Tim Tebow, professional Christian?
What do Coca Cola, Nike, McDonalds, Ford and Tim Tebow have in common? They’re all brands. A great deal is invested in making sure that each invokes a certain feeling in consumer‘s cerebellums. For Coca Cola, nostalgia sells. For Nike it’s performance in its “Just do it” slogan. McDonalds screams convenience and comfort and Ford is “built tough”. And to fundamentalist Christians, Tim Tebow sells salvation. But like all products, it comes at a price.
No divine spotlight would shine upon Tebow if not for the game of football. America’s most popular sport has served as a perfect pulpit for him since his days at the University of Florida where he wore his faith on his sleeve and in his eye black from the very first time he first suited up. His Christianity didn’t necessarily set him apart from other College players but the brazen way he marketed it made him unique. At a press conference during Tebow's Florida days, the quarterback famously told reporters he was saving himself for marriage. The line was in response to a question most people would have found rather intrusive. Not Tebow. The question opened a door Tebow was more than happy to walk through - as long as cameras were rolling.
NCAA regulations forbid College athletes from receiving any type of income as a result of their involvement in sports. Most have a tough time getting approval to work at off-campus jobs because of the risk of impropriety. University of Colorado wide receiver Jeremy Bloom was famously forced to abandon his College Football career because his activities as an Olympic skier (and an endorsement for sunglasses) conflicted with the tight rules. But, as a student-athlete at Florida, Tim Tebow was laying the groundwork not only for a future in the NFL, but as a professional Christian.
Even before he was taken by the Denver Broncos 25th overall in the 2010 draft, Athlete Promotions announced that it had been contracted to represent Tim Tebow. Not the quarterback, but the public speaker. Their press release began: “One of the largest athlete booking and sports marketing agencies in the country, Athlete Promotions assists corporations, universities and churches in booking Tim Tebow speaking engagements, corporate appearances, autograph signings, VIP meet & greets, and endorsements.”. This was a large step toward Tebow cementing the many income opportunities off the football field that were sure to come. The initial price set for his services was $30,000 to $50,000 per appearance, and had they known he would be picked in the first round, the figure would probably have been higher. Entities wishing to pay that fee for Tim Tebow the public speaker (Churches, mostly) would write the check not to him but to the Tim Tebow Foundation.
Tim had envisioned starting his Foundation as undergrad at Florida, but the pesky NCAA regs wouldn’t allow him to. Instead, he along with several other UF students, formed its precursor, called “First and 15” under the auspices of the Office of Student Government and with NCAA approval. The group proved adept at raising money for such causes as Uncle Dick's Orphanage in the Philippines and Shands Hospital pediatric cancer center in Gainesville. It also supported a special Disney trip for disadvantaged children. Florida head coach Urban Meyer said: "Tim Tebow made volunteering time and raising money for worthwhile causes fashionable on our campus".
Freed from NCAA shackles upon graduation, Tebow formed his foundation in January, 2010, four months before he became a Bronco. His older brother Robby, the CEO and founder of his own marketing firm, XV Management, was hired to be its Executive Director. Soon a mission statement for the Tim Tebow foundation was put in place but at best, was somewhat vague: “The Foundation utilizes the public platform that God has blessed Tim Tebow with to inspire and make a difference in peoples lives throughout the world”. God would then bless Tim by making him a first-round pick and vastly expanding his public platform.
Rarely does a 20-something kid just out of College write an autobiography, but with most of his life still ahead of him, that’s exactly what Tim Tebow did. Through My Eyes was published in May, 2011, a little more than a year after the 2010 draft. Amazon boasts that the text “brings readers everywhere an inspirational memoir about life as he chose to live it, revealing how his faith and family values, combined with his relentless will to succeed, have molded him into the person that he is today”. Publishing that tome was another critical step for Tebow to increase demand for his appearances.
Tebow started just three games for the Denver Broncos his rookie year. Interim coach Eric Studesville gave Tebow a crack at the behest of new team VP John Elway after Josh McDaniels, who gambled by selecting Tebow early, had been fired by the team 3/4 of the way onto his second season. Tebow’s stock rose based on his performances in those starts and the following summer Elway and the Broncos unsuccessfully attempted to trade away starting quarterback Kyle Orton. Orton stayed, and because he outplayed Tebow in training camp, remained the Broncos number one QB to begin the 2011 season.
But the aura that surrounded Tebow only grew as he sat on the bench behind the floundering Orton. The Broncos started 2011 with a record of 1-4. Fans chanted Tebow’s name and he was appointed the starter after the team’s week six bye. Tebow wasn’t just a Heisman Trophy winner and a first-round draft pick. He was now a number one NFL quarterback. As his celebrity exploded, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Yahoo and a thousand other media outlets made certain that “Tebowmania” was on everybody’s lips.
Better yet for Tebow, he won games with spectacular plays that further fueled his hype. He celebrated by very visibly taking a knee in prayer, a move now known as “Tebowing”. Network cameras couldn’t resist. Tebow’s faith was as much a part of his game as was his scrambling. He lead the Broncos to an unlikely 8-8 regular season record and a playoff berth as AFC West Champions. Furthermore he made them the most talked about franchise in the NFL. The team went 8-5 with Tebow under center, with one big playoff win and one crushing playoff loss.
Once the Broncos were eliminated by New England in the post-season, Tim Tebow got right back to work honing his brand.
He made appearances in Indianapolis during Super Bowl week for a range of organizations, interviewers and television programs. He taped a show for the Golf Channel and appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for NBC: a network that had bolstered its ratings by repeatedly poking fun at him. If you didn’t know any better you would have assumed that Tebow was preparing to play in the big game due to the attention he got that week. Every where Tebow went Indy police had to call in reinforcements to handle the mobs.
Tebow the public speaker has been hard at work since then as well and recently he upgraded his representation.
The William Morris Endeavor agency, the largest talent agency in the world, will now handle all of Tebow's endorsements, books, personal appearances. Including any TV or movie roles he is offered. The agency celebrated the signing with a star-studded pre-Oscar gala at which the guest of honor was photographed smiling along with Hollywood’s elite.
They also plan to help him with his foundation which starts with selling his services to churches at a newly increased fee of $50,000-$100,000 per appearance. Typical houses of worship will be hard pressed to come up with that kind of money. The greatest bake sale in the world couldn’t even begin to meet that fee.
The price is, however, within reach of fundamentalist mega-churches like the Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Northwest Las Vegas where Tebow spoke this past weekend. The church, which draws more people on a typical Sunday than the Colorado Avalanche do for a home game (over 6,000), paid an undisclosed “honorarium” to Tebow’s foundation for appearances at four separate services. Interest in those services was so vast that the Senior Pastor set up a satellite location for worshipers to watch via closed-circuit TV. The event drew a total of 20,000 paying customers.
Tebow’s mother was able to attend one of the Canyon Ridge services in person because she was in the area Saturday for a paid speaking appearance of her own. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Tim’s father, Bob, is also for hire.
This week Tebow will appear at a fund raiser for the Big Sky Youth Education Foundation in Billings, Montana. A banquet is scheduled for the evening of March fifth. They’re apparently excited to have finally iced a contract with Tebow: “We have been trying to get him for a couple of years now, even before his draft into the NFL,” organizer Kristin Wylie told the Billings Gazette. The paper reports that Tebow will “share testimony, as well as a bit of his life story.” Hosting a question and answer period afterward. Organizers expect more than 1,000 people to attend the event which is being held at a local Holiday Inn. The price per table is $550 - much of which will ultimately go to compensate the Tim Tebow Foundation. Organizers hope that they raise enough money to have some left over after paying Tebow’s bounty.
While Tim Tebow the quarterback is nursing his wounds, Tim Tebow the public speaker is quite busy. Keeping up appearances as well as making them.
Later this week, on March 7, he will be in Kalispell, Montana at an event supporting the town’s Christian School. “Such a Time as This, an Evening with Tim Tebow” will include a glitzy fund raising banquet where tables of eight were sold for $1,000 and sponsorship tables for $2,500. The sponsorship tables will include tickets to a private reception with Tebow as well as autographed copies of his book. He’ll then be stopping in Missoula to speak at a fundraiser for City Life Community Center & Youth for Christ on the same day.
On the following day, March 8, he will join former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Robert Gates at Florida’s Southeastern University for it’s sixth “National Leadership Forum”. Tebow will be attending a dinner in which all five-hundred tickets are sold out.
On April 20th he’ll speak in western Kentucky at Graves County High School at an event called “An Evening with a Champion”. On April 22, Tebow is scheduled to appear at a stadium gig in Midland, Texas, called “Rock the Desert”. He’s the major draw of the event which will also feature a concert by the Grammy Award winning band Switchfoot. It’s sponsored by Rock the Desert Ministries and Stonegate Fellowship who will have rented the 15,000 seat Grande Communications Stadium to house the event. The potential take is astounding. Tebow’s fee will likely be at the upper end of his price range. Naturally, the money will go to his foundation.
How much would Jesus have charged?
On the 25th of April, Tebow will be in Cincinnati. He’s scheduled to appear at the President’s Hall Gymnasium on the Campus of Cincinnati Christian University. The event is titled 'A Talk With Tebow: A Conversation About Faith and Football’. The following day, April 26th, he’s scheduled to appear at the “Voices of Inspiration Dinner” in Bakersfield, California.
Tebow’s May, 2012 calendar opens in Atlanta, Georgia on the 4th with
Chick-Fil-A “Leadercast 2012”, featuring a variety of speakers from the worlds of religion, education and Sports. There Tebow will reunite with his College coach, Urban Meyer as well as brush shoulders with CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien, author John Maxwell and Burberry CEO, Angela Ahrendts.
As notable as all those people are, they can’t hold a candle to Tim Tebow. He’s already America’s most famous athlete and, thanks to premium management, he’s quickly becoming among the country’s most demanded public speakers. Has Tebow earned the work?
It’s true that the University of Florida won a Championship with Tebow at the helm, but the Denver Broncos have done no such thing. While their 2011 campaign was surprising, and the introduction of “Tebowmania” was useful in helping restore “Broncomania” to Denver, the team clearly has a long way to go to win a Super Bowl. Each contributor must spend the off-season wisely if Denver is to contend for the division title again in 2012. Tim Tebow appears to be using his time off mostly to raise money for the Tim Tebow Foundation.
Tebow’s organization does wonderful things with some – if not most – of the funds its namesake generates. Its web site trumpets a hospital its helping get built in the Philippines and its work with an orphanage there.
It’s doubtful, however, that the foundation’s purposes are purely altruistic. Charitable organizations pay salaries, after all. Often these are well into six figures. Tim Tebow’s own brother draws a paycheck and it would be stunning if he didn’t take one, too. After all, Tim does the heavy lifting. Based on his aggressive spring speaking schedule it’s safe to assume Tebow will generate donations for the foundation totaling in the tens of millions of dollars.
Meanwhile, back at Dove Valley …
John Elway, Brian Xanders and John Fox have been very busy, too. They have appeared at scouting events like the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine hoping to spot talented players they can acquire in the upcoming draft. They have been furiously negotiating with the team’s free-agents and evaluating those that may come on the market. For them there is no off-season. There is only a portion of the year when their players aren’t playing.
Summer time means mini-camps, workouts, endless meetings and evaluations. With every NFL team jockeying for superiority, the Broncos can afford to leave no stone unturned. One glance at their 2012 first-place schedule - earned as a result of their success in 2011 - will hammer home how crucial it is that every preparation be made to face the challenges it will present. Replicating their .500 record is going to be tough for Denver.
That’s why it can’t sit well with management that Tim Tebow has so much more on his plate than just football. If fact, there’s very little football on the quarterback’s calendar despite the fact that he’s widely considered a “project”. Despite his ability to make extraordinary plays appear out of thin air, there is a feeling that the rest of the NFL can easily figure Tebow out unless he is able to make enormous gains in his ability to play the position in a more traditional way. He needs coaching and lots of it.
Instead, Tebow is coaching others about love, life and faith. He is flying from one speaking gig to the next with barely enough time to breathe in between - much less develop a pocket presence, master his footwork, improve his notoriously poor throwing motion or study the Broncos offensive schemes. Unless he has his playbook with him on the planes, Tebow is playing an altogether different game than football.
He’s building his brand.
The question some observers are beginning to ask is: “where does the athlete end and the celebrity begin?” Tim Tebow, after all, is still relatively unproven on the football field. Yet, on the public speaking circuit and on the red carpets of Hollywood, he is hailed as a Champion.
Rumors circulated last week that the Broncos brain trust could be interested in moving up the draft board to secure the Saint Louis Rams second overall pick. To move from twenty-five, where the Broncos currently sit, to two would involve some serous wheeling and dealing; so much that most experts scoffed at the assertion which was publicized by Sports Illustrated columnist, Peter King. However, it may not be as nutty as most folks think.
It’s possible that Denver could follow the strategy laid out by James Merilatt of Mike High Sports Magazine. He suggested in one of the magazine’s daily blog posts that the Broncos could send Tebow back to his home state of Florida via a swap for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ seventh pick which they could then group with a first rounder in 2013 and players off their current roster to form an enticing package for the Rams. That would allow the Elway regime to begin anew with Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, possibly the most physically and mentally gifted quarterback ever to enter the NFL draft. Griffin would be a home-run first selection if not for the fact that he will be entering the league along side Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning’s heir apparent in Indy.
The notion of trading Tebow is deemed insane mostly due to his immense popularity. Yet that popularity might be the very reason folks at Dove Valley are cooling on him.
Tebow is a salesman and his number one product is himself. He’s trying to be Timmy the quarterback and Timmy the evangelist simultaneously. He has attracted the attention of billions of people both with his accomplishments on the grid-iron and with his carefully crafted image. Because his faith is so central to his persona, Tebow’s motives are rarely questioned. But, as he continually seeks the spotlight, the Broncos have to wonder to what extent his focus is on the game and just how big a role it really plays in his life.
Tebow appears to have placed other priorities well ahead of the Denver Broncos. It’s almost as though football is merely a vehicle for him and that if another opportunity, such as acting or politics were presented he would gladly jump. Isn’t that why he’s perpetually in the public eye? How can the Broncos be asked to trust their future to him when he is involved in so many endeavors outside of football?
It’s entirely possible that Tim Tebow will play in the Denver for more than a decade and entrench himself among the Broncos greats; he is certainly capable of it. He was blessed with all the necessary physical gifts. He only needs to dedicate himself fully to developing his quarterbacking skills.
As of today, it seems far more likely that he will play for only a couple more years and ultimately leave the game in pursuit of other things. There are far less abusive ways to make a living, after all … like being a professional Christian. It’s not only safer, but potentially more lucrative. And it requires abilities Tim Tebow has honed to a master’s level. Some fans demand that Elway and the Broncos voice a long-term commitment to Tim Tebow. Tebow must first demonstrate his commitment to the Broncos. Since last season ended he has done anything but.