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NFL: A Brand Tarnished

September 25th, 2012

Tarnished Brand IdentityIt’s more than a brand blemish.

One would have to be curious about what types of discussions are taking place today in the Park Avenue offices of NFL headquarters. What is the mood? Is it elitist and aloof? Is there a sense of invulnerability? Or do they understand that there is an undeniable, intangible bashing to their corporate brand that is taking place in real time and which resembles an out-of-control wildfire?

Do they consider that the damage done may be irreparable, or at the very least, that it may be much more difficult than ever imagined to win back support from the fans, owners, coaches and players, not to mention sponsors?

Make no mistake: The willingness to forsake a commitment to accuracy and to the integrity of the game is the breaking of a brand promise, an important one at that. And almost inexplicably, no one is issuing any sort of statement to manage the fire. Roger Goodell’s people should be retaining a 24/7 damage control publicity unit of a major agency, if they haven’t already. Because there’s plenty of damage done and the fire seems to be gaining strength.

The debacle that transpired on Monday night was simply a culmination of the first few weeks of handwringing and head scratching by broadcasters and fans alike. I don’t believe that Saturday Night Live could have done a better job of reflecting the absurdity of the situation as two referees contradicted each other simultaneously, and it was done on the final play on the league’s largest stage: Monday Night Football. You just can’t write this stuff.

I recall working for the NBA in the late 1990’s and meeting with marketing professionals in Secaucus, NJ to redesign Hoop and Inside Stuff. As one of those senior level executives shared, and I paraphrase, “this league office has just a few hundred professionals trying to manage all of these players and all of these teams, and it’s all so high profile. All it would take is one horrible scandal for all of us to lose our jobs.”

Penn State discovered this the hard way. How does a brand strategist even begin to apply an equation to measure the damages to the brand equity of that school after the Jerry Sandusky arrest? How do we measure the loss in income, in years of NCAA penalties and fines, in lost recruits — most importantly, in the work required to repair the damage from taint and tarnish of a brand once revered?

Lockouts have plagued professional sports for decades, so in many ways this is nothing new. Will fans forget all about the challenges to the NFL brand when the actual officials return to the game? It’s likely, yes. But will it take time to repair relationships with many critical constituent audiences? You can bet your shiny new kickoff coin it will.

How does Roger Goodell save face over the NFL’s replacement refs?

Refs Turn Hail Mary Pass Into OMGs


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 at 1:20 pm and is filed under Customer Experience, Marketing, Media, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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