You may have noticed this past NFL season that Gisele Bündchen has been busy sharing her family's New England Patriots pride on Instagram, or that husband Tom Brady has been posting a lot of personal photos on Facebook. It's not a coincidence. Following in the trend of athletes trying to extend their careers past the playing field, Brady is making a concerted effort to turn himself from star quarterback to resilient brand with the help of social media.
To turn Brady into the TB12 brand—he's No. 12 on the field— his in-house team decided to explore on building his brand through Facebook by sharing Brady's personality through personal photos and funny memes. And, Brady's manager Ben Rawitz said that the Super Bowl XLIX MVP himself is directly helping drive the efforts as an attempt to make the athlete more relatable.
"It's really just been about Tom and a great way to connect with the fans and show a different side of him," Rawitz said. "It's hard for people to relate to him as a kind of every day guy."
Brady's team decided to bring his social media postings in-house in August 2014, giving them in-depth access to his trove of awkward childhood photos and sense of humor. The social media campaign kicked off when Brady found a old resume of his while moving, and asked the team to post it on his Facebook. It got more than 46,800 likes and 11,665 shares, surprising them with its success. Whether its poking fun at the fact that Brady never gets high-fives from his fellow teammates—something the athlete laughed about right after noticing the clip go viral— or photoshopping a old picture of Brady from his youth when he used to play basketball to make it look like he supported the Celtics, Rawitz says Brady often comes up with the ideas himself and brings it to them to execute. Photos are sometimes donated by members of his family, Rawitz said. Brady explained via email that Facebook is a way to share an extension of himself with his fans. This authenticity is what Rawitz believes is helping the efforts resonate.
"I enjoy having a platform that allows me to be who I am and not filtered through the media," Brady said.
For now, the team hasn't ventured into Instagram and Twitter, but they aren't ruling it out. In the meantime, Brady is getting a social media boost from his wife's very popular accounts this season, which has seen an uptick in photos of Bündchen, Brady and her family wearing and posting more Patriots-related content.
When it comes to celebrities, specifically athletes, Adam Padilla, who created Brady’s TB12 logo in 2008, said branding is most effective when the persona put forward meshes with how the person is perceived. He suggests playing on the athlete's strengths.
"Don't fight against nature," Padilla said. "Tom Brady is a clean-cut, all-American, square-jawed, handsome guy. You can't make a graffiti logo or something that's too conservative or wild."
In addition, it helps when athletes show they are normal people. Allowing Brady to self deprecate on Facebook, like posting awkward childhood photos, or show his goofy side with the help of pop culture memes, help people connect with him.
"It makes you stronger to show you're vulnerable," Padilla said.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include more insight from Brady and his management, who are directly handling his social media strategy.