When the Jets traded for Tim Tebow the move was immediately panned as a publicity stunt and marketing ploy. The Jets, after all, are New York’s second favorite football team after the Super Bowl-champion Giants.
The deal for Tebow was placed within the context of the Jets’ disappointing season ticket sales over the past two seasons at MetLife Stadium. But while the Jets will benefit to some degree from the “Timsanity” at the cash register, their new quarterback is ready to take over his new backyard of Madison Avenue.
Tebow is poised to double his marketability and he is already one of the top five most marketable players in the NFL, according to John Vrooman, sports economist at Vanderbilt University.
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“Tebow’s value in New York City is obviously higher with the Jets because he is playing in the largest television market in the world. The New York market of 7.5 million television households is five times the size of Denver with 1.5 million households,” said Vrooman.
“The unfortunate aspect for Tebow is that he is still being paid [based on] his contract in Denver. If he gets to play and increase the overall marketability of the Jets then his worth will have more than doubled with the move, and this should be reflected in his next contract.”
Despite splitting the market, the Giants and Jets are ninth and 10th respectively in the league in total merchandising sales. Given that Tebow finished last year second in the NFL in jersey sales, coming to such a lucrative market could pay off for the Jets.
Tebow remains a polarizing figure, panned as a “gimmick” quarterback because he thrives in the antiquated option offense and also mocked for his outspoken Christian faith. Given the fact that New York leans heavily to the left in politics and social issues (only twice since 1972 has the state voted Republican in a presidential election), Tebow may not find a large audience receptive to his evangelical brand of Christianity as he would in other parts of the country.
“The absolute negativity of the Tebow haters limits his appeal, unless he can win them over on the field. Religion and politics are issues to avoid in general public discussion because they are so polarizing,” Vrooman said.
“Tebow’s conspicuous expression of his beliefs polarizes football fans in the same manner that evangelical religion has polarized the current political discourse. This polarization reflects more about our weaknesses and cultural intolerance than Tebow’s conspicuous Christianity.”
But still, “Tebowmania” will still have its impact in the Jets’ home market. Already his Jockey sponsorship has paid dividends with a billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel, greeting drivers coming into New York City. And his introductory press conference was attended by nearly 250 media members which included three dozen television cameras and 14 satellite trucks.
When asked about the impact the move to New York will have on his marketability, Tebow said he didn’t know.
“My whole time here has been meeting with the coaches, getting to know them, getting all the physicals, getting the paperwork done,” Tebow said at his press conference. “That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. I haven’t had too much time to talk to any of [the marketing team], but I guess they are pretty excited.”
Since the Jets view him as a backup and their Wildcat quarterback, it is hard to imagine too many fans forking over season ticket money to see Tebow play a dozen snaps a game. Vrooman speculates that only if Tebow wins the starting job will game day tickets see a “moderate” uptick.
Given his move to New York, his jersey will almost surely be the NFL’s top seller this year, but neither jersey or ticket sales will be a windfall for the Jets.
“Season ticket sales particularly for premium seats will not be affected by this controversial move. The only significant impact might be on merchandise sales but that is relatively insignificant in the NFL business model,” Vrooman said.
“The NFL is a $10 billion industry, but only $270 million revenue comes from NFL Properties licensing fees and it is shared evenly with the rest of the league. It is estimated that the league retail merchandise sales are just below $3 billion and the clubs probably only get about five percent of those sales in royalties. The direct economic effect of ‘Tebowmania’ is relatively small and short lived. Unless Tebow wins, the ‘Tebowmania’ experiment will probably have the same ultimate impact as ‘Linsanity.’”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for all your offseason news.