Thursday, October 27, 2011

Is there a more polarizing athlete than Tim Tebow?

Tim Tebow – a winner on and off of the field? Loved by millions, not appreciated by just as many, the Denver Broncos quarterback led the Broncos Sunday to an improbable win over the Miami Dolphins in his first 2011 starting assignment. Tebow, who started three meaningless games during his 2010 rookie season, is now the Broncos starting quarterback – after media pundits suggested during the Broncos pre-season Tebow was fourth on the Broncos three-man quarterback depth chart.

Forbes reported Tebow was directly responsible for bringing the Dolphins an additional $1 million in marketing and ticket revenues. Tebow played his college football for Florida Gators; his return to South Florida helped the Dolphins sell 10,000 additional tickets.

Forbes’ Kurt Badenhausen believes, Tebow could have a similar effect in upcoming road games against divisional foes: Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs; the next three away games on the Denver schedule. All three teams have struggled selling tickets in recent years, but have a good shot at securing sell-outs thanks to the popularity of Tebow.

Tebow, and his huge fan base, is doing his best to jump start the economy. His jersey is one the league’s best-sellers since he was selected 25th overall by the Broncos in the 2010 NFL draft. His book, Through My Eyes, debuted at No. 6 on the New York Times bestseller list in June.

Tebow’s partners, Nike and EA Sports, have also seen the power Tebow can have. Electronic Arts put Tebow on the cover of its NCAA Football 11 video game and saw first month sales jump 8%. The game eventually sold 850,000 units at a cost of up to $60 apiece. Nike released 500 limited edition blue and orange Tim Tebow cross-trainers last year and the shoes sold out online in five minutes.

Billboard companies in the Denver area got a boost in September when fan groups bought space on the boards clamouring for Tebow to replace Kyle Orton as the Broncos starting QB. A new Tebow Jockey billboard also just went up in Denver. The undergarment maker is another sponsor in the Tebow stable.

For an example of the polarizing Tebow, look no further than his 2010 Super Bowl ad, one of the most talked about Super Bowl ads ever. Tebow and how mother appeared in two commercials that ran during the 2010 Super Bowl game. The Super Bowl is televisions biggest annual event with a 30-second ad costing in excess of $2.5 million. More than 100 million watch the Super Bowl each year.

The ads featured Tebow and his mother Pam. Against the advice of her doctors, pregnant with Tim while living in the Philippines with her husband and Tebow's father, who worked as a missionary, Pam gave birth to Tim.

Focus on the Family, the religious group, reached out to the Tebow’s with the idea of creating two Super Bowl ads that would focus on Pam and Tim. The word abortion was never mentioned during the commercial, nor did either spot take a stand against abortion.

That didn’t stop everyone from talking about the ads before and after the Super Bowl. While many Super Bowl advertisers choose to preview their ads in advance of the Super Bowl, Focus on the Family, wisely decided they get the biggest bang for their buck if they didn’t show the ads in advance of the Super Bowl.

“Tim and Pam share our respect for life and our passion for helping families thrive,” Jim Daly, president and C.E.O. of Focus on the Family said in a New York Times report. “Focus on the Family is about … strengthening families by empowering them with the tools they need to live lives rooted in morals and values.”

Days before the 2010 Super Bowl The National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro-Choice America and other women’s groups sent CBS letters asking that the two Tebow spots be removed from the broadcast.

A New York Times Op-Ed offered this on the eve of Super Bowl 2010: the would-be censors are on the wrong track. Instead of trying to silence an opponent, advocates for allowing women to make their own decisions about whether to have a child should be using the Super Bowl spotlight to convey what their movement is all about: protecting the right of women like Pam Tebow to make their private reproductive choices.

CBS was right to change its policy of rejecting paid advocacy commercials from groups other than political candidates. After the network screens ads for accuracy and taste, viewers can watch and judge for themselves. Or they can get up from the couch and get a sandwich.

How women feel about the infamous commercials that have appeared on recent Super Bowl broadcasts wasn’t, and has never been, addressed by these groups. It’s easy to believe that exploits and stereotypes women during their Super Bowl commercials in hopes it will product promote their products and services.

Focus on the Family, well known for their conservative opinions, is something that may have served as the catalyst for the reaction to the Tebow Super Bowl spots.

''It makes the Super Bowl a bit of a controversial event,'' said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

''They want to be entertained; they want to see funny ads,'' George E. Belch, a professor of marketing and advertising at San Diego State University offered the New York Times. ''Now, does this become a forum where we start to debate controversial issues?''

Today, as it was in February 2010, if a company or product is ready to invest as much as $3 million in a Super Bowl spot they are the arbitrator of their message being seen by 100 million.

''Whether someone wants to talk about an issue, that's their business,'' said David Angelo, chairman and chief creative officer at David & Goliath, the agency for Kia.

Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft most projections had Tebow being drafted in the third round, despite having led the Florida Gators to a National Championship and having won a Heisman Trophy. The Broncos stunned those at the draft by picking Tebow with the 25th overall pick in the first round.

"I definitely want to repay Coach (Josh) McDaniels for the faith he showed in me," Tebow said on draft day, "I want to be a great quarterback. I want to pursue that. I've wanted to be a quarterback in the NFL for a great many years. That's my goal and has been my goal since I was 6 years old, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get there."

McDaniels was fired after the 2010 season casting doubt on Tebow’s future with the Broncos.

In late September, a group of Broncos fans decided they want to see Tebow quarterback their team. Saving for a trip to see a Super Bowl, employees at Denver’s Multiline International Imports spent more than $10,000 on a digital billboard that read: Broncos Fans to John Fox: Play Tebow!” The image then rotated to show a picture of Tebow coming out of the tunnel at the Broncos’ stadium.

“We have the best fans in the NFL,” said team spokesman Patrick Smyth in a Denver Post report. “This is another example of their unrivalled passion and enthusiasm for the Broncos.

Shortly after the billboard appeared Broncos head Coach John Fox announced that Tebow would replace Kyle Orton as the Broncos starting quarterback.

Tebow set an NFL Draft record for jersey sales. He also had the best-selling jersey in the entire NFL each month since being drafted. The Broncos, as a whole, led the NFL among all teams in jersey sales, as well.

On July 29, 2010, Tebow signed a five-year contract with the Broncos that had a base value of $11.25 million (he can make as much as $33 million through certain performance-based incentives). The contract also included $8.7 million guaranteed.

Is Tim Tebow a winner on the field? It’s hard to argue that he doesn’t have what it takes to lead a team to victory after last Sunday’s overtime win over the Dolphins. The Dolphins are winless, and maybe the worst team in the NFL this year, but when you’re team is losing 15-0 and there are less than five minutes left in the game and you lead your team to victory it certainly proves you have what it takes. Does he have the necessary skills to lead the Broncos (or any NFL team) to consecutive winning Sundays? That remains to be seen. Remember, he led the Gators to a National Championship and won the Heisman – winners, not losers, accomplish those things.

Are Tim Tebow’s religious convictions an issue? No. If Tim Tebow is a Christian, he has as much right to believe in his religion, as did Baseball Hall of Fame member Sandy Koufax who chose to not pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers once on the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur. Tebow’s beliefs have no impact whatsoever on his abilities as an NFL quarterback. In fact, one could argue that his convictions make him even more determined to succeed every Sunday. You may not agree with Tim Tebow but you have to respect how he conducts himself both on and off the football field.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom. Sources used and cited in this Insider Report:

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