The dramatic fall of the Tebow brand


Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Tim Tebow. (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer) (Michael Bryant/Staff Photographer)

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Mike Sielski, Inquirer Columnist

Posted: Friday, July 10, 2015, 3:01 AM


This is not a column about Tim Tebow and the Eagles, really. This is not about whether he’ll beat out Matt Barkley for the No. 3 quarterback spot or whether Chip Kelly will use him in short-yardage or special-teams situations or whether his throwing motion is quicker and tighter and no longer resembles Sandy Koufax working out of the stretch. This is not a column about the minutia of football we tend to focus on when we focus on the Eagles. Feel free to stop reading. No one will be offended.

This is a column about business and the power and mystery and marketability of an athlete’s image, because while no one knows for certain if Tebow will have a role with the Eagles this season or, if he does, what that role will be, we do know this: He had that power, and over the last 21/2 years, he has lost a lot of it. It has been a remarkable and precipitous fall, given where he stood on March 26, 2012, the day that he and America may have achieved Peak Tebow.

That afternoon, after having acquired Tebow in a trade with the Denver Broncos five days earlier, the New York Jets introduced him with a press conference inside their Florham Park, N.J., training facility – more than 200 white folding chairs arranged in perfect rows to accommodate all the media who attended. As Tebow answered questions, two executives with TiVo Inc. traveled from the company’s San Jose headquarters to Beverly Hills to meet with representatives from William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, the talent agency that represented Tebow at the time, to explore an endorsement agreement – one that Tebow and TiVo later consummated and have maintained since.

The juxtaposition of those two events, happening simultaneously, illustrated the unique brand of stardom that Tebow had achieved – through his accomplishments at the University of Florida, through the prosthelytizing nature of his Christianity, without even demonstrating that he could be a competent NFL starting quarterback over time. More, it showed the potential he had to leverage that stardom within the nation’s biggest media and financial market.

 The potential went unfulfilled. Tebow saw the field for just 77 offensive snaps with the Jets, and he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since they released him in April 2013. He had endorsement/sponsorship deals with five companies then. At least two of those deals, with SOUL Electronics and Jockey, have expired. (“The agreement between Tim and Jockey ran its course,” a company spokesman said, which makes you wonder: What good did Tebow’s infamous shirtless run in the rain at Jets training camp do him?) Two companies that had endorsement contracts with Tebow in 2012 – Nike and The FRS Company, which sells energy drinks – did not respond to requests for comment. William Morris doesn’t represent Tebow anymore.

Tebow did appear in a T-Mobile television ad during Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014. But the ad’s title, “No Contract,” and premise (showing Tebow in various professions other than football player) were based entirely on his absence from the NFL.

“It was fun,” he said, “because I got to let a little of my personality come out.”

Now that he’s back (at least for a while) in what is likely to be a limited role with the Eagles, the true force of his celebrity promises to be put to the test.

“He’s a very interesting case study for this kind of thing,” said Jim Andrews, senior vice president of IEG, an advertisement and sponsorship consulting firm. “With him, it’s not just about the athletic abilities. Is there the potential for him to be back in that spotlight as a starting quarterback in the NFL for a winning team? That’s one way to look at it. Do we think that’s going to happen, or is he going to be a guy on the sidelines with a baseball cap and clipboard? In that case, we’re not as interested.”

After Tebow’s failed 2013 tryout with the New England Patriots, it became difficult for anyone, let alone a business looking for an endorser who could draw in customers, to see Tebow without the cap and clipboard. Backup quarterbacks generally don’t make particularly attractive pitchmen. Third-stringers are even less useful. A guy who can’t earn a roster spot . . . forget it, even if a sizable portion of the population views him as the walking, talking, Tebowing embodiment of all that is good and righteous and pure in life and sports.

Still, Tebow said the dissolution of some of those partnerships did not bother him: “I had really good relationships with a lot of those people. For me, it’s deeper than just an endorsement, deeper than just being a spokesperson for a brand. It’s the people behind it, too.”

There is one company that has remained unflagging in its belief in the appeal of Tebow’s persona. On its Facebook page, TiVo has released a series of 15- and 30-second ads as part of a new campaign. Each ad is set in a doctor’s office, and on a table in the office is a framed photograph that is visible for no more than a heartbeat before the camera cuts to another shot. You have to look hard, but it’s there.

The photo is of Tim Tebow’s face.


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7 Responses to “The dramatic fall of the Tebow brand”

  1. Sage says:

    I’ve read dumber write-ups, but not more superficial. Congrats!

  2. jp says:

    Sage nailed it in 10 words.
    Another mediocre writer getting published with back handed neg. comments about T. That don’t really say anything. How many deals were done and ended with George Foreman? Did the Foreman Brand end? Which
    Brand is stronger Tebow or Breeze or Cutler or Stafford? 10 years from now who will be more relevant?
    My one hope is that Kelly truly wants to win and is not intimidated by junk like this.

    • David Oliver says:

      FYI.. Also at 2PM Tomorrow, Tim asks for many to:

      “Join me on July 11, 2015 at Middle Tennessee State University as we celebrate and worship God together. I am excited to return to Middle Tennessee for the first time in five years for a speaking event and look forward to meeting you, your family, and friends. Be sure to tell everyone about this event, it is my hope we have a sold out show and we will have the nation talking about Tennessee and your love of Jesus Christ and America.”

      Event: God’s Purpose for America

      Doors open at 2 p.m. and the event runs from 3 – 5 p.m CST.
      “God’s Purpose for America” will be held at the Murphy Center on the campus of Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN.

  3. brandi says:

    Something is happening to Philly SportsWriters and it seems to be they’re already sick of the bull&^%$.

    Sielski had good things to say about Tim. But it began to change. He’s said his winner for email to this article is someone saying I see you hate christians.

    Elliott had LOTS of good things to say about Tim. But now he’s getting more negative. He said Tim is the 3rd string QB and he got beat by people saying 4th string. His latest article calls Tim the Eagles 4th string QB.

    Most of these guys…including Elliott…have said they have had no contact with Eagles Coaches since mini-camp ended. But nearly all of them have begun getting more negative on Tim.

    This happened in Denver, New York and New England. Sportswriters soured on Tim because both Tebow Fans and Tebow Detractors kept trying to pull them into this stupid fight. Most weren’t anywhere this fast to have their public opinion of Tim the Quarterback sour so quickly.

    This is NOT a good sign. And I don’t see it getting any better at least until a decision is made on Tim’s status and role. Then the ridiculous fight will just take a different twist. But I don’t think I’d take anything any Philly Beatwriter says about Tim too seriously right now. They seem to already feel beaten down by the nonsense.

  4. brandi says:

    Now on this article itself…

    This is the Stockholm Syndrome NFL Media in all its glory. (Even though Sielski isn’t actually an NFL SportsWriter. He’s a Columnist who writes about Philly Sports.)

    When Tim got cut by the Jets his popularity went up. He was the Most Influential Athlete in America when he wasn’t signed by any Team. He is the first, last and, IMO, forever only, Athlete to wear an NFL uniform who was the Most Popular and Marketable Athlete in the World and the Most Marketable Man of any Profession. Before the Rice Scandal, etc. roughly half the people in the Country called the NFL “sleazy” in the most in-depth survey…done by Street & Smith, the top name in Sports Surveys and Studies…on people attitudes about the NFL done in years and possibly ever done. Sleazy was the worst category. Who knows what people might have called it if they were given a more heinous option.

    Outside of the US the NFL isn’t just nothing. It’s thought of as the Sports Edition of the Ugly American. If it’s thought of at all.

    On its BEST DAY the NFL would wish to be half as “Marketable” as Tim Tebow. But go telling anyone sucked into their vortex of self-delusion that.

  5. David says:

    The cutest thing about this article is the link to Eagle’s jersey sales right in the middle of it. A Tebow shirt is featured on that page and his jerseys are selling 16th in the NFL in June. His brand is doing just fine.

  6. brandi says:

    Darren Rovell, ESPN’s Business Reporter, has taken Sielski on over this article. Said he disagrees. They’re having a bit of a debate on Twitter. Sielski is thinking pure NFL sycophant. Rovell is saying Tim is extremely Marketable and his jersey sales are a clear indication.

    Sileski thinks people are buying the jerseys because they expect Tim to get cut. (Like I said, he’s not thinking straight.)

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