A lot has changed for Tom Brady over the past year. He retired, unretired, divorced his supermodel wife Gisele Bündchen, and managed to bring his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the playoffs one more time.
But the one thing that didn’t change is his dedication to the Brady brand, a men’s apparel collection that launched with much fanfare last January.
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Brady, the man, along with Jens Grede of Skims and Frame fame, who runs the day-to-day operations of the business, and Dao-Yi Chow, the cofounder of Public School, who serves as creative director, created Brady, the brand, to be a lifestyle label centered around technologically advanced fabrics that could take a guy from the gym to the street.
The team has learned a lot since the launch, expanding into other categories, tweaking the pricing and moving more aggressively into wholesale.
Although Brady is still a small player when put up against such powerhouse brands as Nike, Adidas and Under Armour, it has managed to carve out a niche, its executives said.
“I continue to be impressed with how fast you can build a brand in today’s social media climate,” said Grede. And the lack of loyalty among consumers, who are willing to take a chance on a new player, has also helped the company gain a foothold.
“It used to be that you bought jeans from a jeans brand and performance goods from an active brand and it was hard for [new companies] to reach critical mass,” Grede continued. “Ten years ago, the large-scale American companies were almost unshakeable, but we’ve shown with Skims, which is the gold standard, and with Brady that you can challenge much larger players.”
Skims is Kim Kardashian’s inclusive lingerie and loungewear line that has exceeded a reported $400 million in sales since its launch in 2019.
Grede declined to provide a sales volume figure for Brady, saying it was a private company, but is hopeful it will continue to establish a foothold. Brady himself declined to be interviewed since he is focused on the upcoming playoffs.
“It’s been an eventful first year,” said Chow. “The space is so crowded and the big brands have been around for so long. We weren’t sure who our consumer would be, but we went on to find we have a built-in consumer set that is highly engaged in the brand. It’s not a small task when you’re building a brand from scratch to define the mission and resonate with the consumer. So that’s been a huge accomplishment.”
Although Brady is the oldest active NFL player at age 45, Grede said his brand has nonetheless managed to establish a following among younger people. “The customer is younger than I expected — between 25 and 35,” he said. This was fueled in part by Brady’s support of “next-generation stars” such as college quarterback Shedeur Sanders, son of legendary football player Deion Sanders, who appear in its campaigns.
“We found that a lot of first-round draft picks in football and basketball wanted to play for Brady,” Grede said. “If you’re 20, you’ve watched Tom on any given Sunday for your whole life. And that resonates with people.”
In addition to Sanders, the brand works with George Pickens, a football player from the University of Georgia; Cole Hammer, a newly minted PGA Tour golfer, and others who “embody the spirit of Tom,” Grede said.
What has proven most successful for the brand since the launch has been the underwear, an addition that debuted in June with an Instagram video of Brady himself — presumably shot by his then-wife — in his bathroom wearing the boxer briefs.
“The men’s underwear was a real hit,” Grede said. “We sold 20,000 pairs in the first few days. It’s a category that has been underinvested in for a long time and we have a great product at a great price.” The boxer briefs retail for $20 each or $85 for a five-pack, while the briefs are $15.
“When you think about underwear,” Chow said, “you have all these brands that have been around for years and then you have the recent disrupters.”
But Brady’s cotton-based underwear with a darted molded pouch and soft touch waistband offer “shape retention — that’s our distinguishing mark,” Chow said. “We combine natural materials and technical features, which is what we set out to do from the very beginning. When you think of performance product — things men work out in — you think synthetics. But Tom said he liked a cotton hand and feel. So our underwear has a cotton base with a weft construction that gives the support of synthetics but feels good on the body.”
Similarly, since the launch, consumers have gravitated to other pieces such as the Brady pant, Chow said. The pant is made from cotton, nylon and spandex, features four-way stretch and retails for $95.
Another top seller is the Zero Weight collection, the designer said. Available in long pants, shorts and golf pants, they also feature stretch and moisture-wicking properties and sell for $75 to $95.
“Those were our number-one and number-two fabrics,” Chow said.
“Consumers today have an uncanny ability to find great product and are willing to try it,” Grede added. “That was tougher in the past.”
And the brand will make it easier for them to find as a result of its push into some major retailers. Although it launched with Nordstrom as its exclusive retail partner, Grede said it will launch at Dick’s Sporting Goods, “the nation’s largest sport retailer,” and its Golf Galaxy chain for spring. It’s also carried on Amazon.
The golf collection — Brady is a major fan of the game — which launched in April has also picked up some high-profile retail partners. It’s carried at some of the country’s most prestigious green-grass shops including Riviera, Wynn, Deepdale, Indian Creek and Seminole, and Grede said the goal is “to be in the best 50 golf clubs.”
Beyond these new categories, Grede said the brand this year will be “doubling down” on its training assortment as well as its performance loungewear. Chow described the loungewear as “slow train,” with a “gummy, comfy hand that is super soft and supple but with structure so you can wear it for yoga, stretching or around the house.” Chow also singled out a new Drirelease T-shirt “we have high expectations for.”
In addition, Brady will “continue to close endorsement deals with the next generation of superstars” to further cement its standing among young people, Grede said.
But like with any new brand, there have been some missteps. When the Brady collection launched, there was a lot of criticism that the prices were too high. The retail prices for the 45 initial styles ranged from $20 to $495. But prices today are 20 to 30 percent lower and some 90 percent of the assortment retails for less than $100, Grede said.
The product offering has also evolved.
“We’re small enough that we’re able to pivot on things that may not have worked,” Chow said. “Initially, we set out to be more tailored and streamlined, but we found that we’ve established a strong core of foundational pieces.”
The cadence has also been tweaked. “Last year we started to do certain releases like our Forever series on demand,” Grede explained. The Forever series is an assortment of jersey cotton fleece pieces featuring graphics commemorating Brady’s career that drop monthly.
In addition, the brand’s e-commerce site is categorized by activity such as running, hiking, golf or lifestyle. Its trademarked motto, Lifeletics: Life is a Sport, continues to epitomize the company’s ethos. “We merge everyday life and all-day comfort with performance,” Chow explained.
Grede said that although Brady, the player, opted to return to the gridiron rather than concentrate full-time on his brand, it hasn’t hurt the company. Rather, it’s helped.
“Tom continuing to play allows him a national platform,” Grede said, adding that football is still the number-one U.S. television program and the 22-year career of Brady, whom he calls the “Michael Jordan of football,” is unprecedented. “Viewership is through the roof and that national platform reminds people of Tom, which is an advantage.”
It’s got a halo effect for his brand that they hope will help it start a similarly long and successful run.
“We sold over $1 million on the first day,” Grede said.
But coming out of the box strong does not necessarily mean a brand will be able to maintain its initial momentum. “We’ve got to build a sustainable business with a good foundation — just like an athlete. But we’re excited to have this launch pad to get recognized and build a brand at such speed. Now our focus is to create product and build our distribution for tomorrow. As they say in football, there are moments to take yards and moments to take inches.”