The Brady Effect

It is nice to be on the privileged side of the velvet rope for a change.

When the National Football League released the 2020 regular-season schedule in May, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers found themselves with five primetime games. That is the maximum a team can play.

Thank you, Tom Brady.

The March signing of the six-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback put the spotlight on a franchise with the lowest winning percentage among the 32 NFL teams.

At a time when seemingly every corner of society was being shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, interest in Buccaneers tickets and merchandise sprung to life like never before.

The demand for Bucs season tickets overwhelmed the team’s website in the first few hours after it became apparent Brady was moving to Tampa after 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. Some fans visiting the site attempting to purchase tickets were greeted with a message that indicated there were as many as 6,000 other fans ahead of them.

The second wave hit following the league’s schedule release. With dates and times set, sales of Bucs single-game tickets were among the hottest in the league and, not surprisingly, blew away the pace from a year ago.

“It is definitely very exciting to see a team that is normally one of the underdogs that you do not see blipping on the radar when it comes to trends and demands,” says Jessica Erskine, head of brand communications at StubHub, the leading ticket exchange marketplace.

Demand for Buccaneers single-game tickets was such that in the first week they were available the team ranked third in sales volume on Stubhub. The teams ahead of the Bucs were the Dallas Cowboys and Las Vegas Raiders, the latter preparing for their inaugural season in Vegas after moving from Oakland. Last year at the same time, the Bucs were last in ticket sales.

Sales volume of Bucs tickets was nine times greater than that of a year ago and the average ticket price was $264 compared to $189 at the same time in 2019.

“Seeing them in the top five in trends and sales after (the tickets went on sale) is great because it is bringing this type of excitement to an audience and a market that hasn’t had it for some time,” Erskine says. “Immediately after the tickets go on sale there is a spike before the market levels out, but the demand has been steady. Without a doubt, we are excited to see that enthusiasm spread.”

There was plenty of enthusiasm among the fanbase when the Buccaneers unveiled their slightly redesigned uniforms in early April. Led by his No. 12 jersey, sales of the Brady merchandise on rocketed 3,000 percent day-over-day and lifted the Buccaneers into the top spot among NFL teams in overall sales.

By mid-May, Brady was accompanied by a familiar name with respect to jersey sales. Rob Gronkowski, Brady’s former Patriots tight end and owner of three Super Bowl rings, ended a one-year retirement when the Bucs traded for him in late April.

Brady and “Gronk,” together, accounted for seven of the top-10 selling jerseys on, the league’s official merchandise platform. Five Brady variations of the Bucs’ new uniforms, including the $149.99 pewter alternate vapor design that checked in at No. 3, and two of Gronkowski’s gave the team plenty of exposure on the leaderboard.

In fact, Brady and Gronkowski are the only players on the list to have appeared in an NFL game. A pair of rookie quarterbacks accounted for the other three top-selling jerseys. The home and away versions of the Miami Dolphins’ Tua Tagovailoa occupied the top two spots and the home jersey of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Joe Burrow also made the cut.

With the pandemic limiting retail sales to mostly online in the first three months after Brady was signed, athletic apparel retailers in the Tampa Bay region reported a noticeable increase in the sales of Buccaneers merchandise.

One such entity is Tampa Bay Sports, which has stores in Amalie Arena (Lightning items only), International Plaza and Tampa International Airport. Owned by the Vinik Sports Group, the seller of licensed apparel and novelties captured part of the sales surge in everything Bucs.

“What we have seen is an impact for Buccaneers merchandise overall,” says Kevin Preast, executive vice president of event management at the Vinik Sports Group. “There is definitely a lot more chatter and excitement around the team as a whole. Percentage-wise we are up significantly year-over-year and it is dramatically up, like a four-figure percentage.”

  What is notable about such an increase in sales is that none of it was generated by merchandise specific to Brady or Gronkowski, which Tampa Bay Sports will have by the time the Bucs’ season kicks off in New Orleans on Sept. 13.

“I don’t foresee (the surge in sales) slowing down and if anything I see it shifting more to the player-specific merchandise items once we get them in stock,” Preast says, who noted T-shirts, hats and flags have been top-selling Bucs items. “We are anticipating that we will have player merchandise before the scheduled start of the season.”

The Tampa Bay region is home to a number of national retail outlets that sell Buccaneers merchandise. One of them is Dick’s Sporting Goods, which, like many businesses, was able to maintain some in-person sales presence with curbside pickup after the pandemic forced many retailers to halt in-store traffic.    

“We have seen great enthusiasm from Buccaneers fans who have been buzzing in our stores and on with excitement over the team’s newest merchandise this offseason,” said the company in a statement. “We are bringing in more product quickly to meet demand. We work to offer the best gear available and with (curbside pickup) Bucs fans can order their favorite team items online and pick up their purchases at their local store without leaving their vehicles.”

While fans are piling aboard the new-look Buccaneers bandwagon by purchasing tickets and merchandise at a blistering pace, it should be noted that Brady’s and Gronkowski’s former team has assumed what was a Bucs-like trend.

“There’s a really interesting shift in Patriots sales that we are seeing,” Erskine says.

Indeed, during the first-week single-game tickets were available the Pats were 30th in league sales, ahead of only the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets. New England was fifth last year.

Not that fans in Tampa are shedding any tears. After all, they are too busy buying Buccaneers tickets and merchandise. ♦

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