PR in Sports

Looking at the World of Sports from a PR Perspecitve

Posts Tagged ‘NFL

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 NFLLockout.com, 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. NFLLockout.com 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 NBALockout.com domain name, it’s already taken.

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 17, 2011 at 11:47 pm

Could Keith Olbermann be a PR Problem for Roger Goodell and the NFL?

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I was having an e-mail discussion with my buddy Chappy Wednesday morning. Chappy lives in Boston, and if you regularly read this blog you know I’ve lived there as well, so our discussion inevitably ended up on the Massachusetts Senate results. We discussed a few different aspects of the race, which eventually led to Keith Olbermann’s comments following the outcome, a win by Republican Scott Brown.

When discussing Olbermann’s editorial, our exchange went into whether Olbermann poses a PR problem for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. If you remember, it wasn’t too long ago that Goodell had some harsh words for Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh was attempting to become a minority owner with a group looking to buy the St. Louis Rams. The basis of Goodell’s objection to Limbaugh being part of the NFL was that “divisive comments” have no place in the NFL.

What does this have to do with Keith Olbermann? For those that don’t know, besides having his own show on MSNBC, Olbermann also co-hosts NBC’s Football Night in America, the NFL’s primetime Sunday night showcase each week.

There’s no question Goodell was under pressure to respond to criticism, whether right or wrong, about Limbaugh’s bid to become an owner. But, by entering the Limbaugh debate so strongly, did Goodell open himself up to answering what exactly is divisive language, from a political perspective, according to the NFL? It’s not out of the realm that reporters, or political groups with an agenda for that matter, could call for Goodell to respond to whether Olbermann’s comments are “divisive”.

Now, this is a Sports PR/Marketing blog, not a political blog, so I’m not really interested in debating conservative/liberal or Limbaugh/Olbermann, at least not in this space.

The question is, did Goodell overplay his hand with Limbaugh, almost setting a precedent where he has to respond when anyone affiliated with the NFL enters political debate? Is it out of line to question Goodell about whether Olbermann is too “divisive” to co-host Football Night in America? Should the NFL just stay away from extreme political commentators/figures playing a visible role in the league?

What say you?

Disclaimer: I hope we can have a healthy debate in the comments section, sticking to the PR aspects of this topic. Any comments using crude language or attacking another poster will be deleted.

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Written by Brian Gleason

January 21, 2010 at 1:27 am

Which Thanksgiving Weekend Sports are you Most Excited to Watch?

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We’ve had a lot of focus lately on the PR side the last few posts, so with Thanksgiving on Thursday, I though we’d swing back to the straight sports side of things. Thanksgiving Day is pretty much strictly turkey and NFL, but the rest of the weekend has plenty of other options to keep you on the couch and out of the malls. To go along with a full slate of NFL games on Turkey Day, we have College Baskeball FeastWeek, big rivalry games in college football and to wrap up the sports weekend a marquee Monday Night Football match-up.

As usual the NFL kicks things off on Thursday afternoon. We have Green Bay at Detroit, Oakland at Dallas and the nightcap with the Giants traveling to Denver on the NFL network. Not the greatest lineup, but hey, its tradition and we love it.

FeastWeek in college basketball is also quickly becoming a tradition. The weekend includes a host of tournaments across the country with some of the top teams in college basketball getting early season tests. The lineup includes the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals and finals featuring Duke and UConn, the 76 Classic featuring Butler, West Virginia and Minnesota and the Old Spice Classic featuring Michigan, Xavier and Marquette.

The weekends slate of college football games includes some of the top teams in the country looking to avoid the late season slip-up against their main rivals. The top games include #1 Florida hosting Florida State, #2 Alabama heading to Auburn, #9 Pittsburgh traveling down Rt.70 to take on West Virginia and a nice mid-major match-up between #19 BYU and #21 Utah.

Last but not least we have a huge Monday Night Football game when the New England Patriots, the last team to undefeated during the regular season, travels to New Orleans to face the Saints, one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL.

Think you can keep up with that schedule while the rest of the suckers fight the crowds at the mall? So all I want to know now is, which Thanksgiving Weekend sports are you most excited to watch?

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Written by Brian Gleason

November 24, 2009 at 11:13 pm

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