Tim Tebow is everywhere in the media, from ESPN to "Saturday Night Live." His influence reaches so many, but it still seems like he should be more popular with those who attend church every Sunday and have NFL season tickets than those who aren't religious and don't know the difference between football and fooseball. But, according to a recent study by Grey Matter research company, Tebow is just as well-known among religious sports fans as he is with those who aren't Christians or even watch sports.
Grey Matter is a research and consulting firm that serves clients in both the Christian community and the professional sports industry. The company recently surveyed over 1,000 Americans, asking them which professional athlete pops into their head when they are asked to think of a particularly religious athlete.
Ron Sellers, President of Grey Matter, expected Tim Tebow to be favored heavily.
"Frankly, I figured going into this that Tim Tebow would be easily the #1 athlete mentioned, but I wanted to see just how pervasive his awareness levels are, especially among audiences that aren't a natural fit (non-religious Americans and people who don't care about sports)," Sellers told The Christian Post.
It turns out that 50 percent of those surveyed named Tebow as the religious athlete they immediately thought of, while 36 percent could not think of any athletes who were religious, and 14 percent named an athlete other than Tebow.
But even more interestingly, approximately 50 percent of those surveyed who were not Christian, immediately thought of Tim Tebow.
Tim Tebow is "equally top-of-mind among people who don't go to church, don't read the Bible, and don't identify as evangelicals," Sellers said of the survey results.
Why is Tim Tebow equally known among religious and nonreligious people?
Sellers pointed out that Tebow is certainly not the first openly religious athlete. "Since I started following sports in the mid-70s, there have been plenty of outspokenly religious athletes – Reggie White was an ordained minister while playing, Terry Bradshaw's been on 'The 700 Club' giving his testimony, Orel Hershiser sang a hymn on 'The Tonight Show,' and Kurt Warner opened his post-game interview after the NFC Championship Game by saying, 'I've got to give thanks to Jesus.' But Tebow managed to trump all of those athletes in terms of current public awareness," Sellers said.
The Grey Matter president does have some ideas as to what has been causing Tebow's pervasiveness in the public's mind – mainly, the media's almost nonstop coverage of the young quarterback.
"The media in general has treated him as though he's uniquely religious, or at least religious to a unique degree," Sellers said.
The media coined the term and created the concept of "Tebowmania," which describes the stir of excitement and press that follows Tebow. But Tebow isn't just present in sports news. Gossip magazines follow his dating life – there were rumors he would appear on ABC's "The Bachelor," and the quarterback is referenced in blogs and memes across the internet.
For example, the media has also coined the term "Tebowing" referring to Tebow's pension to pray on the field by taking a knee and raising his fist to his forehead. "Tebowing" soon became a trend, with a website of the same name launched in its honor. Internet memes were dedicated to people imitating Tebow's move everywhere from their offices and homes to Times Square and the Versailles Palace. "Tebowing" – falling to one knee in prayer – even extends beyond the computer screen. When presenting at the Academy Awards, Robert Downey Jr. "Tebowed" before taking the stage.
Tebow's presence in the media has given him awareness outside of the typical audience. People who don't share his beliefs and have no interest in sports, know about the Denver Broncos quarterback. Ron Sellers sums up his speculation on why Tebow is so popular by saying, "There are a lot of media creations in our world today."