Last week, the New England Patriots gave Tom Brady a new contract extension, reportedly making him the highest paid player in the NFL. (Click here to read the story.) All of Patriots nation is thrilled because this secures Brady’s services for the next four years, instilling legitimate beliefs that the Patriots will be contenders for years to come. In the NFL, a consistent and quality quarterback is crucial for the on-field success of a team. That, coupled with a great head coach, gets a team a majority of the way there.
The fact is that the above statement is true; the Patriots have taken necessary steps to ensure winning seasons ahead, and it is a solid way to run a football team. But, I believe it has done much more than that. With this move, the Krafts have demonstrated what great business strategists they truly are. With the uncertainty of an NFL lockout looming in the background of this 2010 season, Robert and Jonathan Kraft, with one swoop of the pen (and $48.5 million in guaranteed pay to Brady), have made a bold statement and commitment to their fans, consumers, season ticket holders, club and suite members, sponsors and business partners. They have instilled confidence in these relationships that NFL football will be vibrant for years to come, thus showing their marketing and branding ability as well.
The extension was a smart deal on many levels, but it is the aspect of building the relationships with the aforementioned constituents that is absolutely brilliant and that intrigues me the most. The Brady deal captures the “Three C’s of Brand Relationships” that William McEwen describes in “Married to the Brand” (Gallup Press) right to the core. Because of this, the deal is worth far more to the organization than the cost of the contract. Here’s how the deal shakes out on building brand relationships.
1) Credibility: The deal with Brady provides amazing credibility to the Patriots and the Krafts. It displays that they are serious about winning and will invest of themselves to do so, regardless of the risk. This is not just ownership saying they want to win for the fans and their partners, they are actually doing what the say. Talk is cheap, but action is an entirely different story; this action is yet another demonstration of why the Krafts are the very best custodians for their team and can be trusted to make sure the team is a consistent winner. Past ownerships could not carry the Krafts’ jock straps in this area. They lacked any credibility and failed miserably at earning the trust of their consumers. So, this should not be viewed as an easy task. Ever since the Krafts purchased the team, they have continually made decisions with the fans in mind and have built the trust of that relationship.
2) Compelling: There is a clear and absolute WOW factor in this deal. Tom Brady was made the highest paid player in NFL history during the worst economy of our lifetime while there is the present danger of there being no NFL season in 2011. All this risk was in the face of the Patriots’ Brass, and yet they forged on with “brass ones”, looked at it straight in the eye and said, “Yeah, we don’t worry about that, we worry about putting our team in a position to win.” All this in spite of any financial downside concerns, and before the regular season kicked off, to boot. Whoa, if that is not compelling to a football fan, I do not know what is.
3) Connecting: This deal is what every fan, sponsor, and consumer wanted. Since the day TB first took the field, he has done nothing but win and provide excitement to the New England fans. In this day and age of free agency, with players bouncing around from team to team, Brady has only been with this NFL team. He’s a Patriot, he connects with the fans; the fans love him and all that he has done. The Patriots consumer doesn’t want Tom Brady to leave just yet. The Krafts understand this and know how to complete the connection with their consumer. The Krafts understand how to connect with the team’s fans (the fact is, they are fans, too).
This new deal between the Patriots and Tom Brady is great because everybody involved wins. The strategy behind it is brilliant because it doesn’t just feed the football aspect of the business – it hits to the core of building solid relationships with every Patriots fan and anyone who is looking to spend money with the team. This deal will lead to multiple revenue streams. To generate revenue, you need to invest in the tools and personnel to allow your organization to succeed. This is why the Krafts are not only great owners, but are also great brand relationship builders.