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Still a fresh-faced rookie in 2010, Tim Tebow starred in a series of ads for Kenosha-based Jockey International. It was part of a lucrative, multiyear marketing deal that made the then-Denver Broncos star the underwear maker’s leading endorser. An outspoken Christian, Heisman Trophy winner and first-round draft pick, Tebow inspired a new gerund (Tebowing) by genuflecting after important plays, and he led the 2011 Broncos on an improbable playoff run.
It was a heady time for Tebow-mania. Jockey even vowed to dole out $1 million in products should the Broncos capture a miraculous Super Bowl win (it never happened), and the company credited Tebow with helping to make its Staycool line the fastest-growing in company history.
But the Tebow dream quickly foundered. Before the 2012 season, the Broncos landed coveted free-agent QB Peyton Manning (an even bigger media darling), so they traded Tebow to the New York Jets. And after an injury-plagued season helped relegate Tebow to being a Big Apple backup, the Jets cut him. He had a 2013 preseason tryout with the New England Patriots, but they, too, cut him. He remains a man without a team, and now, without a Jockey deal. The company quietly cut its own loses, parting ways with the erstwhile it-guy this summer.
“The agreement between Jockey and Tim Tebow has run its course,” says company spokesman Matthew Waller, falling back on a little coach-speak. “Tim is not on the Jockey roster.” Waller provided no specifics as to why the privately held company chose to not renew its Tebow deal.
But Felicia Miller, an assistant professor of marketing at Marquette University, isn't surprised by the change of heart. “Jockey jumped on the Tebow bandwagon,” she says. “His performance hasn’t measured up to all the expectations.”
Hiring celebrities to hawk one’s products can be risky, she adds. “Companies pay celebrities a lot of money to be spokespeople, but it doesn’t mean they will move the needle.” Or avoid scandal, which can imperil a partnership.
Just ask Ryan Braun.