At best I guess you’d call me a casual fan of the NFL, as the sport lost my avid interest decades ago after moving to Florida. The reason is that football season coincides with riding season, and I prefer spending my Sundays on two wheels rather than the couch, so I’ve drifted.
For disclaimer purposes, this blog isn’t about whether or not players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem is just. That’s another argument for a different blogger. Instead, this blog is about my fascination, from a branding perspective, at how one of the biggest brands in America — the NFL — is totally bungling it.
We often hear that the locker room is a microcosm of society, so if that’s true, the players on a percentage basis mirror the feelings of America in general. In other words, if a large percentage of your players and a large percentage of your market do not agree, why in the name of brand management do you get involved and take a knee on such a divisive issue?
Why piss off a major portion of your customer base giving them reason to turn away, to take that Sunday ride, maybe never to return? The answer lies in an age-old axiom that “nothing fails like success” or to put it another way — hubris. The NFL’s overhyped opinion of itself has apparently outstripped its true value to society and is now feeling the pain of that all-too-common self-inflicted wound.
Where I come from, you learn to never discuss religion or politics, especially if you’re looking to sell something, much less if you want to be invited back to the party. Or as one eloquent pastor wrote recently, “How long would you continue to walk into your favorite department store or turn on your favorite sitcom if you first had to listen to one of my sermons?”
The NFL’s marketing department must be cringing knowing that with all of the other issues facing the brand, i.e. head trauma, misogynistic behavior and spouse abuse, job one is to sell entertainment, not politics. The NFL’s CEO, Roger Goodell, always talks about protecting the shield (brand) — but now, in the eyes of a great many, it’s tarnished. And as of this writing, he’s desperately scrambling to put that genie back in the bottle.
Indeed, this great country of ours allows for freedom of speech, but in business, we must also factor in the economic concept of opportunity cost and that we’re here to serve everyone. So before getting involved in something you feel strongly about, ask yourself if your opinion is worth alienating a significant segment of your market, i.e. cash.
If it is, then by all means go for it, because taking a stand for what you believe is what this country is founded on. If not, look for another way. In either case, consider the consequences, because it’s going to affect either your business or your conscience. And by the looks of recent reactions, we know which is more important to those owners.
I’m not sure how the NFL’s situation will turn out, but what I do know is that on any given Sunday, the sun will be shining and I’ll probably see a few more bikers on the road.
As always – These are my thoughts, I could be wrong. So, if you disagree or simply want to add to it, please do so. I look forward to the conversation.
Dwain – CEO Rider