Friday, January 13, 2012

Once more – it’s Tebow Time

The remarkable journey Tim Tebow has taken sports fans (and millions more) continues Saturday night in Foxboro, Mass. Tebow’s Denver Broncos meet the New England Patriots in the National Football League divisional playoffs. The business side of Tebow Time – CBS will win Saturday night’s prime time network battle, the selling of Tim Tebow continues to grow and Twitter may need an extra server or two!

Sunday, Tebow led the Broncos to a stunning 29-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The game ended on the first play from scrimmage in overtime when Tebow connected with receiver Demaryius Thomas on an 80-yard touchdown pass.

The game televised by CBS, drew a 24.0 rating and 40 share. The network said on Tuesday that was the highest NFL wild card playoff rating since a 24.1/48 for Kansas City-Miami in 1994. The average of 42.4 million viewers, was up 8 percent from last year’s Packers-Eagles matchup in the same slot — a game that at the time was the highest-rated in the wild-card round in a dozen years.

An ESPN poll bore out the reason why Tim Tebow generates ratings. In the 18 years of the ESPN Sports Poll that looks at who the most popular athletes in America are – there have been just 11 different athletes crowned as America’s favorite active pro athlete (by month).

The list includes Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and LeBron James.

With December 2011′s poll results comes a new name: Tim Tebow.

Tebow was recognized by 3 percent of Americans surveyed as their favorite active pro athlete, placing him above Kobe Bryant (2 percent), Aaron Rodgers (1.9 percent), Peyton Manning (1.8 percent) and Tom Brady (1.5 percent) in the Top 5.

It is by far the fastest and earliest any athlete has assumed the top position since the inception of the poll in 1994.

“To put this in perspective, Tim Tebow rose to the top before the end of his second pro season. It took Tiger Woods three years, LeBron James eight years and Kobe Bryant 11 years,” said Rich Luker, founder and director of the ESPN Sports Poll. “I think we may be at the front end of a new era in sports stars.”

The only other athletes to hold the top spot for at least a month since 2007 are Brett Favre, Manning, Woods, Bryant and James.

“This is an exciting finding and one that reflects the sentiment of all sports fans, not just the online or social media world,” said Artie Bulgrin, Senior VP for Research and Analytics, ESPN Sales and Marketing.

“For 18 years, ESPN Sports Poll has been the only on-going and nationally representative study about sports interest in America. And this past year we greatly improved the rigor and quality of our survey to include cell phone only and Spanish speaking respondents – to truly represent the opinions and attitudes of all American sports fans.”

The ESPN Sports Poll for December 2011 included 1,502 interviews from a nationally representative sample of Americans 12 and older.

Further illustration of the “Tebow Effect” comes from ESPN’s First Take, where Monday’s episode was the most-watched in the program’s history (an average of 587,000 homes, records since 2006). In fact, it was the fourth time this NFL season the show’s viewership record was broken — all coming after Tebow’s first 2011 start as Denver Broncos quarterback on Oct. 23.

“[Tebow] makes the needle move,” said Pardon the Interruption’s Tony Kornheiser. “He’s the guy that everyone is curious about.”

Ratings generator, America’s most popular athlete, what about Tim Tebow’s marketability?

AdAge reported this week that Tim Tebow has the potential to earn upwards of $10 million annually in endorsement dollars. Tebow currently is earning between $1 million and $2 million a year from the endorsement contracts he has with Jockey brand underwear, Nike, FNS energy drinks and EA Sports.

Tebow appears shirtless in the jockey ad. Tebow is the face of Jockey’s "staycool" underwear collection, the brands fastest-selling collection in the company's 135-year-old history.

"While we think "staycool" is an outstanding collection unto itself, we attribute a great deal of that success to Tim's endorsement," Jockey spokesman Mo Moorman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"What we saw in Tim was a smart, gifted athlete and we've always believed that he'd enjoy the same sort of success in the pros as he did in college. Jockey truly believes in Tim Tebow," Moorman said.

Tebow’s profile, Tebow’s success, Tebow delivering for his current sponsors – that’s what may lead to Tebow earning $10 million a year in endorsements.

"He's become an icon; he's bigger than football," said San Francisco-based sports-marketing expert Bob Dorfman, the executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in the Ad Age report. "I can't see him beating New England (on Sunday) but I didn't see him beating Pittsburgh, either. But that's the thing with this guy -- he keeps defying logic. Everybody keeps waiting for him to fail but it doesn't happen. He has the kind of marketing potential that could put him in the Tom Brady or Peyton Manning category."

Said New York-based sports-marketing expert and Columbia University professor Joe Favorito: "Ten million a year? Yeah, I think it's reasonable so long as his career continues to move along. Absolutely."

In the immediate moments following the Broncos overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tim Tebow nearly broke Twitter:

· Tebow shattered sports tweets/second record. There were 9,420 tweets/second on OT play. Women's WC Final had 7,196 tweets/second.

· Tweets/second for Tebow Sunday (9,420) vs. Tweets/second at height of last year's Super Bowl (4,064).

· Tebow tweets/second (9,420) beat out Royal Wedding (3,966), Bin Laden Raid (5,106) & Steve Jobs Death (6,049).

Darin David, account director at The Marketing Arm, Dallas, told Ad Age, Tim Tebow may already have the ability to earn close to $10 million a year. "I'm not so sure he didn't get to the $10 million [a year] level already after Sunday. To do that in the playoffs, to do that against a team like the [six-time Super Bowl champion] Steelers, the game that was the highest-rated playoff game in 20-something years?"

"As a marketer, you want somebody like that," added David. "He doesn't have the same kind of negative backlash as other players. He is just so newsworthy right now that you would want to capitalize on that."

In the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, Tim Tebow’s arrival was what the sports industry so desperately needed, a modern-day hero with old-fashion values. Is Tim Tebow saving the sports industry?

Clearly Tim Tebow offers a company an athlete with a wholesome image who embraces values that few if any professional athletes live their lives by. e appears He’s a leader who inspires others, but he’s also an athlete who is melding the sports and religion together.

In his press conference immediately following the Broncos win Sunday Tebow time and time again repeatedly thanked “his Lord.” Is it right for a professional athlete to leverage his athletic success in selling his religion? That is and isn’t what Tim Tebow is doing. Anyone who has followed Tim Tebow’s remarkable story understands he is being honest in talking about his love for his religion; he is a believer. But what if a Muslim athlete were to sing the praises of Allah in a post 9/11 America? Would that athlete be vilified? Would that athlete be driven out of the sports industry?

Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, two of the biggest athletes of the 20th century, changed their names from Cassius Clay and Lew Alcindor, and embraced their Muslim faith at the peak of their careers.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, was known as Chris Jackson when he played at LSU. He changed his name when he was a member of the Denver Nuggets. He will forever be remembered for refusing to acknowledge the American National Anthem during a 1996 game, effectively ending his NBA career.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf’s NBA career didn’t amount to very much; Tim Tebow is in his National Football League season. Clearly if Tim Tebow continues to win, the endorsement dollars will follow.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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