Tom Brady was back in the Super Bowl, and that's great for him (even though the Philadelphia Eagles won the game).

But you know what isn't? It's the fact that most of America hates him.

I don't. I grew up in New England. I'm not the world's biggest NFL fan but I've been a New England Patriots fan since long before Brady became the team's quarterback--back when they never won anything.

Nevertheless, I understand why his brand his so toxic beyond the friendly confines of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and half of Connecticut.

Here are the brutal truths that explain why. If you're concerned about maintaining your good reputation, or your business's, you should take them to heart.

1.    America loves underdogs, and Tom Brady is no underdog

We root for underdogs, and the Patriots ain't underdogs------haven't been for a long time: Seven Super Bowls with Brady, five wins; a chance for another this weekend.

The simple truth is that being heavily favored makes you less popular. There's less of a story, and less of a reason to care.

Takeaway: When you're winning, do it with class. And always find ways to tell your story that highlight the odds you had to overcome to achieve.

2.     Audiences expect you to cater to them; the Patriots don't care

As successful as they've been in the last 15 years, the Patriots used to be big-time underdogs. Also, Brady had to overcome great odds even to play in the NFL, never mind become its top quarterback. But if you remember those days, (a) you're a big NFL fan, and (b) you're probably at least 35 years old. The majority of people who will watch this year's Super Bowl do not fall into either category.

Takeaway: Remember that people have incredibly short memories. It all comes down to: "What have you done for me lately?"

3.    Everybody cheats, but nobody likes a cheater

The Patriots cheat--allegedly, anyway. In 2007, the league said they filmed the New York Jets sideline, and then there's the whole Deflategate scandal. Now, the truth is that the entire league cheats. (Source.), but the Patriots have been unsuccessful in shedding the reputation for being cheaters. And that makes it easy to root against them.

Takeaway: Your reputation for honesty and fair dealing is extremely important. Guard it closely; hit back hard if it's attacked.

4.     People want a story; the Patriots keep giving away the ending

I'm writing this before Super Bowl 52, so I have no idea who will win. But I do know who's favored (Brady's Pats), and I know which team has an uncanny knack for pulling victory out of the jaws of defeat over and over (also, Brady's Pats.

I also know which team has a gruff coach who likes to pretend his success is just a matter of being smarter and executing well, and a quarterback who believes his unconventional preparation gives him an unfair advantage over everyone else. All of this may be true, but none of it is compelling. People want stories they can relate to, and teams they can root for.

Takeaway: Your story is crucial. Know it flawlessly, and tell it in a way that people can relate to.

The Patriots may very well win the Super Bowl. As a native New Englander, I hope they do.

But if Brady wants to have a post-football career that  transcends the narrow confines of New England and the NFL, he needs to spend the final years of his career working on his brand. He may be the greatest of all time on the field, but his positioning is toxic.

Published on: Feb 3, 2018
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