It wouldn’t surprise if Tim Tebow popped up in a Super Bowl ad Sunday. Not one for a faith-based organization as he did several years ago, but for a proud brand.
Knowing how some advertisers try to tap into the zeitgeist, the fascination with Tebow would seem to make him an ideal candidate. And, his success took off early enough in the fall for a brand to develop a spot worthy of the big game.
Ah, but Tebow is too polarizing, right? His public displays of his religious beliefs make it too much of a risk for a marketer?
It seems a risk worth taking. His fans seem to outweigh his cynics. The key is humor and sensitivity. There’s no question Tebow has a certain magnetism on camera. There has to be a way for an ad to acknowledge Tebow’s religious commitment, but take advantage of what appears to be his humble, shy and lighter side. ("I just can't believe Pepsi tastes better than Coke?")
If Tebow continues to succeed on the field and yet fails to become a commensurate endorsement star, it would be quizzical considering how many athletes with questionable records land major deals.
And, there are plenty of examples of athletes who’ve expressed public displays of religion – perhaps not as visible as Tebow’s – who gain prominent roles in advertising or TV. At times, Deion Sanders hasn’t been shy about his beliefs and he seems more popular than ever. Take Kurt Warner, the former NFL quarterback, who was vocal during his playing career about his Christian beliefs and after a Tebow-inspired spot from a religious group during a recent NFL playoff game, tweeted: “That was a GREAT commercial! 4 GOD loved the WHOLE world, that he GAVE his ONLY son ... W-O-W!”
Now, Warner is set to host a reality series on USA, with roots in his personal grocery bagger-to-NFL star story (he was on “Dancing with the Stars” recently as well). Warner's show will give a contestant a shot out of the blue to pursue a seemingly unreachable dream.
Religion will find its way into two other non-scripted series soon. GSN (Game Show Network) is moving ahead with “The American Bible Challenge,” a game show where winners will be determined based on their knowledge of the ancient book. (No word on whether Tebow has been approached to host.)
GSN isn’t running from any religious links, saying the format “celebrates the central role of the Bible in American society and culture.”
“The competition will be rooted in personal stories of faith and community, and the teams will compete to win money to help support their faith communities,” GSN says. There might a telling social commentary in how much GSN pays out.
Also, on Tuesday, TLC said it would produce “Preacher Wives” about the women behind the men who run congregations and hold some pretty big sway themselves. The show should have plenty of entertainment value considering the producers are also behind “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” but EW reported some of the women step up to “sermonize.”
The show presumably won’t have an advertiser like Lowe’s making the high-profile decision to pull ads as it did with TLC’s “All-American Muslim.” Which leads to the suggestion that Tebow and a marketer like Lowe's would do well together in an ad that preaches an uplifting tolerance angle.