The NFL season doesn't start until next week, yet Tom Brady just scored a huge victory over the league today, keeping his brand marketability at a championship level.
This morning, a federal judge erased the four-game suspension the league imposed on Brady for his role in the months-long "Deflategate" controversy, much to the chagrin of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Tom Brady's stock just went up even higher," said David Srere, co-CEO and chief strategy officer at global brand strategy firm Siegel+Gale. Srere told Adweek that Brady's brand would have remained bulletproof even if the suspension had been upheld. "As long as [the Patriots] continue to win, things like 'Spygate' and 'Deflategate' don't even constitute a flesh wound to his brand."
Joanna Franchini, a cultural strategist at marketing consultancy Added Value, said Brady represents a clash of American values: something Americans love (a male icon who signifies the having-it-all-ness of The American Dream) and something they loathe (cheaters).
"Brady's brand appeal hinges on being able to continue to portray himself as America's golden boy, and this exoneration bolsters that," said Franchini. "Brady didn't lose endorsements following the ruling against him, so it's hard to see how this could be anything but upside for him as a brand."
Franchini said that while some potential endorsers might shy away in the near-term to let the dust settle—the NFL is already planning on appealing the judge's ruling—Brady can still look forward to a lucrative post-NFL endorsement career.
"After all, the other thing Americans are famous for is refusing to believe that our anointed heroes could ever fail us," said Franchini.
Brady's 14-year career marked by wins, including four Super Bowl championships, has built up his "well-insulated" brand, said Srere. "All that equity that you've built over the years protects you," he said.
Besides, as Srere notes, the NFL has much larger problems to worry about, from the ongoing concussion crisis to players who run afoul of the law—something Brady hasn't done. "There is no video of Tom Brady knocking out his girlfriend," Srere said, referring to the Ray Rice controversy at the start of last season. "The NFL has much more serious issues to deal with."
Another winner in all of this is NBC. Brady is starting in next Thursday's season opener on the network, which will likely mean blockbuster ratings.