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MVP alone on career run: Endorsing means booster of team must set self apart

By Jennifer Heldt Powell
Boston Herald

Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady followed a 15-year advertising tradition yesterday with a post-Super Bowl trip to Disney World.

The game's most valuable player also donned a milk mustache for a national dairy campaign. And adoring fans will soon find his face, along with some teammates, on Wheaties boxes.

Such endorsements are potentially a big boost for a young quarterback earning less than $300,000 a year. But how long Brady's drive down Madison Avenue will be remains to be seen.

The New England hero is personable, articulate, honest and refreshing, say sports marketing analysts. Even better, he's a great beating-the-odds story. But he's not quite yet a household name.

"The best thing Tom has going for him is that his accomplishments are not strictly tied to the Super Bowl, but to the entire season -- he's not a one-game wonder," said Scott Becher, president of Sports and Sponsorships, a consulting firm in Coral Cables, Fla.

"But the biggest drawback is that he had no name recognition at the beginning of the season," Becher said. "He has what it takes, it's just that he's still in that getting-to-know-you phase."

Asked about endorsement deals at a press briefing yesterday morning, the California native said simply, "I'm working on it."

"It's new to me," Brady added. "I'm like a kite in the wind going with the flow."

Winning the Super Bowl and the Most Valuable Player title opens the doors to basic endorsement deals such as the Disney World, Wheaties and milk ads. But it may not be enough to land bigger deals for more cash, analysts say. Brady, at 24 the youngest Super Bowl MVP, has logged only two years in the National Football League and only one as a starter. But he showed his abilities to pull a team together when he took over after longtime quarterback Drew Bledsoe's early season injury.

"If first impressions mean anything, he's made a great first impression," Becher said.

And yet Brady remains somewhat anonymous, say some analysts. And his record doesn't match that of St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner, which could give him a larger pot of gold.

Brady will be "enormously popular in Boston," said Marc Ganis, of Sports Corp. in Chicago. But beyond that, "he's not there yet in terms of a national spokesman."

Brady is also part of a team that has promoted itself as a unit rather than trumpeting individuals. When they took to the field Sunday, the Pats came out as a team.

Brady himself has promoted the team image.

In the post-game show, when asked about a car he won as MVP, he said it was the team's, not just his. And he deferred his new title to the Patriots, calling them the "most valuable team."

"How do you take him as an individual, when the focus has been so much on the team?" said Larry Moulter, former FleetCenter chief. "He only succeeded because the team succeeded."

It's a tough balancing act for Brady's promoters, as well as the Patriots' marketers, he said.

But Brady has time as well as good looks and good nature going for him. "He's at the very beginning of his story," Moulter said. "What the next several years will permit him to do will be driven by what he does on the field."

Brady's rising star could skyrocket with another good season or, even better, another championship, analysts say.