A third-string quarterback with zero Pro Bowl appearances and highly criticized throwing mechanics—who was recently dumped by his team from last year, and who many football analysts predicted wouldn’t be in the NFL this year—will have one of the league’s hottest-selling jerseys.
Immediately after the New England Patriots announced that Tim Tebow had signed a contract with the team, speculation has surged as to why the Patriots did it, and how the unconventional, polarizing quarterback might be used. He could come into the game on short yardage plays or to occasionally run an option-style offense. Perhaps he might line up as a tight end, wide receiver, or somewhere in the backfield from time to time. Some have mused that maybe the Patriots signed Tebow as a way to prepare the team’s defense to play against mobile quarterbacks like the 49ers Colin Kaepernick and Redskins Robert Griffin III. (Both of whom, by the way, can brag that their jerseys are top sellers.)
One thing that almost everyone can agree on is that Tebow will have an outsized impact on the Patriots in one department: merchandise sales. Within hours of Tebow signing a contract with the team, the Patriots pro shop sent an e-mail to fans notifying them that pre-orders of Tebow’s new Patriots jersey were being accepted for $99.95 (free shipping included!). The message circulated even before Tebow officially had a jersey number. (It’s since been announced as #5.)
Patriots management had good reason to get started early pushing Tebow gear. This is a player, after all, who had a top-selling jersey and an entire line of T-shirts devoted to him before he’d ever played a game in the NFL. Last summer, Tebow’s Jets jersey ranked third in sales, behind only RGIII and Peyton Manning. By the end of last season, Tebow’s jersey had fallen to thirteenth place in sales, though that’s still quite astounding considering that he didn’t started all year and threw only a handful of passes for the Jets.
Tebow Mania may have lessened after his mostly awful year with the Jets, but “because Tim Tebow has a cult following unlike any other,” New York sports marketing consultant Keith Wan told the Boston Herald, “there will be a good amount of jersey sales.”
Fans have been drawn to the cult of Tebow for a variety of reasons, some earnest, some ironic. The list includes his much-discussed Christian faith, his legendary work ethic during a stellar college career at the University of Florida, a history of improbable come-from-behind wins as the Denver Broncos quarterback, and his good looks and status as one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. Then there’s the whole Tebowing phenomenon, in which legions posted photos of themselves mimicking Tebow’s trademark post-touchdown prayer pose. (Amusingly enough now that Tebow and Tom Brady are teammates, a short-lived Tebowing-like “Bradying” meme was born in imitation of Brady sulking, head bowed and hands clasped in his lap, after he’d thrown an interception in the most recent Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.)
In any event, a side effect of the Tebow craze has been enormous demand for Tebow gear, and the expectation is that demand will see a major boost thanks to his signing with a new team. “There’s no doubt that his Patriots jersey is going to be a big seller,” Robert Tuchman, founder of the marketing firm TSE Sports & Entertainment, said to the Boston Globe:
“There’s something about Tim Tebow that transcends even people who’ve won championships. He’s like some of these modern celebrities who are famous for being famous.”
Fanatics.com president Jamie Davis reports that Tebow’s jersey has been the site’s top-seller among NFL players since Monday, when the Patriots signed him. For what it’s worth, Fanatics.com is not only selling Tebow Patriots jerseys—but Tebow Jets jerseys as well. The Jets ones now cost $29.99, down from the original $99.95.