Monday, March 26, 2012

“Tebowmania” in the Big Apple – The Great Unveiling

When a National Football League franchise trades a first-round pick two years after they drafted that player for a fourth-round selection, they are admitting drafting that player was a mistake. NFL teams build their teams around their first-round picks. The Denver Broncos selected Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and traded Tebow for a fourth-round pick in April’s NFL draft to the New York Jets. Tim Tebow may represent a great deal when he isn’t playing football, but the NFL sent Tebow a resounding message about his ability as an NFL quarterback – he is no better than a back-up quarterback.

Tebow’s 2011 season represented just how polarizing a football player and person Tebow can be. Tebow started the Broncos 2011 season as the team’s fourth-string quarterback. By week seven, Tebow had become the Broncos starting quarterback. Two weeks later, the Broncos released Kyle Orton. Orton was the Broncos starting quarterback. The Broncos won the 2011 AFC West Division title, their success was built on their tremendous defense, and had little to do with Tebow’s ability.

The Broncos won several come-from-behind games late in the fourth quarter, highlighted by the Broncos January 8th home playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tebow threw for a career high 316 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard TD to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of overtime, as the Broncos won 29–23. Tebow completed 10 of 21 passes in the contest, setting the franchise record for quarterback ratings in a playoff game (125.6) and an NFL record for yards per completion (31.6) in a playoff game. Media sources noted Tebow's passing yards (316) and yards per completion (31.6) evoked the Bible's John 3:16. The Nielsen ratings for the game also peaked at 31.6. The top search item on Google the next morning was John 3:16 (Bible passage), followed by Tebow and Tim Tebow.

Broncos General Manager John Elway anointed Tebow the Broncos starting quarterback, until the Broncos signed Peyton Manning to a five-year $95 million contract last week, the same Peyton Manning, who is now 36, had four neck surgeries in the last two years and missed the entire 2011 NFL season. Elway, a Football Hall of Fame quarterback, never believed Tim Tebow had the ability to become an NFL starting quarterback. He also must have believed Tebow couldn’t sit on the Broncos bench and serve as Peyton Manning’s backup. Elway may have only received a fourth round-pick for Tebow, but Tim Tebow is now the New York Jets problem.

Tebow’s arrival in New York is being portrayed as the “second coming.” Tebow will be introduced to the media at a nationally-televised press conference today in New York. This will be the first time the arrival of a backup quarterback received attention, let alone a nationally televised press conference. The press conference and the attention it’s receiving, should serve as both a warning and an embarrassment to the Jets. The Jets are in an impossible position – the first time anything goes wrong on the field with Mark Sanchez, the Jets $50 million starting quarterback, the Broncos 2011 season will be repeated. Jets’ fans will be demanding Tebow replace Sanchez.

Tebow’s arrival has been circus-like. Saturday evening Tebow attended “Wicked” on Broadway. On Sunday, the New York tabloids were filled with coverage.

ESPN New York reported the famous Carnegie Deli in Manhattan will introduce the Jetbow sandwich on Monday, in honor of new Jets backup quarterback, Tim Tebow. The meal will be about 3.5 pounds and contain corned beef, pastrami, roast beef, American cheese, lettuce and tomato on white bread, and will be introduced Monday to coincide with Tebow's press conference.

"He's the poster boy for every parent and what they want their kids to be," owner Sandy Levine said. "Very religious, very clean-cut, an outstanding student, he does charity work. What more do you want as an athlete than him?"

Tebow's arrival will actually create history at the deli, renowned for its larger-than-life sandwiches. For the first time, the restaurant will be using white bread and mayonnaise in a sandwich created for a celebrity.

Tim Tebow has little, if anything, to do with the reaction to his arrival in New York. Tebow always presents himself as a humble, modest athlete. At the same time, Tebow doesn’t shy away from the attention he generates. How will Madison Avenue, the heart of the adverting industry, react to Tebow’s arrival?

“He’s now in a market 10 times the size of the one he came from,” says Bill Glenn, senior vice president at The Marketing Arm in a Forbes report. “By default, that’s going to offer him a bigger range of sponsors.”

According to Forbes, Tebow already has endorsement deals with Jockey, Nike and EA Sports, which net him a reported $1 million to $2 million annually.

“That’s probably the one market where you can do regional stuff and still get some seven-figure deals, maybe for a car or a financial institution,” says Bob Dorfman, executive vice president at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco in a Forbes report. “It’s probably worth a few million to him just in terms of local New York area deals.”

And remember this is for an NFL quarterback who, according to those who understand what it takes to play and star in the NFL, do not believe has the ability to have an on-field impact in the NFL.

“Tim Tebow can be the king,” marketing expert Ronn Torossian, the CEO and president of 5W Public Relations in New York told the New York Daily News. “In terms of the Tebow brand, I think that Tim Tebow is already a national celebrity. He’s known off the field. There is no bigger place to shine than in New York City and I think the Tebow brand is one that transcends sports. I think the guy can get unlimited sponsorships in New York City.”

Torossian’s assessment is correct. Tim Tebow and the people who represent him in the marketplace, have done a wonderful job selling Tebow’s image. Tebow’s face will be on billboards throughout the Greater New York area (29 million people), and in commercials on one of countless New York television stations. There are more than 100 TV shows taped in New York City, many of those shows will be interested in having Tebow appear on their shows – Tim Tebow has always been interested in taking advantage of every media opportunity he has been presented with.

Tim Tebow’s arrival might be the most heralded New York athlete arrival since Reggie Jackson arrived in the Bronx in 1977 as a member of the New York Yankees. Reggie had ability and delivered on the field. Tebow can’t deliver on the field, but he can deliver off the field. The problem and the challenge Tebow and the Jets face – football games are played on the field, not in a boardroom where advertising and marketing gurus decide who can sell products.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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