Tom Brady, '92 Dream Team and NIL
Updated: Feb 10
Did the GOAT Just Give Us A Glimpse of What To Prepare For With NIL?
Controversy sometimes follows Tom Brady like a Super Bowl MVP bonus check.
So, maybe it isn’t a surprise that the burning question in the wake of yet another MVP performance by Brady — this time in Super Bowl LV — is:
Did he, or didn’t he?
With hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide looking on, while participating in the Super Bowl trophy presentation, did Tom Brady actually -- and, intentionally -- use an officially-licensed t-shirt to cover the logo on his undershirt?
For leaders in college athletics, maybe the burning question is, “Is this sort of situation heading our way in the new era of Name, Image and Likeness rights?”
Of course, this isn’t the first time controversy has swirled following a bit of logo chicanery by athletes during an award ceremony. Many of us will recall the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, when some members of the Dream Team used the American Flag to intentionally cover a logo on their official U.S. Olympic Team podium wear. Michael Jordan talked about the episode during “The Last Dance” documentary that debuted on ESPN last year. It created an international firestorm and put a spotlight on the sometimes complicated intersection of rights between governing bodies, corporate brands, teams and individual athletes.
Corporations play an essential role in the success of a thriving sports enterprise, investing considerable resource to align their brands with leagues, teams and individual athletes. Inevitably, there can sometimes be conflict:
Brand A invests in an official relationship with a league;
Brand B invests in an official relationship with a team;
And, Brand C aligns itself with an individual athlete.
How does all of this mesh, particularly at a moment when millions of people worldwide are watching?
An important part of the solution is this: preparing now for those championship moments by developing an NIL strategy — with meaningful input from key stakeholders such as athletes, coaches and corporate partners — that addresses exactly how situations such as this will be managed. Codifying a set of shared rights and responsibilities in a Team Member Agreement can be an important safeguard in protecting the integrity, and value, of those championship moments.
(As a side note: have you noticed that one of the first things a tennis player does after winning a Grand Slam championship at an event such as Wimbledon is dig through their equipment bag and put on a wrist watch? Brands invest heavily in being a part of that winning moment, and nothing says “success” quite like holding the Championship Trophy at Centre Court.)
So then, back to Tom Brady: did he, or didn’t he?