By Don Miller, Vice President, Harrison Leifer DiMarco Public Relations
Step aside Linsanity, Tebowmania has hit the Big Apple and it has some wondering if it’s just a publicity stunt (as Joe Namath recently claimed) to grab some fast headlines and sell a few t-shirts, or does it give the NY Jets a chance of getting to the Super Bowl?
While the news of the New Orleans Saints’ “Bounty Gate” and Peyton Manning’s epic move to the Broncos have faded from the sports pages, the Jets/Tim Tebow story continues to fatten the organization’s press clip book. And while the tome grows bigger than Coach Rex Ryan’s ego — and ample waistline — the stories of new Jets backup quarterback continues to trend across all media spectrums.
The Jets are an organization starved for attention and have found ways to get headlines — often bizarre ones. Why? Professional sport is a competitive business run by competitive individuals, and New York is a highly competitive media market. Anyone trying to tell their story in this media Mecca must have something interesting to say order to break through all the clutter of the news-in-an instant world in which we live.
Since their inception in 1960, the Jets have played second fiddle to one of the NFL’s oldest and most successful franchises, the New York Football Giants. Competing in the same city and sharing the same stadium as the reigning Super Bowl champions has got to bruise the Jets’ organizational ego. The Giants post-season performances dominated the headlines and the store shelves with tons of Super Bowl XLVI/Giants-branded merchandise. The City of NY turned a sea of Giants blue as the hometown heroes were paraded through the streets of Manhattan and given keys to the city. That had to turn the Jets organization green with envy.
As the clamor of the Giants triumph began to wane in the weeks that followed, the Jets were grabbing headlines over the team’s interest in bringing soon-to-be ex-Indianapolis Colt quarterback Peyton Manning to New York. That had potential for great headlines that could last through the 2012 season; Peyton and his kid brother, Giants QB Eli Manning battling for bragging rights in NY.
Wednesday, March 21 was a big news day for the NFL. Peyton Manning signed with the Denver Broncos and the football world was rocked with the news of several New Orleans Saints officials, including the head coach, suspended for their part in what is now known as “Bounty Gate,” a practice that rewarded Saints players for inflicting physical injury upon opposing players. Then, as if that wasn’t enough for one day, the NY Jets Tweeted they had traded with the Broncos for Tebow in exchange for two draft choices and other considerations. Later, the deal appeared to be unraveling but last minute negotiations resolved contractual issues and Tim Tebow was jetting his way east, not as the Jets starting QB, but a backup behind Mark Sanchez.
The Giants and the Jets get fairly balanced amount of coverage in the local media during the regular season. The Jets off-season and off-field antics have given them a competitive edge in the press, and it’s not always been favorable, or profitable, or explainable. The Rex Ryan profanity laced tirade to his team, an obscene gesture to opposing fans and a well-publicized foot fetish didn’t move merchandise, nor did his repeated annual guarantee of winning the Super Bowl produce a Lombardi trophy. Other transgressions such as an assistant coach tripping a Miami Dolphin player as he ran out of bounds, allegations of sexually harassing female sports reporters and the infamous sexting scandal by then-Jet Brett Favre didn’t sell seats. Could the squeaky clean Tim Tebow in a Jets uniform change their image and produce the positive, profitable headlines the Jets are looking for?
Last year Tebow became an instant brand and Tebowing, the act of getting down on one’s knee in prayer regardless of what everyone else around you might be doing at the time (here’s a complete Wikipedia definition of Tebowing), an overnight sensation. YouTube featured thousand of videos of youth all across America Tebowing.
Despite what some sports pundits say about his abilities at quarterback, he did help guide the Denver Broncos to the playoffs, along with some impressive and exciting wins along the way. Tebow’s clean cut and Christian lifestyle and affable demeanor is the polar opposite of the Jets brash, in-your-face, bravado style. Make no mistake about it, Tim Tebow is as competitive as they get and don’t take his gentility as a sign of weakness. He’s developed quite a following across the country and the crush for Tebow branded merchandise has already begun, but not without problems.
Because sports is big business, a legal battle between rivals Reebok and Nike over lucrative merchandising rights had blocked Reebok from manufacturing, selling and shipping apparel for the Jets with Tebow’s name on it, as recently reported by The Wall Street Journal here. Nike begins its exclusive five-year contract to sell uniforms and related apparel for all 32 NFL teams on April 1, 2012.
Tim Tebow has captured NY, for now. But fans are fickle and want instant results. After all, the Jets fans have been waiting for a Super Bowl since 1969 and they will buy merchandise and tickets as long as their team stays competitive. Image is everything, but without substance and performance it’s worthless. Like the 31 other NFL teams, the Jets are it to make money and win championships and no amount of PR, wild headlines or praying on one knee, can make a bad team good — or even win a Super Bowl.
Don Miller heads the public affairs division of Harrison Leifer DiMarco, a leading full-service marketing and public relations agency based in Rockville Centre, NY. The former host of several public affairs programs on local radio and television, he has been quoted in a number of outlets including News12 Long Island, Long Island Business News, Newsday and the Baltimore Sun and others. Mr. Miller is the 2010 winner of the International Association of Business Communicators, Long Island chapter’s Achievement in Communications award and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island.