With the public relations and media nightmare hovering around the NFL due to some poor choices of its players, it really shows marketers the risks we take when aligning our established brands with an association whose actions we have no control over.
The NFL has always been a great association for big brands. It produces ginormous audiences that are captive for hours and hours at a time, and tend to watch only in real-time. The demographic audience the NFL provides is extremely beneficial to all types of brands, even when only targeting the demographic groups that are only influenced by their loyalty to a single player. Boys and girls begin following football players’ careers before they are even ten years old. If you want a very large following with extremely diverse demographic profiles, it simply makes sense to align your product and name with the NFL; there are however, extremely high risks you take when aligning your brand with another brand’s image, which you have no control over.
With the latest scandals that have struck the NFL, big brands such as McDonalds, Anheuser-Busch, and Nike have some big decisions to make in order to save their image from being bruised by their association with the NFL. Radisson hotels suspended their sponsorship association with the Minnesota Vikings this past Monday, quickly following Adrian Peterson of the Vikings being charged with child abuse. The hotel chain’s decision brought immediate positive results with ginormous social mentions and web impressions larger than they see in a typical month.
Anheuser-Busch and McDonalds have not yet severed their ties with the National Football League, but have both issued strong statements of distaste in the way the league has handled the recent domestic violence cases that have arisen against some of its players. The brands are hoping their words will influence the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to enforce stricter rules and punishment for players who commit criminal actions while being a part of the franchise. More than likely, such large national sponsors will not jump ship from their relations with the NFL, but may cut budgets back; therefore, loosening their ties just slightly enough to still see a lift from the NFL audience, but not enough for their business to suffer any time the NFL is exposed to scandal.
I believe the biggest marketing lesson to be learned in this situation in regards to the brands’ involvement is that as marketers we always need to have the sanctity of our brands in mind. We should be cognizant that it is our duty to protect our brands and should always have an emergency PR plan on file to ensure we are prepared to act quickly in order to save a brand’s equity even when the scandal that threatens our brand is an association with another brand. It is a dog eat dog world and everyone is out to save their brand even if it may hurt other brands associated with them, this is a hard truth that marketers should always keep in the top of their mind when associating their brand with another.