Rick Reilly — a decorated sports analyst for ESPN and former Sports Illustrated columnist — has brought some fundamental branding ideas into light. In his latest article, Reilly focuses on former University of Florida and current Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow, who is threatening to become an NFL bust.

What makes Tim Tebow so interesting to me?

otl_a_tebow_576Like Duke men’s basketball and the New York Yankees, Tim Tebow is one of the most definitive brands in all of sports. Love him or hate him, Tebow has meaning to his fans. He represents the good American boy with strong biblical values. He’s handsome and charismatic, not to mention a devout Christian. He will not shy away from painting biblical references on his face for games. Analysts promptly claim “Tim Tebow is not just an exceptional athlete, but an exceptional human being” and the fans of Tebow eat it up.

While a superstar in college, the “Cult of Tebow” was born. He had the perfect platform for it. He was the best quarterback on arguably the best team at the time and he had a foundation of principals that that resonated with many.

But now?

As Reilly wrote, “Tim Tebow is not cutting it in the NFL. According to sources…he is not within a plastic spork of cutting it.”

And because of this comment, Reilly is under fire. In fact, his biggest critic, Randy Cross, is accusing him of being “anti-Christian.”

Forget that. Forget that a brilliant college superstar is not currently cutting it on the professional level.

Instead, note that, for those dedicated to the brand of Tim Tebow, Tebow is still just as important as ever.


Because, like Apple and Google and the other truly great brands, there is a sense of self-identification that comes with embracing that product. So much so that you may even cast a blind eye to the limitations of that product because you are so deeply invested in that brand. That brand has become an extension of you. How can you reject yourself?

Remember Apple’s Newton Platform? The Apple personal digital assistant was a complete failure. Yet, those loyal to the brand continued to believe that Apple was still different and better.

Think of this: How was Apple able to sell black and white monitors at a time when color was on the landscape? Because people believed in the brand of Apple and that it was always worth rooting for.

Just as some fans still root for the brand of Tim Tebow.