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Volume 21 No. 30
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Simmons gives Patriots’ No. 12 a shot at being 007 in new ad

From our vantage point at the intersection of sports and commerce, we’re used to marketers being so overcome by the sizzle of sports that they rarely think about how to sell the steak until after they have bought a bundle of sports rights that may or may not be useful.

On an antithetical yet somewhat parallel path is four-time NFL champion Tom Brady. The New England Patriots quarterback signs endorsement deals less frequently than he wins Super Bowls, in contrast to the extensive commercial portfolios of fellow NFL QBs such as Drew Brees and Peyton Manning.

Brady’s reluctance to join that ever-growing society of overcommercialized athletes, however, helped convince Simmons that Brady was the perfect endorser for its high-end Beautyrest Black mattresses.

The best marketers start with a consumer insight and translate that into marketing. At a time when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists insufficient sleep as a “public health problem” affecting one in three adults, and Arianna Huffington is pushing a book on the subject, lack of rest is no longer a sleepy topic. How best to market that? Turn sleep into a status symbol and maybe you can get the same people shelling out for luxury watches and cars to think of a $2,000 to $5,000 mattress as a status symbol.

Enter Mr. Brady.

“The fact we have Tom Brady at the center of a new campaign is kind of a miracle,” said Jeff Willard, Simmons executive vice president of marketing and a veteran of 10 or more celebrity ads. Willard acknowledges that he’s “not much of a sports fan,” but he is, however, a convincing enough marketer that he got equally endorsement-shy Paul McCartney to do a TV ad for Harman in 2012.

Still, when Simmons’ Dream in Black campaign was only a concept late last year, “We absolutely weren’t going after an athlete,” Willard said last week, over coffee at a midtown Manhattan hotel. “We just wanted someone who was instantly recognizable.”

The ad pays more than a bit of homage to James Bond. Nowhere in it is Brady identified as an athlete. He’s stylized, upon entering a luxury hotel as a man who has everything, but after being led to his hotel room, the Beautyrest Black is all that he needs.

Tom Brady is the “man who has everything” in a new ad for Simmons’ Dream in Black campaign.
Photo by: WWW.STARTRAKSPHOTO.COM
When the concept originally was presented in December, during a sales meeting at the Trump National Doral Hotel, near Miami, it was without a name celebrity. Simmons looked at some actors who’d been cast as Bond, like Daniel Craig, and others rumored to be the next James Bond, like Tom Hardy. Some pop music stars, including Madonna and Rod Stewart, were contacted. Brady’s name had surfaced in a brainstorming session with KBS, Simmons’ ad agency, so during the sales meeting presentation, a slide of the QB was included. The buzz in the room was palpable.

After the meeting, 80 percent of the people with whom Willard spoke told him Brady was their top draft pick. “I was shocked at the reaction,” he recalled.

As word about the concept leaked, some talent agents began pitching their clients unsolicited. A subsequent in-house “bake off” confirmed that Simmons wanted Brady as their first sports spokesman since John Madden 15 years ago.

Brady was the choice. However, wanting Brady as an endorser and signing Brady are two things that don’t often come together.

Yee & Dubin Sports represents Brady. The agency says no on behalf of Brady more often than it say yes — particularly to those who want to use the archetypal Brady in an NFL uniform. To them, it’s more about timing, the quality of the people at the company, and how the creative treats Brady. It’s like an agency pitching a new account. Suitors have to hit the right note.

With that in mind, Willard took the concept to wealth management expert Barry Klarberg, a friend of Brady’s. Soon, the mattress marketers were pitching that new account in earnest. “It was all about the script putting Tom in a new light,” Klarberg said. “The fact that it’s luxury marketing also had a lot of appeal. No one seeing that ad for the first time thinks it is going to be for a mattress.”

Behind the scenes with director Noam Murro, Brady and actor Edgar Oliver.
Photo by: WWW.STARTRAKSPHOTO.COM
What do you give the guy who has everything, including a model for a wife and four Super Bowl rings?

“Basically, we told them that we wanted Tom Brady to be the next 007,” said Paul Renner, executive creative director at KBS. “This is a man who’s got everything in the world, but being James Bond? That’s one thing he didn’t have.”

The deal was finished in January, and in late February the ad was shot at Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza with established director Noam Murro. One revelation from the shoot: Despite the thousands of dollars spent on wardrobe, Brady wore his own clothes for the shoot, according to Willard. Perhaps that’s the ultimate proof that the casting was perfect.

“In today’s advertising world, the challenge is always breaking through,” Willard said. Nowhere is that more true than in sports marketing, where duplication outstrips origination almost in the same ratio of marketers who want the NFL’s top QB versus those who get him.

“This paints the luxury side of Tom Brady,” Willard said. “We don’t touch his sports side — that’s why it works.”

> BRAND NEW BAG: We’re not sure whether John Cena is a wrestler or a movie star these days. In either case, the WWE veteran has signed a low-seven-figure deal with the Reynolds Group to help launch Hefty’s new Ultra-Strong trash bags later this year. Cena will be the tough guy in the latest re-creation of a campaign that started in 1984, with consumers instructed to buy the “Hefty, Hefty, Hefty” bags instead of the “Wimpy, Wimpy, Wimpy” ones. A commercial shoot is set for later this month. Havas Worldwide Chicago is the creative shop and negotiated the deal for Cena with ICM and the WWE.

> COMINGS AND GOINGS: Brian Napoli has been elevated from director to vice president of corporate partnerships at the Philadelphia Eagles, where he will lead new business efforts. Napoli has been with the NFL club since September 2010. He replaces Molly Mullady Arbogast, who left the team recently to start her own consultancy. … Doug Scott, WME-IMG executive vice president of marketing and brand solutions, has departed. Scott joined William Morris Endeavor in September 2014 after eight years as president of Ogilvy Entertainment.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.