I was interviewed for a podcast last week when the host asked me about sports organizations that do the public relations thing wrong and what they could do to improve. I was really at a loss because there haven’t been any glaring examples as of late. Well …
The host responded with, “you’ve been critical of the way the NFL has handed its publicity.“
Ok, busted, but only because I love the NFL. We tend to be tough on those we love because we want them to be better. I don’t want to hide my head in my hands when something else is said that speaks down to the people that give their bodies (football players) and dollars (fans) to the game.
It’s a new year and I promised social media followers and myself that I would focus more on the positive. That includes today, hours before Super Bowl 50.
Instead of criticizing National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell about some of the comments he made at Friday’s State of the NFL press conference or other decisions the league announced during the year, I’m simply going to make suggestions about how the NFL can be better. It’s a league that has A LOT of television viewers but has lost the trust of many when it comes to the way it speaks to its fans and treats some former players.
My suggestions would put the league in a better light; thus, enhance its public relations image. The cost to NFL team owners, for whom Goodell speaks and acts, is very little in the scheme of their businesses. In fact, I’m confident that they could see their profits rise if they acted on a few of my ideas.
Pay the man!
This week, New York Times reporter Richard Sandomir told us the story of the only known person to own the most comprehensive recording of Super Bowl I as CBS and NBC, which simultaneously televised the game, did not keep tapes of the January 1967 game. Troy Haupt’s late father recorded the game and the tapes sat in an attic for years. For the last five years, his lawyer tried to negotiate the sale of those tapes with the NFL so that the league could share the footage with its insatiable football fans. The Haupt team’s asking price was $1 million. The NFL countered with $30,000. Needless to say, Haupt didn’t sell.
On behalf of NFL fans everywhere, NFL, PLEASE BUY THE TAPE! The version that was pieced together from CBS and NBC and aired on NFL Network in January was nice, but Haupt’s is the most complete version of the game known to exist. The cost to each owner for the asking price: $31,250. The NFL’s total 2015 reported revenue: $12.4 billion.
Not only would the NFL have lots of change left over, but the public relations boost would be immeasurable to a nation of rabid football fans, many of whom were barely old enough to remember the game yet see it. They’re curious. They want to see it. They appreciate the history of the game and the NFL could help fill in some of those mystery gaps.
Take responsibility for CTE message
Own the message that football might not be safe for kids instead of letting former NFL players and coaches do it for you. It makes the league look like has something to hide.
Admit the statistics that fewer young people play football instead of ignoring that the numbers are down. Reinforce and share how USA Football and others continually learn and train its coaches to teach safe tackling and hitting. Assure that youth health professionals do all in their power to diagnose concussions and take precautions against further damage. Do these things and regain the trust of parents – those that make the ultimate decision about whether their kids play or not. Respect a public that ponders the game’s safety and rolls their eyes at some of the league’s comments made about it.
Admitting this problem is good for the game
There’s a positive to be earned if the NFL changes its tune on the safety issue. I suggest that the NFL target its entire audience, but millenials in particular, who are its present and future. Let them know that if they delay contact, those that choose to play football later could extend their careers and lives.
Respect that this generation is one that doesn’t believe something because a league commissioner says it. This demographic will research and make decisions that are best for them and if it means changing their allegiances to another sport, it will happen eventually. Sure, “protect the shield,” but to do that, you have to protect your players and fans’ confidence, first.
Loosen the grip on “Super Bowl”
I respect that sponsors pay a lot of money to market their businesses as official this or that of the NFL and/or Super Bowl and it’s their right to have exclusive use of the event’s trademarked logo.
But let others use the words “Super Bowl” in their marketing surrounding the weekend of the game, even if it’s just once in ad mentions, and the game would enjoy an even bigger publicity boost. Let businesses and their customers celebrate what has essentially become a national holiday with family and friends.
The NFL and Tom Brady’s legal team are scheduled to return to court in March after the league appealed a decision to vacate the New England Patriots quarterback’s four-game suspension for allegedly knowing air was released from footballs in 2014.
Fans continue their distrust in the case and balk at money spent to defend what now looks more a frivolous incident. The NFL made the matter murkier when it said that it only did random PSI checks during the 2015-16 season, and little would be done with the information if anything at all.
I respect and admire the NFL for wanting to stay in the media and public consciousness 365 days a year, but a lot of money and time has already been spent on both sides of this case. That money would have been better spent purchasing the Super Bowl I tapes and there would be money left over!
Pick something else to promote the few months during the year when the NFL might not be in focus. The NFL would earn BIG props for that.
Enjoy the game, y’all!