Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Brand Tebow: Too "Goody" For Consumers?

Whether you agree or not, Gawker's Hamilton Nolan offers up a provocative perspective on Tim Tebow's marketability, precisely because he's too good.
The point is, Timmy, that just because people say they admire your missionary work and your Bible-verse quotes and your constant invocation of Jesus' name doesn't mean they actually do. Your appeal outside the South is already woefully limited. Add in the fact that you're happily wading into the public debate on the more acceptably debatable portions of Christian doctrine, and you're just giving everyone a good excuse to write you off. I admire your guileless good will, Tim Tebow. But nobody likes a goody-goody. This, after all, is America.

I would go back to my usual "exceptionalism" argument: We simply haven't seen an athlete like this before, so I understand why it's hard to see an analogue in sports marketing history.

Do fans want their heroes to be epically flawed (or not so "goody-goody?") It's possible, although isn't that more from circumstance of their available options than by choice?

I continue to think that Tebow will rack up endorsement deals: Sports drinks, shoes, video games -- and, yes, products geared for evangelical consumers.

Ultimately, there will have to be some sort of validation on the field. I remain convinced that can happen (not necessarily as a full-time QB to start), although I recognize I'm in the minority.

But even though there are plenty of haters, you have to look no further than the stands in Mobile -- and the reporters' notebooks, too -- to recognize his popularity and marketability.

HamNo is right about one thing: Tebow has graduated from the provincial world of college football media to the pros, including Gawker. The Super Bowl ad has only multiplied that.


  1. 1) It's Gawker: consider the source.

    2) I find the objective tone of a very subjective article amusing. By the tone of this article, you'd think this guy was w/the Census Bureau or the Pew Research Group, & was reporting his latest findings. LOL. This is his opinion, but he's stating it as objectively-proven fact, tossing out a few examples as though that's ample proof of this well-known objective fact. Instead of saying 'America doesn't like' this guy clearly should have said 'I don't like', b/c that's the America he was talking about: himself. But that would require honesty &, as I said before, it's Gawker.

    3) I do think it's going to be a very fine line Tim's going to have to walk to not turn enough people off that it hurts his marketability. This FoF ad, while I doubt it will hurt Tim long-term, will have to be the last socio-political stuff he does, or even talks about, if he also wants to make tons of money w/which to support charities. As long as he continues being the kind & conscientious person he seems to be, but doesn't push his faith or other views on people except maybe the usual 'I want to thank my Lord & Savior' stuff during acceptance speeches, I think he'll probably be fine w/most people. (Notice I said 'I' think, not 'America' thinks-b/c this is my opinion, not an exit poll.)

    4) As for Tim's potential sponsors: I know this won't happen b/c he hasn't proven himself in the NFL yet, but I realllly wish Tebow could be a part of the Wheaties FUEL campaign. Tim's face would look perfect on those black boxes & I could easily imagine him in the kind of ad they've got Peyton in now:

  2. I didn't pay attention to college football until Tim Tebow started playing for Florida. But I'm curious about how the media treated Mormon Steve Young? Mormons are stricter in their daily lives than Evangelical Christians. They too abstain from pre-marital sex, drugs, alcohol and even caffeine. They too are missionaries and do door to door proselytizing. Did this hurt Steve Young? I know he's retired, but he’s faired pretty well considering a goody goody lifestyle. I would appreciate a knowledgeable reply.

  3. You bring up a great point ginalynnfair, regarding Steve Young. I am too young to have seen Steve Young play in college but I do remember when he played in the NFL. From what I recall, he was very quiet about his religion and was not very public at all about about his personal life and religious views. In fact, I did not even know he was mormon until after he retired. As far as I remember he kept his personal life very private. However, I was in my early teens when he played and so I may not have been aware of him expressing his beliefs.

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  5. Actually, I think Steve Young was a little more vocal than you remember. I never cared for the 49ers so I really didn't pay much attention to him until there was a little something in the news about his dating life...Dan will have to help me with this, but I recall there being a strong statement he made about his Mormon faith, and the fact that he would only marry a Mormon.

    He's a well-respected analyst now, and not bad at it, but I've seen virtually nothing about his family.

    And what do we think about this thesis: Steve came along at a time before being such an overt Christian was acceptable. So the closest thing to Tebow at that time was Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker...need I say more?

  6. I do remember reading comments that other players made about Steve Young. For instance, Mormon's wear special underwear, and Steve Young wore them even when he played football and the guys would respectfully tease him. I also remember reading that he would only marry a Mormon and the woman he did marry converted to his religion. Maybe the difference is that Tim Tebow WEARS his religion on his face and is very public about his beliefs even telling reporters during a press conference that he is a virgin. I thought that was TMI...but whatever. Dan, since you follow football... did the media treat Steve Young differently because of his unusual religious beliefs?

  7. In the post tiger woods scandal era some brands will be interested in someone they can rely on to do the right thing.

  8. "even telling reporters during a press conference that he is a virgin"

    Tim didn't volunteer that. He was asked the question &, instead of ducking it, he answered it. If he'd ducked the question, many-if not most-people would have taken that to mean that he wasn't celibate, so he basically had no choice but to answer it. Here's the clip:

  9. I see your point Brooke but I think he could have chosen to ignore it and that would have been ok. I feel for him or any girlfriend in the future as he has just opened the door to questions like, "Are you still a virgin?" "Is your girlfriend a virgin too?" Or even AFTER he is married the questions will haunt him, "did you wait until your wedding night?" How embarrassing for his wife to be.