Tim Tebow’s move to the No. 1 U.S. media market stands to add millions to his endorsement portfolio as local companies seek an attachment to a wholesome athlete with a devoted following.
Tebow, who was traded to the New York Jets from Denver after the Broncos signed free-agent quarterback and four-time Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, became a national icon last season after he took over as the starter, won six straight games and led the Broncos to the playoffs.
“It’s going to be exciting to be in the New York market, going to be fun because people are so passionate, they care so much and they’re behind you so much,” Tebow said on a conference call with reporters last night. “I’m looking forward to how crazy the market is in New York.”
The 24-year-old quarterback’s success became one of the dominant storylines this past season in the National Football League, including how he mixed fame with his Christian faith.
Tebow’s skyrocketing popularity, or “Tebowmania,” was similar to what has occurred in New York this season with Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, a Harvard University-educated, undrafted player who has been inundated with endorsement offers since taking over as a starter last month. Lin is also a devout Christian who publicly acknowledges his faith.
“There are incredible, enormous opportunities for Tebow,” said Steve Mills, a former president of Madison Square Garden (MSG), which operates the Knicks and hockey’s Rangers. “There are so many similarities the way people react to him and the way they react to Jeremy Lin.”
“Playing for the Jets and being immersed in the largest media market is going to amp up the media coverage,” said Fred Harman, managing partner at Palo Alto, California-based Oak Investment Partners, which bought a 50 percent stake in FRS six years ago. “It’s hard to imagine there’s room for more coverage.”
The biggest additions to Tebow’s portfolio, Mills said, will come from speaking engagements and local sponsorships, which in New York are akin to national deals for athletes in other cities from a compensation standpoint.
Bob Dorfman, executive creative director at San Francisco- based Baker Street Advertising, said in a telephone interview that he sees Tebow earning up to $2 million in affiliations with a local car company and financial institution.
“The big question is: How much is he going to play?” Dorfman said. “That may affect what sort of serious endorsements he gets.”
Sanchez as Starter
The addition of Tebow sets up a possible quarterback controversy in New York, where the Jets are led by Mark Sanchez, who signed a five-year, $58 million contract extension this month with more than $20 million guaranteed in the first two years, according to the New York Post (NWSA), which cited a person it didn’t identify.
Sanchez led the Jets to the American Football Conference title game his first two seasons. The Jets slumped last year, finishing 8-8 and missing the playoffs. The end of the season was marred by locker-room controversy, including verbal altercations between Sanchez and receiver Santonio Holmes.
Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum said on a conference call last night that he doesn’t envisage the addition of Tebow causing any problems with Sanchez.
“Mark Sanchez is, has been and will be our starting quarterback; we’re adding Tim to be our backup,” Tannenbaum said. “They’re both very clear on what their roles will be.”
Former coach Brian Billick, who led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title and is now an analyst with Fox, said there will be an interesting dynamic between Sanchez and Tebow, whose presence won’t go ignored by the fans or tabloid newspapers if the incumbent struggles early in the season.
“It’d be one thing if Tim Tebow is sitting behind Peyton Manning,” Billick said. “You’re talking about New York. I can’t imagine the fans will let Tim Tebow fade into a backup role.”
Tebow is a winner of the Heisman Trophy, the annual award given to college football’s top player. His throwing mechanics and inaccuracy have prompted some former players such as ESPN analyst Merril Hoge to question whether he could become an elite quarterback.
Super Bowl Odds
The Jets had 25-1 odds to win the Super Bowl before the Tebow trade and the same 25-1 odds after, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, which helps casinos set their betting lines. The Broncos, who were 60-1 to win the Super Bowl less than a month ago, are 10-1 today at the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino’s sports book after signing Manning.
“It’s a story because he has a huge fan following, but I don’t see how he makes the Jets a better football team,” Andrew Patterson of Las Vegas Sports Consultants said in a telephone interview.
While Tebow brings an enthusiastic fan base, his addition won’t add much to the team’s bottom line because the Jets don’t have many available tickets and sponsorships for next season are already sold, said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. As for merchandise sales, including jerseys, revenue is shared equally among the league’s 32 teams.
Tebow does bring sizzle to the Jets, whose co-tenants at MetLife Stadium, the Giants, won the Super Bowl this past season.
Mills, the former MSG president, sees Tebow signing endorsement contracts even if he isn’t the starter.
“He’s a guy who is big enough, and has enough legs that there are probably going to be a lot of opportunities here in New York,” he said.
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