I’ve been thinking a lot about personal brands lately. I think about my brand often, but in this case I was actually looking at the personal brand of Tom Brady. Brady spent most of his extremely successful career with a team I really don’t like: the New England Patriots. I have not enjoyed watching his success because he was part of “The Patriot Way.”
The Patriots are, to me, cheaters. They have been the model of success in an otherwise horrible division for far more years than I care to count, and Tom Brady was their captain. He was the symbol of their success, and I did not like him.
Last year Brady bid his farewell to New England and left for warmer pastures, joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team mired in mediocrity and underachievers for years. This felt like retirement before retiring. It was what old men football players did as they rode off into the sunset. Joe Montana did it, and I have always considered him the G.O.A.T.
Fast-forward to this past weekend. Tom Brady wins one more game and brings the Tampa Bay Bucs to the Super Bowl while his old team sits by and watches. This would have pained me to say it just six months ago, but Brady is clearly the G.O.A.T. now. I still like Montana better, but Brady wins, even if he doesn’t win this next game.
Of most interest to me, though, is how clearly Brady has polished his personal brand this season. Brady has always been seen as aloof, coming off at his best as a robot. That was before this season. Stories started to leak about his leadership with his younger teammates. He has proven able to harness the challenges of players like Antonio Brown. He has mentored veteran players and turned them into household names.
All that was impressive, but seeing him after the last game on the field with Drew Brees and his family really solidified this feeling.
I like Drew Brees, and it’s sad to see him potentially leave the game of football. Clearly Tom Brady likes him, too -- and whether it was orchestrated or not, that moment created a sense of compassion and connection from Tom Brady that had been lacking before. It was one of the finest PR moves I have seen an athlete do in my memory -- though I truly believe it wasn’t planned, which makes it even better.
I no longer hate Tom Brady. I hate Tom Brady in a Patriots uniform. I don’t hate him in Florida. I may not hate him as long as he no longer complains about how inflated the footballs are.
If I can like Tom Brady, then anyone can mend their own personal brand. Establishing your brand means you act the part and become as genuine outwardly as you feel inwardly. When you are true to yourself and you portray yourself honestly, people can recognize and respond to it.
In the case of Tom Brady, I think he wanted out because he no longer wanted to confirm to “The Patriot Way." Maybe it was not 100% genuine to who he is (or was). And maybe, just maybe, I can not only respect him as the G.O.A.T., but we can all like him a little more.
This Super Bowl is going to be fun -- the kid vs. the G.O.A.T is how I’ve seen it described. It’s a generational game, one that I hope we can all enjoy. All that being said, I’m still not sure I can root for Tom Brady -- but maybe… You never know.