater, declined an opportunity to try Tebow as a solution to their glaring signal calling needs. The Jets have reportedly sought a trade with them. At this point in time, Tebow is an $11.25 million waste of a roster spot.

It may be too early to declare Tebow’s football career DOA. He’ll likely find a home somewhere in the league in 2013. But for how much longer can his brand withstand being relegated to occasional trick plays and clipboard duty? For how much longer will he command 100K to smile and wave without wielding a prominent role on the gridiron?

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4 Responses to “Tim Tebow might be the greatest brand in the history of NFL bench players, but can it last?”

  1. Sage says:

    Tim’s value as a product sponsor would probably explode if he were backed by a team committed to him.

    For example, I certainly would have brought a Tebow Broncos jersey while he was with the team, but I refrained because even early on it was evident that they were blocking him from the field.

    Josh McDaniels is fine by me, but he thought he had the leeway to be as stubborn as Belichick, which was foolish. He could have started Tebow at, say, game 9, 10 or 11 in 2010 and still hung onto his job. I tried to tell him on Milehighreport.com, but he just wasn’t listening.

    Josh reportedly told a journalist that he would “never” consider pulling a starting QB (such as Orton) during the middle of the season. The plan, we must stick to the plan. There are different philosophies of leadership, but an inability to adjust and adapt has its downsides.

    • ck says:

      Sage: Yea, how ironic when you think about it b/c he should have played Tebow and he would still have had a job in Denver…should have listened to the fans as they are more times than not…RIGHT!!! Guess you know who in NY will have to find that out the hard way too!


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