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Marketing Now A Challenge For Tim Tebow

ESPN Playbook, April 30, 2013

By Kristi Dosh

Tim Tebow finds himself in a very different place today than this time last year. He is no longer playing in New York, and he occupies a very different place in the marketing landscape.

Just 12 short months ago, Tebow was coming off a season with the Broncos that saw him start 13 games, including two playoff games. Now he’s looking back on a season with no starts and only 77 snaps at quarterback for the Jets.

What a difference a year can make.

Last year, Tebow’s positive Q Score, a measurement of how many respondents viewed him in a positive light, was 22 among sports fans, well above the league average of 16. The latest results from Q Scores, which the company released in early April, show that his positive Q Score has fallen to exactly the league average in just 12 months.

“If you think of it like a stock price, it’s gone down,” says Jim Andrews, senior vice president of content strategy for IEG. “Without having had anywhere near what could be called a good season – a season where he barely got on the field and didn’t do much when he was there – there are negatives from a marketing standpoint.”

From a personal marketing perspective then, would it be better for Tebow to be a backup in the NFL or Canadian Football League, or could he help his cause more if given the opportunity to be a starter in the Arena Football League?

“It’s really a wash,” says Andrews. “What needs to happen with him to get back to where we all thought he would be is he’ll have to be a starting player on an NFL team.”

Andrews' advice for Tebow is to go into whichever role gets him into a starter’s position in the NFL in the future.

“Whatever path gets him there. In the interim, if he’s on the sidelines for an NFL team in a baseball hat with a clipboard, that doesn’t change a lot for him," says Andrews. "Even if he was a starting quarterback on an AFL or CFL team, that’s not going to attract a lot of marketers. When you talk about million-dollar deals and being worth it for a significant level of endorsements, you have to be a starter in the NFL.”

Unlike most NFL players, however, Tebow might have something unique to fall back on if he decides his playing days are through. Even without being an NFL starter, Andrews thinks Tebow might have enough celebrity to benefit his charitable causes, something not many players retain after their playing days.

“There’s still value in him," says Andrews. "Let’s say his playing days are over or they’re not going to get back to the level we were just talking about -- he still has a sort of celebrity factor.

“It would be very interesting to see if he can parlay his fame into being someone in the public eye, who’s not an NFL quarterback, but somebody who people like.”

Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Q Scores, says Tebow is still one of the most recognizable athletes, retired or active. In polls released by the company both this March and last March, 70 percent of the general population is familiar with Tebow. That’s equal to guys like Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, David Beckham, Michael Phelps and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Pretty good company,” says Schafer.

In fact, the only retired or active athletes who are more familiar to the general public, according to Q Scores, are Tiger Woods (88 percent) and Kobe Bryant (74 percent).

“Could he do something in media? Could he be a talk-show host?” asked Andrews. “Maybe be a spokesperson for good causes?

“There’s potential there, I think.”