Tim Tebow may not be the first athlete to attempt a mid-career transition to another sport, but the stakes could be bigger for him than those who preceded him.
Tim, you’re an undeniably talented athlete, but you’re not on the same iconic level as Michael Jordan, or Bo Jackson – or even Danny Ainge, for that matter. And while your outspoken political and religious views have earned you plenty of fans, they’ve also created a contingent of people who would love to see you fall. Similarly, your feats in college athletics are the stuff of legend, but after bouncing around the NFL, there’s a similar group of sports fans ready to pounce.
So word that you’re planning to give up football for a shot in Major League Baseball is certainly turning some heads. And it has sports analysts split down the middle – but they’re all hoping you gave this a lot of thought before word got out.
“Only do it if you genuinely think you’re going to be good at it,” says sports marketing expert Brian Cristiano. “Don’t do it if it’s a PR thing. If you’re dabbling at all, forget it.”
Your timing, if nothing else, is impeccable. The online debate and television sports pundit chatter are going to ensure your name is front and center once again for at least a short while. That’s certainly not going to hurt in raising awareness for your new book – Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life’s Storms – that will be published in October.
Keep in mind, though, that your most ardent fans are the ones who admire your character. And they’ll be watching as you start down this road. You’ve got a few things working to your advantage on that front. In 2013, you turned down offers to play in the Canadian Football League and when USA Rugby hinted it would be interested in you via Twitter, you said no thanks.
Fans remember that – and it syncs with some of the ‘rules’ for making a big career change when you’re in the public eye.
“There are certain things you tell people considering this: 1) Don’t lie. 2) Make sure this is authentic to your long-term goals. 3) Don’t do things just for the sake of doing them,” says sports marketing expert Joe Favorito.
In opting for baseball, though, you’re hardly making an easy choice. Getting to the major leagues is one of the most difficult achievements in sports, with most players who manage to find their ways onto a team’s roster never making it beyond the minor leagues.
Just ask Jordan, who only made it as far as the White Sox Double-A team in Birmingham. His batting average was a less-than-impressive .202, with just 88 hits in 436 at bats. Within two years, he was back with the NBA.
Jordan, though, was in a different league – in all manners of speaking.
“Jordan had such a powerful brand presence – personally, professionally, sponsorship-wise – everyone wanted to Be like Mike at that point,” says Cristiano. “He was the most talented sports athlete of all time going into another sport and it didn’t work. But his personal brand was so strong that people didn’t care. With Tim Tebow … I don’t think he has a strong enough brand to just forget about it if he fails.”
Ah, but if you do manage to make it to the big leagues? That could take you to a new level of fame. Baseball, after all, is a sport that has an appeal well beyond American borders. Events like the Olympics and World Baseball Classic could extend the Tebow brand – and notoriety – to a larger global scale.
But you already know that don’t you?
“It could add another dimension,” says Favorito. “This gives him the opportunity to extend his brand beyond where it is now. He’s young enough where he has a runway of 30 or 40 years of being positive ambassador. … I don’t think this decision was made in a vacuum.”
Chris Morris is a South Carolina-based freelance writer.