Tom Brady tackles Instagram (with a blueprint built for your brand)
Jan 13, 2017
You don’t set the quarterbacking record for best touchdown-to-interception ratio in a single season without consistently making sound decisions under center. Tom Brady proved as much with the New England Patriots, tossing 28 touchdowns to just a pair of picks.
Brady recently made a different kind of decision during his team’s prep week for the NFL playoffs: He chose to extend his digital footprint beyond Facebook—a social network he uses frequently, sensibly and effectively.
Brady added Instagram to his arsenal. The question is, did he make the right choice as both a user and a brand?
Let’s start with the obvious: It’s hard to imagine Brady’s fans taking issue with his decision. The 39-year-old is fiercely protective of his private life, so joining another network that gives fans a glimpse into his world is widely welcomed.
If anything, fans celebrated Brady’s news like the star himself—when he won his fourth Super Bowl:
We also know Brady chose the photo-sharing platform over Snapchat, Twitter and (jokingly) MySpace. He announced his decision on Facebook Live, playfully paying tribute to the popular announcement method college recruits use on National Signing Day.
“You guys have been so incredibly helpful with your suggestions and your thoughts. And I narrowed it down to these four choices,” he said before lifting the hat featuring Instagram’s logo. “I’m ready to do it.”
If you’ve followed Brady’s storybook career on and off the field, you know every move he makes is calculated. He always seems several steps ahead—whether in the pocket or off the field—which helps him minimize risk.
Brady is also keenly aware of his brand, which is built on pillars of confidence, humility and an obsession to succeed. At the height of election season, he deflected questions about supporting President-elect Donald Trump. He has also become more visible in the world of advertising, endorsing more than just Uggs footwear and TAG Heuer watches. (He has humorously attached his name to businesses at both the local and national levels.)
In other words, we can assume Brady didn’t impulsively decide to join Instagram.
His choice of platforms can’t be coincidental, either. Facebook, the largest social network with 1.79 billion monthly active users, owns Instagram. Furthermore, the world includes more than 600 million Instagrammers, the last 100 million of which joined in the past six months.
So, did he make the right choice?
“Absolutely,” says Centerline Senior Digital Strategist Meghan McKeon, a big believer that brands can also learn from Brady’s decision.
“It’s an ever-growing platform. It’s highly visual. It’s personal. And it resonates with his fan base—obviously,” she says. (Brady’s initial post reportedly received more than 250,000 “likes” in the first five hours.)
The challenge for Brady then becomes effectively managing multiple platforms. If he can maintain the humble-yet-engaging tone that’s earned his Facebook page nearly 4 million “likes” and nearly 4 million followers, why not branch out?
In terms of branding, McKeon notes, it’s all about striking a balance between reaching new fans and maintaining the existing base.
“The creative capabilities across platforms are slowly blending as they each compete for daily users,” she says. “Brady has established a playful presence on Facebook full of humorous memes and photoshopped images of himself. He may be taking a different, more personalized approach to Instagram, allowing him to show his fans a different side of him.”
Early on, that appears to be the case. The California native’s first three posts (below, from right to left) show him in the midst of a recent New England snowfall, watching the NFL’s Wild Card weekend with his daughter, and reflecting on his legendary first playoff win, which launched the Patriots’ dynasty in 2001.
Of course, sharing content on a second social platform does increase the likelihood of a mishap, even if it’s an innocent one.
For “Brady the brand,” it wouldn’t go over well to see the star in a photo featuring a Nike backdrop, since he rolls with Under Armour. At the same time, for “Brady the user,” he’s no different than anyone else who joins an online community.
“Social media is about sharing and connecting with friends, family—and in Brady’s case, fans,” McKeon says. “However, we should all be cautious that we aren’t using it to harm others.”
Brady’s social media strategy offers a built-in lesson for businesses, too. After all, they have to consider the same factors when deciding which channels, if any, to adopt.
McKeon says the channel must make sense for the brand. She suggests asking three questions (and answering them honestly):
- Is your audience there?
- Does your content fit the channel?
- How will this channel positively impact your business?
Keep in mind: Your answers are likely to change—perhaps faster than you think.
“What makes sense for your brand today may change at the end of the month, quarter or year,” McKeon says.
What won’t change is the desire among Patriots fans to see Instagram’s newest star post a picture while raising a record fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Comments? Concerns? Hit me up @marc_thaler.
Marc Thaler is a former journalist and broadcaster-turned-associate creative director. For 10+ years, he covered sports around New England—everything from Little League to the big leagues. Several years back, he joined a software company specializing in cloud-based IT security and management solutions, spent a few years creating content in its marketing department, and then made the switch to Centerline. Over the years, his writing has appeared on a range of recognizable dot-coms, including ESPN, SC Magazine and Marketing Profs.