As New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to appeal his four-game suspension handed to him by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for deflating footballs, allegedly, it seems obvious this whole thing has tarnished Brady's reputation.
Or has it?
Actually, recent numbers suggest that not only has this air pressure ordeal not damaged Brady's standing with fans, but it may have heightened it in some regards.
That conclusion is most strongly supported by the NFL players union's latest top 50 player sales list, which ranks the Patriots' superstar at No. 1 in officially licensed merchandise sales from March 1 through May 31, 2015. It is the first time in his career he has finished at the top of the list, which accounts for jerseys, Fatheads, Lids headwear and figurines, among other products.
One reason for Brady's leading sales record? Constant publicity.
"It's (Deflategate) keeping his name out in the forefront," said Bob Dorfman, the executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising. "If you believe that there's no such thing as bad publicity, then I guess you can say it has a little bit of a positive effect."
Since Brady's suspension, which was announced on May 11, it seems as if fans are rallying behind him in the marketplace.
As the Super Bowl MVP's products remain hot items, Brady's endorsers, which include Under Armour, Movado and Uggs, have all stood by him. Despite the NFL's allegations of cheating and conduct detrimental to the league, Brady has not lost a single sponsorship deal. Of course, that could change for the man that made $7 million in endorsements in 2014 should his suspension be upheld, according to Sports Business Group founder and USC Marshall Sports Institute Executive Director and professor David Carter.
"Defiance in the face of an eventual truth that burns him will have an impact on his image," Carter said, talking about Brady's possible guilt. "Should he come clean, to the extent warranted, he will be welcomed back more quickly, as has been the case with so many tarnished athletes."
One reason Brady's sponsors have likely stood by him is that they are mainly fashion companies that are more focused on his looks rather than the ethics behind his on-field performance. As Dorfman puts it, he is going to look good repping each company no matter what, and that is essentially what matters to them.
"The way he is used is a little bit more like a model than some athletes," he said. He's good looking; it's almost more fashion model kind of stuff … he still looks good wearing UGG boots; he still looks good wearing a Movado watch."
While Deflategate has yet to hurt any deals Brady already has in place, the Davie Brown Index (DBI) indicates that the man with a net worth of $120 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, may have trouble landing more in the near future. The index, which measures the value of 3,686 celebrities, says that Brady's rankings have dipped in the areas of consumer trust, credibility as an endorser, influence, appeal and trendsetting ability.
"You would expect someone who just won a Super Bowl to pick up a whole bunch of new deals," Dorfman said.
One aspect of the DBI where he remains strong, though, is in the aspiration category, which calculates consumers' desire for his lifestyle.
In addition to life as a future Hall of Famer married to a supermodel, consumers are also showing a desire for Patriots tickets despite the possible suspension. According to TiqIQ, opening night stubs for New England's Week 1 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers are selling for $618.09 on the secondary market with a get-in price of $251, even though backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could very well be the starter. Per Vivid Seats, the Week 1 ticket has the highest median price of any Pats home game this year at $455.
"I'll definitely be at Pittsburgh whether Tom is playing or Garoppolo is starting," said William Heim, a Patriots fan who attends several games at Gillette Stadium each year. "It's the home opener and football is back.... Have to celebrate that."
In the end, Deflategate will cause Brady and the Patriots little damage, at least in terms of their marketability to the public. Their brands are just too stable.
"The brands of both the Patriots and Brady are reasonably set," Carter said. "Those that support them are not swayed by Deflategate, while those that revile them maintain their position. So overall, it appears as if the brand damage, while seemingly obvious, may not have long-term effects on Brady's marketability."
As for how this impacts them on the gridiron remains to be seen. Judge Richard Berman has ordered Brady, Goodell and their legal teams, which include the NFLPA on Brady's side, to reappear in court on Aug. 31 if no settlement is reached. The two sides last appeared in court on Wednesday.
Both parties have asked Berman to issue a ruling, if necessary, by Sept. 4 in hopes of ending this before the start of the NFL season. He is not required to decide by then.