SBD/January 12, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Mr. Popular: Tebow Voted America's Favorite Active Pro Athlete In ESPN Sports Poll

The ESPN Sports Poll found that Broncos QB Tim Tebow during the month of December became the 11th person to top the list of America’s favorite professional athletes since the poll launched in '94 -- and the fastest to make it to No. 1. Three percent of respondents ages 12+ said that Tebow was their favorite active athlete, followed by Lakers G Kobe Bryant (2%). A total of 1,502 people were polled. ESPN Sports Poll founder Rich Luker said to THE DAILY the speed with which Tebow "made it to number one is impressive," as it took Tiger Woods three years to get to to top, Heat F LeBron James "eight years and Kobe Bryant 11 years to make it to the top for the first time." Luker noted Basketball HOFer Michael Jordan was "nearly always the favorite American athlete" from '94, when the poll was first taken, until his final retirement in '03. Woods "dominated the top spot until Thanksgiving of 2009 when his life crises were revealed," with Bryant, James and Colts QB Peyton Manning topping the list since then. Luker said, "With Tebow’s rise, it appears that for the first time in nearly 20 years there is no one dominant active professional athlete in America. I think we may be at the beginning of a time of niche stars, which could change -- and open up -- the power of endorsement and sponsorship opportunities for a lot of athletes from a variety of sports" (THE DAILY). ESPN’s Robert Flores noted Tebow topped the poll and said, “He has done and been mentioned in everything from political campaigns to parodied on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ How far can this mania go?” ("NFL Live," ESPN2, 1/11).

FAVORITE ACTIVE PRO ATHLETES (DEC. 1-30, 2011)
ATHLETE
%
Broncos QB Tim Tebow
3.0%
Lakers G Kobe Bryant
2.0%
Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
1.9%
Colts QB Peyton Manning
1.8%
Patriots QB Tom Brady
1.5%
Yankees SS Derek Jeter
1.2%
Golfer Tiger Woods
1.1%
Swimmer Michael Phelps
1.0%
Saints QB Drew Brees
0.9%
Angels 1B Albert Pujols
0.9%
Heat F LeBron James
0.9%
Real Madrid F Cristiano Ronaldo
0.9%
   

CROSSING INTO POP CULTURE: The Tebow phenomenon continues to cross over into mainstream culture, as HLN’s “Showbiz Tonight” aired a feature titled “American Idol!” about Tebow. HLN’s A.J. Hammer said Tebow is "bigger than ‘American Idol’ and 'The X Factor’ combined. He’s even bigger than Beyonce." Hammer added Tebow is the “hottest thing going in America right now.” HLN’s Nischelle Turner noted Tebow “is crossing over into the world of celebrity big-time.” Hammer noted, “While tons of people love Tebow, he has more than his share of haters.” Turner said Tebow "has come out very pro-life” while critics claim all he does is "talk about the Lord and all he does is wear his faith on his sleeve and I just get tired of that.” Author Jo Piazza said, “Even the bad press just sets Tebow up as a martyr, which makes his fans even more obsessed with him” (“Showbiz Tonight,” HLN, 1/11).

HATER BLOCKERS
: In Toronto, Steve Buffery writes he does not understand why the "cool, hip thing is to hate Tim Tebow” for some people. In sports, fans “tolerate self-indulgent jerks, even celebrate them, because they have ‘personality.’” But because someone -- who is “not the best quarterback in the NFL but has the audacity to win -- drops down to a knee and prays in public, everyone goes nuts.” Then “everyone gets crazy because the media make him out to be a huge deal.” Buffery: “It’s hate for all the wrong reasons. … People have gone out of their way to hate Tebow because they can. He’s an easy target. But if he was a loud, close-minded, idiotic party animal, he’d be the greatest guy ever. Isn’t it wonderful where our society has gone?” (TORONTO SUN, 1/12). In Minneapolis, Patrick Reusse writes anyone “skeptical of Tebow as a quarterback has been instantly labeled a hater by his fans.” And yet, among the “34 qualified quarterbacks this season, he was rated No. 28 and was the least accurate passer by 7.8 percent.” Reusse: “My view of the Tebow phenomenon is there's much less religious bigotry involved with his critics than there is religious zealotry assisting in his astounding popularity” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/12).

IN DEMAND ON SOCIAL ISSUES: USA TODAY’s Christine Brennan notes the day after Tebow threw the touchdown pass to beat the Steelers in OT, Tebow was quoted as saying that “more than one candidate asked him for an endorsement.” But to date, he “has declined.” Last month, the It Gets Better Project, which is “trying to stop suicides among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered teens, petitioned the Denver Broncos, with Tebow in mind, to join its campaign” as teams such as the Dodgers have. Brennan writes it is “absolutely appropriate that groups such as these would seek Tebow’s support and endorsement, even if one would have much more of a chance than the other to receive it.” Brennan: “When you step off the sidewalk and join the parade, as he has on religious and social issues, you open yourself to the scrutiny of the world in ways most athletes steadfastly avoid” (USA TODAY, 1/12).

FRS GETS IN ON THE ACTION: Sports drink FRS is running a full-page ad in this morning's USA Today congratulating Tebow on the team's playoff victory against the Steelers last Sunday. The ad comes after fellow sponsor Jockey put an image of Tebow on its website with the header, "Playoffs. It's Tebow Time" (THE DAILY).
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