Can the NFL Bounce-Back from its PR Fumble?

Kevin Flight

We all have bad weeks, both personally and professionally. But few individuals or organizations can say they had a seven day stretch like the NFL just did. What is normally a greatly celebrated time of year with the opening of the season, turned into a week-long crisis communication exercise because of two players abusing spouses and children. Potentially even more damaging than the players’ actions, many are calling for the removal of the league’s commissioner because of his inability to have proper policies in place when players misbehave off-the-field. As a high-profile multi-billion dollar industry, the behaviors of few have impacted the actions of many in regard to the NFL. The league finds itself in a reactive position to the news cycle with fans and partners.

Last week’s news have left many fans uneasy about the sport they love, with many taking to social media to express their displeasure in the league. Fans aren’t just taking action on the NFL, a photoshop of league partner CoverGirl’s “Get Your Game Face On” campaign has gone viral and been picked up by many media outlets.

Much like the NBA’s recent controversy with former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the NFL is starting to see the impact from one of its most important financial backers – sponsors. Radisson Hotels has suspended its sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings amid all-pro running back Adrian Peterson’s arrest for child abuse. The hotel chain found itself unnecessarily at the center of the controversy as it owns the signage rights in the Vikings press room, which hosted a press conference announcing Peterson would play this week. The announcement was not well received publicly, with even the Governor of Minnesota calling for the Vikings to suspend Peterson.8330378842_f1628522a5_z

So how can the NFL take back control of the news cycle? For starters, it needs to make a strong statement and set a consistent policy for player conduct. Although it feels like a case of “too little, too late,” the NFL appointed a four woman social responsibility team to advise the league on its domestic abuse and sexual assault policies. It is a step in the right direction, but the NFL has a potentially long road ahead to repair its image and restore confidence in its leadership from fans and sponsors. What do you think the NFL should do next to improve its tarnished reputation?


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