PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Posts Tagged ‘MLB

Who do you Back, Players or Owners? NFLPA Changing Fans Minds with New Online Strategy

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NFLPA Launches NFLLockout Campaign

It’s no secret both the NFL and NBA are heading towards what are sure to be contentious labor negotiations between players and owners this summer. There’s a real chance both leagues could be headed toward lockouts as well. I’ve always thought this to be a fascinating aspect of the fan-player and fan-owner dynamics.

When you break it down to its core, who are players? They’re employees, granted very well compensated employees, but they’re still employees. Who are owners? They’re employers. Finally, who are about 99% of the fans? Employees of some kind. So it stands to reason that fans would identify more with players during these negotiations, right?

Not the case. Fans play the “I’d play for free” card and have a very difficult time relating to millionaire players, but have no problem backing billionaire owners. For some reason the Players Association’s of the NFL, NBA and MLB have had a difficult time getting their message across to everyday fans.

The PR playbook has always been to have the head of the players union play hard ball in a series of media tours. They attack commissioners and owners in each league, roll out the players negotiation talking points and essentially attempt to take the heat while shielding players from the dialogue. But that strategy usually fails with fans. Fans have been unable to buy into that separation between the union as an entity and the individual players.

But, the NFLPA is finally changing that playbook. In what makes perfect sense as this is the first real major sports collective bargaining agreement negotiation in the Social Media Age, the NFLPA is taking the battle online, launching the website, a twitter account and Facebook Page.

But there’s more to the strategy, not only have they launched these sites, they’ve branded the campaign “NFL Lockout”. It’s difficult in some cases to even tell if the NFLPA is actually affiliated. is basically a blog standing on its own, not a campaign living on the official NFLPA website. Although its crystal clear which side and whose message the campaign is backing.

So, they’ve essentially used the online campaign to change the connection with fans, who fans view as the villain and turned fans into ambassadors of both the campaign and the players. Instead of talking about millions of dollars already millionaire players might lose, a simply unrelatable concept for the average person, the NFLPA is using the “NFL Lockout” campaign to frame owners as a group trying to stop football and take football away from fans.

To bring awareness to the campaign the NFLPA has tagged Tuesday, January 18 as #LETUSPLAY DAY, an online movement where they’ve created the hashtag #LETUSPLAY. The genius behind #LETUSPLAY DAY is several prepared Facebook and Twitter posts where they ask fans to post “…help NFL players and fans #blockthelockout” to Facebook and Twitter. What does this accomplish? It positions fans and players as being on the same side of the debate and puts even more pressure on the owners.

It will be interesting to see if the campaign has legs and ultimately keeps fan opinion with the players for the long-term, especially the closer we get to an actual lockout towards the end of summer. It will take patience for the NFLPA to stick to their guns and not go back to the old playbook, but in the short-term this was a tremendous PR move.

Now we’ll have to see if the NBPA can be as creative and forward thinking, but one thing I can tell you is to not bother searching GoDaddy for the domain name, it’s already taken.


Written by Brian Gleason

January 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Can Big Papi Save Baseball?

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In 1998 Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa virtually saved the game of baseball with their incredible homerun race. We found out later they might have also killed the game by bringing on the steroid era. Is it time now for another home run slugger to save the game?

Major League Baseball, the Players Association and the media have been fighting a public relations battle over performance enhancing drugs for nearly a decade, even causing the federal government to get involved. But, things got a little more interesting on Monday when Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz entered the fray.

Ortiz, in his first meeting with the media since arriving at Spring Training, became arguably the highest profile player to call for stricter testing for PED’s. Ortiz not only called for testing more often, but called for every player to be tested multiple times during the season. He even went as far as recommending blood tests and a full season suspension for a failed test. Currently a player gets a 50-game suspension for a first time fail.

In the eyes of the fans he’ll been seen as one of the few star players that is finally putting the good of the game ahead of big numbers, ego and most importantly money. The public and the media will eat this up, but they’ve been on this side of the fence for a while, without much result. The missing link to this point has been the players.

The Players Association, one of the strongest, if not the strongest, union in sports has been doing its job, right or wrong, protecting the rights of their players. To the chagrin of the fans and even some media, they’ve been against any and all testing, at times making it difficult for Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, to even discuss changes to the CBA.

So now the question is, can Ortiz and other players use this moment to bring about real changes in baseball’s testing policy and penalties? Can Ortiz be the galvanizing force that helps put an end to the steroid era in baseball?

A few players have spoken out in the past, but for the most part, players have been reluctant to call out their peers, or go against the union that fights so hard for them. High profile players rarely like to ruffle feathers and go against the union, and fringe players fear losing their jobs.

But, maybe a player the stature of Ortiz is all that was needed? Maybe his words will be the first domino to fall, and he can be the guy that makes it ok for other players to step up publicly and demand more testing and harsher penalties. The only way the union will come to the negotiation table and seriously discuss a real testing policy is if the players they’re charged with protecting force them too.

We may see the effects of Big Papi’s comments as soon as Tuesday when Alex Rodriguez is set to hold his first press conference since his admission on ESPN last week that he used performance enhancing drugs from 2001-2003. You can guarantee players around the league will be fielding questions for days about A-Rod and Ortiz’s comments. Will they play it PC and listen to their agents, PR reps and the union, or will enough fed-up players side with Ortiz and begin putting some pressure on their own union?

It seems with fans and media ready for resolution, and the other shoe dropping with the A-Rod news, the time is ripe for the “clean” players to draw a line in the sand. Is Big Papi the guy to do that, or are we saddled with another decade-plus of wondering who is and who isn’t using?

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Written by Brian Gleason

February 17, 2009 at 4:07 am

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