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Tebowing Trademark: Passion or Profit?

Posted in Branding, Guest Bloggers, Idea Protection, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Sight, Trademarks

John Reinan, Senior Director at Fast Horse, a Minneapolis marketing agency

Tim Tebow was a great college quarterback. But now that he’s in the NFL, he’s joined the ranks of celebrities who are famous mainly for being famous.  Example A: “Tebowing,” his signature move.  After making a play, the devout Christian often drops to one knee, head bent in prayer.  The move has been widely copied – sometimes in praise, more often in jest, as when actor Robert Downey Jr. was photographed Tebowing at the Academy Awards.

Outside of the Moonwalk, it’s tough to think of another celebrity move that’s more recognizable.  And Tebow appears to recognize its value – he’s filed for a trademark on Tebowing.

When I was growing up in Minnesota, the North Stars’ leading sniper was Bill Goldsworthy, who celebrated his goals with a one-legged, fist-pumping move called “the Goldy Shuffle.” On rinks and ponds from Warroad to Winona, you could see kids doing the Goldy Shuffle after putting the puck behind a goalie

What if Goldsworthy had trademarked his shuffle? Would we all have had to find a different mode of celebration?

Probably not – because it appears that Tebow is seeking a trademark not to prevent football players from dropping to one knee during a game, but to prevent disrespectful use of his signature move on T-shirts and the like.

I searched for distasteful Tebowing parodies – and, surprisingly, found few.  But there’s certainly plenty of Tebowing gear available – much of it presumably unauthorized.

So while I don’t doubt Tebow’s sincerity in protecting the purity of his passion, I’m not ruling out the possibility that he may have one eye toward cashing in on what’s proven to be a popular market niche.

But if Tebow’s career continues on its current course as backup quarterback and punt-squad blocker – even in the nation’s biggest media market – the novelty of Tebowing will run its course quickly. And a Tebow T-shirt will be about as relevant as those Mientkiewicz jerseys you occasionally spot at a Twins game.