Tom Brady listened closely to direction from the sidelines.
But the coach barking orders wasn’t Bill Belichick and Gillette Stadium was nowhere in sight.
Instead it was comedy director Bobby Farrelly calling the shots on an ad shoot in South Boston, halfway through Brady’s four-week Deflategate suspension in September.
The unlikely duo was there to produce a 30-second TV commercial for Shields Health Care Group. The premise: Brady is visiting a Shields imaging facility for an MRI and in the process is asked to take off all four of his Super Bowl rings first and put them in a locker. A fifth one, he hints, could be on the way.
The ad, set to debut Thursday, was the product of a top-secret shoot, with a nearly 40-person crew converting a medical training center in South Boston into a makeshift Shields imaging facility for the day.
The spot represents an unusual move for Brady: The quarterback typically endorses a small number of national or global brands — think Tag Heuer watches, Ugg boots, or Under Armour apparel — not regional ones like the Quincy-based Shields network of imaging centers and medical offices.
“This is definitely out of character for his marketing strategy,” said Matthew Katz, sports management professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. “I think there’s a next step to this. I would be very surprised if this was the end of some sort of regional strategy on his part.”
The timing couldn’t be better for Shields, which already has a longstanding relationship with the Patriots: The TV spot will start running before Brady hits the field in Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns following his NFL-imposed suspension.
“It’s a culturally relevant conversation that’s going on in the marketplace right now, that’s going to have all of the attention,” Boston University advertising professor Edward Boches said.
Shields previously used retired Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi as a pitchman. Chief executive Tom Shields said the company wanted to take its advertising in a new direction, in part to reflect its expansion efforts to open new centers and move beyond imaging work to include ambulatory surgery and radiation oncology.
Once Brady agreed to star — Shields isn’t disclosing how much it’s paying him — Farrelly wanted in on the action. The director was already friendly with members of the Shields family, and he lined up some of his associates who work in California to fly out to Boston to help.
“When I heard that Tom Brady was involved, making a commercial, I was like, ‘Tom Brady, he doesn’t make local commercials,’ ” Farrelly said. “So I lobbied and pushed other people out of the way.”
When the shooting took place on Sept. 19, the ad’s producers didn’t want to interrupt operations at an actual Shields imaging center. So they opted for a fake one instead.
Farrelly tried a few different versions of the script, including one that could be used if the Patriots win the Super Bowl in February and another in which Brady says “Roger that” (which may or may not be a reference to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell).
Brady was engaged throughout much of the shoot, closely watching playbacks as if he was going over a particular play at Gillette Stadium. After one replay, he confidently said, “I can do better than that.”
Farrelly, it turns out, has been in this position before. He directed Brady during another brief scene: The quarterback had a cameo role in “Stuck on You,” the 2003 conjoined-twin comedy.
“The only thing I’m trying to do is to get him to be himself in front of the camera,” Farrelly said. “If he was trying to act or trying to be someone else, it would look silly. It wouldn’t look genuine. . . . If you didn’t believe it was him, no one would buy it.”Jon Chesto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.