Branding the World of Sports

How will Tom Brady’s knee injury impact the NFL?

Posted by ZA on September 8, 2008

“It’s cast a pall over this league.” – columnist Peter King
“It’s a major downer for [the NFL] to lose the league’s reigning MVP in Week 1” – columnist Don Banks
“He is the face of the NFL.” – commentator Steve Mariucci

Tom Brady’s knee injury that occurred during the Patriots/Chiefs game on the opening weekend of the season is going to sideline him for the rest of the season.  Brady is going to have surgery on the knee and will begin working on getting back on the field for the 2009 NFL season.  Wow, that’s a depressing sentence if you are a Patriots fan.  It is also a depressing sentiment for executives in the league office, television execs, Pats sponsors, Brady’s endorsers and anyone who makes their livelihood from the success of the NFL.

What impact will Tom Brady’s absence from football have?

Plenty.  When the marquee player on the marquee team (love them or hate them, you cannot die the Pats are the team in the back of everyone’s minds for the past few years) goes down, it is going to have a catastrophic affect on the league.  Brady is an NFL poster child because of his stellar play, Hollywood good looks, humble charm and winning record.  He and Peyton Manning are the types of QB the NFL marketing people dream about when they think of their perfect ad campaign.  Losing Brady isn’t just losing one of the best players on the field, you also lose one of the top earning endorsers.

Brady currently endorses Nike, Visa, Stetson cologne, Movado watches, Sirius satellite radio, Hershey’s and The Gap.  All of those companies will suffer (slightly) from not being able to use the notoriously selective pitchman to pitch their products.  How effective is a Visa commercial about a quarterback and his lineman, if the QB isn’t on the field?  All of the endorsement deals will have to wait and hope Brady is back in 2009.

The effect to Brady’s team and their sponsors is fairly obvious.  How do you replace best player and most marketable athlete on your team?  You don’t, the Patriots will certainly feel the affect on their bottom line and some of their partners will as well.  Even if they use Brady, which I’m sure they will, he isn’t as effective as a quarterback rehabbing an injury.  Certainly will be a sharp decline from last season when he was a record setting quarterback on an undefeated team.

That leaves the question of how Tom Brady’s injury will effect the NFL?  The answer is that his missing the season will have a significant initial impact, but might be better in the long-term.  Initially the reaction is going to be negative in the league offices, because they just lost the best player on their best team.  It’s not quite as significant as Tiger Woods knee injury had on the PGA Tour, but it’s in the same ballpark.  The Pats got more television time and media exposure than any other NFL team last season.  Tom Brady was the focal point of much of that exposure.  No Brady means not as many mentions, stories, columns and features.  It also means less people turning on their televisions when the Pats square off against the Colts, Jets, etc.

The long-term positive effect that Brady’s injury has on the NFL is that it creates more parity.  Vegas odds makers couldn’t drop the Patriot’s odds of winning the Superbowl fast enough today.  The Pats went from the clear class of the league (sorry NY Giants, Colts, Cowboys) to a possible top tier team in the AFC.  No one hopes for an injury (well, maybe Jets or Eagles fans), but there was a lot more optimism this morning in the team offices of every AFC squad.  The king is dead, so to speak, so now everyone has a better chance on winning a Superbowl.  At least until 2009 when I’m sure Tom Brady will be back with a vengeance.

Best wishes to Tom for a quick & speedy recovery.  Good luck to the Pats and their new quarterback Matt Cassel, it should be an interesting season in Foxboro.

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