Really? Really, Tim Tebow (said in my best Seth Myers voice during his “Really” segment on Saturday Night Live). Newsday was the first to report Tebow has a trademark. Yes, you guessed it; his ubiquitous “tebowing” now deserves an all rights reserved by NY Giants attribution when done hence now and forever more. The copyright was issued on October 9th, 2012. So, what does this actually mean? Will it now be illegal to tebow if you are not a Giant? Or if you are not Tebow? Can you still genuflect if you hold Buddah as the almighty? Or is it only if you hold Christ as your king? More than that, this trademark signals the slippery slope of declaring a brand that is not only aspirational but that is unsustainable. I present to you the cementing of “Tebow: The Christ” as Tim Tebow’s official brand. Insert last nail in coffin.
No, wait, hear me out; this is only a thought exercise about branding Tebow, the Christ and not a literal critique of Tebow, the man. The mere suggestion that the two could actually be different things might puzzle and confuse some people and if it has confused you, I have already lost you. But for the rest of you, join me on this thought exercise. There is the immaculate conception, virginity, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, missions across the globe, and preaching to lost souls. These are all activities Christ and Tebow share. (Maybe, there was no true immaculate conception in Tebow’s case but he is a strong pro-life advocate because his mom was told to get an abortion by a doctor when she was pregnant with him and she did not. As such, she considers him a “miracle baby”). Still, though he does not himself strike the comparison directly, Tebow is not shy about touting these parallels implicitly. He has in essence propped himself up on a pedestal and many in the media have leveraged this self-labeling and branding for their own commercial benefit. Encouraging hero worship in the general population sells books and newspapers and draws people’s attention.
Don’t get me wrong. In a world of oversexed, overindulgent, spendthrifts parading themselves as celebrities and even — if they are more unwise than they appear — as role models, Tebow’s brand appears refreshing on the surface. However, most people — especially the millions of teenagers (boys AND girls) that look up to him — are not prone to being able to resist the less than sanctimonious life he apparently lives. So, the question then becomes: what do these kids do when they actually have sex? What do they do when they may become more pluralistic about faith after taking their first religion or theology course in 10th grade? Do they abandon any conception of morality because they aren’t perfect? Hey, these are just questions.
My hope is that Tebow never falls, never waivers, and never goes against any of the central values he upholds. However, if he does, I hope he does what I would encourage anyone that has a leadership role to do: tell the truth. The worst thing anyone can do is lie after it is determined they have been dishonest — especially a person we liken to a deity. Even though Christians are taught to forgive, it is hard for them to do so in reality and even harder for them to forget. A deity’s transgression can forever tarnish a brand and even a legacy. (see Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, and Mark McGwire for a few references here and they weren’t making any allusions to Christ). So, when crafting your leadership brand make sure you allow a bit of room for your own humanity, because selling yourself as a deity is though strangely sexy an unsustainable pursuit. Vote for a more authentic leadership brand (where transparency and humanity are king), and this way you never have to backpedal (or relinquish trademarks).