One of Tom Brady’s boldest Super Bowl LI plays emerged soon after the game was over.
Minutes after the Super Bowl trophy was handed to the New England Patriots, the quarterback appeared in an ad for Shields Health Care Group, showing off his five championship rings, ostensibly before getting an MRI at a Shields facility.
When told in the ad that he would need a bigger locker, Brady quipped “Roger that.” It sure seemed like a dig at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the man responsible for Brady’s Deflategate-related suspension at the start of the season.
Turns out Brady filmed the ad back in September, during that four-week suspension.
“It was a little bit of a gamble, but not much of one,” Tom Shields, chief executive of the Quincy-based company, said in an interview. “We’ve done all right in the past. . . . It’s good to be a sports fan in Boston [right now].”
The secret filming took place on Sept. 19, in a makeshift replica of a Shields facility that had been created in South Boston’s Marine Industrial Park. The ad was shot by movie director Bobby Farrelly, who is friendly with members of the Shields family and wanted to direct the ad when he learned Brady would be involved.
The first version of the ad debuted in October, as Brady was returning to play. He was asked to take off four Super Bowl rings in the earlier ad, but hinted a fifth could be on the way.
Farrelly shot a few different versions of the script that day, including the alternative ending that appeared on Sunday. The ad was designed by two marketers who used to work at Boston-based Hill Holliday, Joe Berkeley and David Gardiner.
Brady didn’t speak with the lone reporter allowed to view the filming — so it’s not clear how he felt about being asked to film the alternative ending.
Tom Shields said the company was prepared to run a generic Shields ad without Brady in the time slot on Sunday night if the Patriots had lost.
Matt Katz, a sports management professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Isenberg School of Management, said the ad made him do a double take when he saw it live on Sunday night. He had recorded it with his DVR and quickly rewound it.
“The ‘Roger that’ was so subtle,” Katz said. “I wanted to make sure I heard that correctly.”
Katz said running the ad the same night as the Super Bowl represents a risk inherent with sports marketing: Companies that tie their advertising to pro sports can become dependent on the performance of a team or an athlete, something they can’t control.
“I can’t imagine how stressed out the CEO must have been, watching [the game],” Katz said of the Shields ad. “It was risky [but] I thought it was brilliant. The coordination and planning that must go into something like that is really impressive.”
Shields plans to run the new ad featuring Brady and the fifth ring at least 25 times over a six-week period on the local Fox affiliate, WFXT.
No word yet on whether Brady is gearing up to film a version with six rings.