Today’s guest RepMan is by Peppercommer Matt Purdue.
Caught by hidden camera! Below is a pic of the NFL crisis communications staff hard at work this week.
With Deflategate on everyone’s minds as we wade into the morass that is Super Bowl Week, I think we as comm’s professionals need to ask ourselves two existential questions: What if our client or our organization had an explosive crisis – yet, at the end of the day, nobody really cared? What if, in fact, people loved our client or our org even more?
While Deflategate has spawned innumerable jokes, puns and hashtags, the fact of the matter is that the NFL really has a very serious problem with the most fundamental aspect of sports: fairness. In almost any other industry, this would be an emergency of epic proportions. Imagine that a pharmaceutical company’s drugs were “underinflated” – that they contained less medication than promised. Imagine that an automaker’s engines actually produced far less horsepower than claimed. Imagine that a bank was paying its customers less interest than advertised.
In any of these scenarios, no matter how swift and sure the organization’s crisis communications response, it’s easy to guess the immediate impact: the pharmaceutical company would sell fewer drugs; the automaker would sell fewer cars; and the bank would attract fewer new customers.
But, somehow, that’s not the case with the NFL. The league’s fundamental premises – that teams operate on a level playing field and that any team can beat any other team on any given day – is at stake here, yet the NFL’s crisis response is basically this: Don’t worry. We are going to investigate ourselves. The NFL’s probe is being led by one of its own EVPs and two lawyers from the firm of Paul, Weiss, which has a longstanding business relationship with the league. I guess there’s no 15-yard penalty for potential conflict of interest.
But the saddest part about all this is that, come Sunday night, America won’t care. According to Yahoo!’s Shawna Ohm, Super Bowl ticket sales on StubHub are up 91% over last year. Forbes’ Jesse Lawrence reports that Super Bowl ticket resale values have already reached record levels. Clearly, Deflategate and the NFL’s tepid response are having no negative impact whatsoever on our annual football bacchanal. Which brings us back to our photo. Why should the NFL care one whit about reputational risk? Why not let the crisis comm’s team party on the beach? As long as we keep turning a blind eye toward pro football’s problems, party on.