TB12's Big Marketing Miss
Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T, has retired from the National Football League. And if I were the chief marketing officer of his performance-based TB12 health and wellness brand, the manner in which he announced his retirement would have me shaking my head.
Brady’s lengthy retirement missive thanked just about everyone except, stunningly, the New England Patriots and their legions of rabid Tom Brady fans. Brady led the Patriots to nine Super Bowls, winning six of them in his two decades with New England, before capturing another championship with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021.
Think beyond any individual like or dislike for Brady. Consider his retirement from a business and marketing perspective. Brady has spent 22 years driving down the field, building his TB12 brand — with its holistic approach to health and wellness and focus on physical performance and recovery — all the while elevating consumer awareness of those methods that fueled his greatness. Yet, just as he reached the 1-yard line and was set to cross the goal line that is his post-NFL career, he fumbled.
“Brady’s lengthy retirement missive thanked just about everyone except, stunningly, the New England Patriots and their legions of rabid Tom Brady fans. Just as he reached the 1-yard line and was set to cross the goal line that is his post-NFL career, he fumbled.”
One of the very first things we talk about with our first-year marketing students in Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School is segmenting the market for your product.
If you consider the potential market for TB12 products and other aspects of the Tom Brady brand going forward, the first and easiest way marketers can do it is by geography. New England, where he played for the vast majority of his career; Tampa Bay, where he played his last two years; and Northern California, where he grew up — these would be the natural top-three TB12 markets.
Consider this: Is anyone from the terrible towel-waving Steeler nation in Pittsburgh or from Atlanta, where Brady gutted Falcons fans with an epic Super Bowl comeback in 2017, going to stop in at the local TB12 facility to boost their pliability or spend $200 on a TB12 compression night shirt?
Brady is big, but in 2019 Morning Consult headlined a poll by declaring “New England Patriots Are Least Popular Sports Dynasty of Modern Era.” He will forever be geographically anchored to Boston and New England. Here in Boston, we like to joke that “they hate us ’cause they ain’t us.” Perhaps it is no surprise that the Patriots have not and will not surpass the Dallas Cowboys as America’s Team.
To go one step further, consider the psychographics that might play into consumer interest in TB12 products. For the better part of 20 years, New England’s sports identity has been predicated, in large part, on the success of the New England Patriots. There is no community more in love, more indebted, more appreciative of Brady than New England. What successful business would ever want to alienate its most loyal customer base?
Brady has starred in growing numbers of ads, including for Subway, Under Armour, Tag Heuer, Foot Locker, Aston Martin, and Ugg. But Ugh might be a better way to describe his entry into retirement. No longer will everything he does in his professional life be automatically captured by the built-in amplification that is professional sports. His work attire will no longer feature an NFL jersey and there may not be cameras at TB12 headquarters when he first rolls into the office (assuming there is an office).
Going forward, he is Tom Brady, entrepreneur. Businessman. This isn’t to say that he hasn’t earned everything he has to this point, because the results on the field will crush any skeptic’s argument. But now he has to earn it on an entirely different playing field. Snubbing his New England fan base was the wrong way to start.
Skip Perham teaches sports marketing at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School and spent 14 years in various marketing capacities at NBC Sports Boston.
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