Branding Brady

As Patriots fans nervously await third string quarterback Jacoby Brissett’s starting debut against this Texans this Thursday, Tom Brady is apparently doing nothing**.

 Despite sitting out his third of a four-game suspension resulting from #deflategate, Brady’s brand is as strong as ever. Following last year’s disappointing AFC Championship loss to the Broncos, NFL merchandise with Brady’s name still managed to generate over $20 million in sales–the highest of any player in the league for 2015. His sportswear and nutrition brand, TB12, seems to be doing just fine. On top of his partnership with UGG Australia, the 39-year-old quarterback is still capitalizing off of sponsorships with Under Armour, Movado, Smartwater, and most recently, Beautyrest. Each brand has utilized Brady to convey the excellence of their product–a term many are shocked is still associated with Tom Brady at all.

Polarizing Patriots

Though the Patriots are one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world, they are far from universally loved. As Brady’s New York Times profiler Mark Leibovich pointed out:

“So much about the team [is] unlikable to the outside world, partly for reasons of jealousy but also for legitimate ones — cheating scandals, for starters, and a head coach who treats his public-relations duties as something akin to lice removal”.

NFL: New England Patriots Rookie Minicamp

Tom Brady’s personal brand has shared the burden of the love-or-hate dynamic that has followed the franchise since Bill Belichick’s instatement in 2000. The Patriots head coach is infamously private, often appearing curt and abrasive in an effort to center the team’s narrative around football and football alone. For the majority of his career, Brady undeniably followed Belichick’s careful PR strategy: when you win, say little; when you lose, say less. But after twelve starting seasons as the quiet face of the Patriots franchise, Brady finally gave himself the voice his fans–and his brand– desperately needed.

Facebook

In June of 2014, Tom Brady joined Facebook. Or rather, his longtime managers Ben Rawitz and Jeff Fine did it for him. The three collaborate on posts for The Official Fan Page of Tom Brady, which currently has 3.8 million likes.

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The page itself is relatively basic. In the “About” section, fans can view Tom’s birthday (we share it–one of two things Tom Brady and I have in common, the other being Chestnut Hill), a link to his NFL player bio, and a timeline of significant events in his career. Fans cannot post to the page themselves, and I would hazard a guess that only positive fan comments are allowed on his posts.

Instead, the real value of the Tom Brady Facebook page comes from the content.

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Capitalizing off of his role as a young father, Brady’s team has catered his Facebook posts to mostly sound like dad jokes–and the results are nothing short of entertaining. Whether it be a photoshopped picture of the quarterback with two bald eagles on his arm, a goofy quip at a teammate, or a post making fun of his sub-par dancing skills, Brady’s page is light hearted and engaging, eliciting praise from fans across the globe.

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Furthering the family-man image, Brady’s posts often include praise of his wife Gisele, or express his love for his three children. His media team also takes full advantage of the #tbt hashtag, often posting old pictures of Tom with his sisters or parents.

This communicated sense of parenthood and nostalgia is not accidental. Brady is operating on a very specific social media platform–one whose user base is mostly over the age of 35. By choosing to stick to Facebook and steer clear of, say, Instagram, Brady’s management team has selected a specific and receptive audience to cater his clean-cut image to. The decision seems to be paying off handsomely, as Brady was the leader in BrandPrint t-shirt sales through Facebook ads last year.

Deflategate

Brady’s Facebook, although mostly for fun, became a crucial tool in the wake of the Deflategate scandal. After a disastrous press conference, his team was able to craft a carefully constructed and more eloquent message to fans that steered the narrative back towards his innocence. As the investigation continued, Brady utilized Facebook as a means to update fans on the process. His rhetoric came across as both intimate and genuinely Tom–a persona that would have been much harder for fans to identify had he not joined the platform a year before.

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Though some of you may be seething reading a post on the evil TB12, look past the Brady identity to his social media team. Rawitz and Fine have, for the most part, successfully controlled the Brady narrative through some of the highest and lowest points of his career. By only utilizing a single platform to communicate from the athlete to the public, Brady’s team was able to streamline his image and efficiently control the potential for error and backlash. Though you may not agree with all of his off-the-field tactics, Tom Brady is certainly doing social media–and a few other things–just right.

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**Fortunately, he’ll have to take those UGGs off soon. Just over two weeks ’til #BradyIsFreed!

10 comments

  1. Great post! I think it is so interesting and oddly strategic that Brady’s management team uses Facebook as the sole tool to communicate with his fans. While it may be tempting to bombard fans from all social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, streamlining all communication into one source seems to optimize the connection between Brady and his extensive fan base, especially because his following consists of a predominately older age demographic. Looking to the future, I am interested to see if his managers continue to follow this strategy.

  2. holdthemayo4653 · ·

    Awesome post, although I may be biased as I am a die-hard Patriots fan. Your use of video, photos, and imbedded links was impressive. It was nice to learn about a the specific strategy that Brady employs with social media. Since he is a bit too stiff to pull off nationwide and state farm commercials (by the way, when did football become the key endorser for insurance?), Tom is able to use facebook to soften his image and humanize himself. By being “silly” he becomes more likable. It’s a great marketing tactic, I would be very interesting to see how other athlete leverage social media to strengthen their brand. Since Brady is a bit old, he benefits from not having a social media past from college to haunt him.

  3. Austin Ellis · ·

    I completely agree. Using Facebook was a great idea to encourage a conservative but fun loving image of Brady. He does not need to be as active as someone on Twitter would be, and the dad-jokes and cheesy photoshopped images would not work as well on a space like Instagram. Facebook allows Brady and his managers to publish content at their own pace, and in the event of something like his suspension, he can react carefully and more thuroughly than 140 characters would allow. It also seems like there is the same approach to Gisele’s Instagram. Do Tom’s managers also manage her social media? Either way their stategies are well coordinated.

  4. dabettervetter · ·

    What an enjoyable post! You do a wonderful job intertwining a topic you are clearly passionate about with social media. I really agree with you that if Tom had not had a Facebook presence before the Deflategate situation, his reactions would not be read as well. Also, I think his social media accounts give the general public the information they want about him (aka a glimpse into his life) while also enhancing his perceived character. His media team has a good strategic outlook and I am interested to see how they capitalize on his return!

  5. Great post. I’ve DVRed tonights game, so no talking about it in class!

  6. Such a fun read! I think what is really interesting too, is that Tom Brady has sponsorships for both himself and then additional ones associated with the Kraft group, both contributing to his personal brand. In a Brand Management course here at BC, we had a Kraft Group executive who was in charge of the Pats marketing come in and talk. Students probed him about Deflategate and other questions, but was was interesting was how he made a clear distinction in the way Brady advertised himself. Any campaign, such as the UGG one, where he is not seen with any Pats logo is completely an independent contract. Any ad with a Pats jersey or logo, such as Dunkin or others, this is associated with the Kraft group and goes through the team’s brand marketing. What I found most interesting is your statement “Tom Brady’s personal brand has shared the burden of the love-or-hate dynamic that has followed the franchise since Bill Belichick’s instatement in 2000.” Tom Brady and the Pats go hand-in-hand and although sometimes the Kraft group may not approve of his endorsements, they acknowledge it affects their brand. His brand managers do such a good job to almost make him the face of the Patriots brand (whether it is Pats sponsored or not). Most interestingly, now in his time off the field and while he is not starting QB, that’s when his personal branding grows… he, in a sense, uses social media to ensure he is still associated with the brand no matter what… and he is not forgotten as part of the Pats core identity. (Awesome job on his brand managers part!)

  7. As a lifelong Patriots fan, I’ve been following Tom Brady on Facebook for quite some time. Although he obviously doesn’t create any of the images, his posts are usually pretty clever and comical (especially the day after a win) so I enjoy the account. I agree that he uses it extremely effectively for PR (such as the picture of the handwritten note he posted to New England fans after last year’s loss to Denver). Feitelberg’s tweet was hilarious. Great post overall.

  8. Even as someone who isn’t a big football guy, this was a great post. I’ve always loved the die hard nature of New England sports and the significant brand loyalty they have from their fans. Your voice throughout the post was also great, and made this a good read.

    I agree with holdthemayo4653 that you did a great job of incorporating other sources into this post. The links were relevant and brought in a lot of outside info, but allowed you to keep your post concise.

    Personally I don’t follow Brady very much, but would be curious to hear your thoughts on whether or not his digital presence reflects his actual presence in media appearances & etc. Especially since you emphasized his publicity team several times, and talked about the image they had curated of him. As you pointed out, they have definitely done a good job selecting platforms — seems celebrities often get themselves into trouble on Twitter.

  9. This article made me love tb12 that much more. I think the thing that seperates Brady from his peers such as Peyton Manning, is his ability to pick and choose his advertisements that match his brand. Brady seemingly keeps a select few advertisers around, and which makes him feel far more select in his choosing. Peyton on the other hand worked with every advertiser under the Sun, thus making him feel like a cheap pawn. All in all Tb12 the GOAT and Pats are going to win the Super Bowl.

  10. ikechukwu_28 · ·

    Great post. Definitely biased as a Pats lover/ Brady worshiper. Loved your point about how he is catering to only one audience by only using FB. A lot of what he does on there probably wouldn’t come off as funny or genuine on other platforms.

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