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The NFL Controls the Message

November 24th, 2009

Not to be simplistic, but the NFL is pretty big business. It didn’t get that way by letting just anybody do whatever they want on the field of play. Message discipline always rules the day when it comes too league matters.

And in the last couple of weeks we’ve seen the League crack down on two individuals who dared to sully the message in the stadium.

The first incident was the launch of a brilliant “ambush marketing” campaign by Captain Morgan. In the Eagles-Cowboys game November 8th, Eagles tight end Brent Celek  caught a touchdown pass, then celebrated by putting his hands on his hips and raising his right leg, mimicking the pose that the pirate on Captain Morgan’s label makes. At the time, nobody knew what he was doing. A couple days later it came out that Celek was the first player to participate in the spiced run company’s effort to raise brand awareness; for each time a player was caught on camera doing the pose, Captain Morgan was going to make a $10,000 donation to the charity Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund – a non-profit which helps retired NFL players with various hardships after leaving the game.

A good cause. A clever campaign. But the NFL won’t let it happen again. League spokesman Greg Aiello said you just can’t do that.

The NFL does not permit on field advertising that it doesn’t approve (or get a cut of). The league wants to project a wholesome image, and Captain Morgan isn’t part of that.

Speaking of not wholesome, how about 86-year-old Tennessee Titans’ owner Bud Adams? He flipped the bird to Bills fans in Buffalo this past weekend after his team stomped the hapless Bills.

Unseemly, to be sure. Certainly, Commissioner Roger Goodell thought so – he fined Adams $250,000. That’s a quarter of a million dollars. Prediction – this won’t happen again.

Critics – especially sportswriters – sometimes knock the NFL for being the “No Fun League.” For being uptight. For being obsessed with its image. But ask any politician whoever won elective office – message discipline is important. Sometimes, the people in control need to assert that control, if only for consistency sake. These last two weeks, the NFL has asserted control and let everybody know that when it comes to its image, this is not the Wild West.

Posted Under: Advertising, Branding, Public Relations, Viral & Guerilla Marketing
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