The Image Repair Tactics of Tom Brady

Rachel and I decided to write our image repair paper over Tom Brady and the Deflategate scandal. I have explained our findings within this blog post.



I. Abstract and Introduction 

During the 2015 AFC Championship game the New England Patriots won against the Indianapolis Colts and were advancing to Suprbowl XLIX set for two weeks later. During the game there were speculations surrounding the air pressure of the footballs. After further investigation it was found that 11 of the 12 of the balls’ air pressure was lower than NFL regulation. The NFL asserted that Brady was somehow involved and or knew something about the plan to deflate the balls. After lawsuits and a game suspension as punishment, this scandal tarnished Brady’s image.

The image repair tactics that Brady used are:

  • Denial
  • Reducing responsibility of the actor
    • Defeasibility
  • Reducing the offensiveness of the act
    • Bolstering

We found that Brady did not use mortification. Which was questionable because through research it is discovered that mortification is the most effective image repair tactic.

II. Literature Review 

Our literature review consists of ten different articles that deal with people in the public Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.25.34 AMeye and their quest for image repair.
Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.25.39 AMScreen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.25.43 AM

The subjects of our articles consist of: Michael Phelps, Terrell Owens, Michael Vick, Floyd Landis, Manti Te’o, David Letterman, Gary Condit, George W. Bush, former President Obama and the company of Firestone. Although we are focusing on someone in sports, there are limited articles on sports personnel. We decided to include various public figures and their quests for image repair because they use many of the same tactics as Brady when attempting to rectify deflate gate.

III. Research Questions

Through our initial readings we created four questions to be answered within our own research of the situation:

  1. Was Brady’s decision to forego the use of the mortification strategy one that was to help his overall image or solely his career?
  2. How does this event continue to impact his image?
  3. What image repair strategies did Brady use during his press conference?
  4. Did the lack of use of social media negatively impact his repair campaign?

Brady at the time had a lack in a social media presence. He did not have a Twitter or Instagram at the time, only a Facebook. Because of that it left Rachel and I very limited on what social media posts we could study for our research. However, there is one Facebook post that continues to stand out which is a response that Brady (or his publicist) posted on his Facebook page.

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 4.43.04 PM

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 4.43.09 PM

Screenshot of Brady’s Facebook post.


IV. Findings

Through our research we have found that Brady is not a well liked man. This scandal has fueled audiences’ hatred for him and the team. Although there are some die-hard Patriots fans that will follow Brady through hell, the fans that put Brady on blast have a more lasting impact on Brady’s image. Through our findings we were able to answer our research questions:

Brady’s decision to forego the mortification strategy was to help both his overall image and his career. It is undetermined wether or not the reasoning behind not using mortification was advised from his representation because it would have been an admission of guilt.

For seven months Brady was the center of the Deflategate scandal. Although the scandal has passed Brady still has become a known for not just being a player in the New England Patriots but the man who is associated with this football scandal. It has overshadowed his, and the Patriots accomplishments and does continue to be brought to light. Some believe that the Patriots winning Superbowl LI put to rest the negativity surrounding the team. However, their win fueled some audiences’ hatred for Brady and the team. Despite Brady’s negative image, his Hall-of-Fame accolades are justified and he is continuing to play for the Patriots.

The image repair strategies that Brady used in his press conference were denial, bolstering and defeasability. Throughout Brady’s image repair, he continued to deny any relation to the criminal acts that were taken. He denied any prior knowledge of the situation and denied any involvement. Brady used bolstering when he said that he would never do anything to break the rules and that he would never judge anyone’s belief system. Brady used defeasability by continuing to claim that he had no prior knowledge of plans to commit the act or the act itself.

The lack of social media did negativley impact Brady’s career. Had Brady had an established social media presence he could have used that platform to not only release his own statements to the public but put himself in a better light. The use of social media, in the past, has proven to be a useful tool in image repair. Brady’s empty presence on social media proved to not damage his image repair further but it did not propel it forward.

V. Conclusions, Implications and Limitations

For future research, we suggest scholars study Brady’s social media tactics alongside another athlete’s use of social media in an image repair crisis. This would shed additional light on the use of social media and how it helps or hinders image repair campaigns. It would also reveal whether or not Brady lost potential to recover his image by neglecting to utilize social media more than he did.

Our advice to Brady would be to better utilize social media and consider how all his actions affect the public’s perception of him. For example, destroying his cell phone during court proceedings further tarnished his image. If he had been more mindful of his actions and their consequences to his image, he might have been more successful in his campaign, even without using mortification. However, without using mortification at all, it would be difficult for Brady to succeed in repairing his image.

Compared to other cases, our research is consistent with the literature because it supports the conclusion that mortification is the key tactic to success in image restoration campaigns. Brady failed to fully recover from Deflategate, as any other article regarding image repair would have revealed before Deflategate even occurred.

Limitations of our study would include the limited number of Brady’s responses we were able to analyze. Because the controversy lasted so long and involved court proceedings, we chose to focus on the main tactics Brady consistently used throughout his campaign to attain the most accurate findings. However, there were likely many occasions on which Brady appeared in the news or made statements we were unable to analyze because of their sheer number.


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