Adweek recently tracked down soccer star Tim Howard to get his take on his sudden fame, what he's looking for in a brand partner, and his plans for World Cup 2018.
So, is this your big chance to cash in with sponsorships?
I suppose so. That’s what everyone’s telling me.
Your agent says you’re seeking sponsorships that fit who you are as a person.
It’s important that I’m a role model, and that the companies that I associate myself with feel the same way about their own images. Those are companies I’d like to be associated with. I try not to and I don’t think I ever have just jumped at any opportunity because a company wanted me. Just because there was money on the table doesn’t mean that I took it.
Are you looking for long-term deals?
Sponsorships and marketing are oftentimes pretty short-lived. From a company’s standpoint, they’re often not looking to do tremendously long contracts. They’re always trying to catch the next big thing. I do believe that relationships are important. I always feel that if it works for me and it works for them, if there’s a good rapport, then longer-term relationships—one year, two years, five years, whatever that means—help to grow my brand and the company’s brand. Consistency’s important.
Has your sudden fame in the U.S. been overwhelming?
It’s not overwhelming for me in the sense that I play in England. In England, soccer is just mega—it’s huge. I’ve been there for 11 years. I’ve seen firsthand how people react. Obviously, in America, the nonsoccer fans have really taken notice of the sport with the World Cup. That’s been cool to see as an American who is trying to help grow the sport.
What’s shocked or surprised you the most in the past couple of weeks?
Just how intrusive a camera phone can be (laughs). That’s just the world in which we live. That’s society today, so I understand how that works. The worst thing is probably when I’m with my children, having people bombard me at times.
Is it better to experience this kind of fame at 35? Could you have handled it at 21, 22?
Without question, I think it’s better to be a mature adult who’s gone through life experiences, who’s seen some ups and downs.
Are you hoping to lead the U.S. to World Cup glory in 2018?
A lot of things could happen in that time frame. I don’t know the exact answer. I wouldn’t be disappointed if I was part of that run, but there’s a lot of factors that go into that decision.
What advice would you give to a young athlete who all of a sudden hits it big and finds sponsors at the door?
It’s easy words, but I’d say: Stay humble, stay grounded, remember what got you to that level—and that’s hard work.