Well, it’s been a long old wait but the football season is almost here!
On September 5th, the 2019/2020 season begins with Chicago Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers. Not only that, it’s the centennial season of the NFL!
Over those last 100 years, the NFL has grown into a sporting monolith.
The SuperBowl remains the most-watched sporting event in the US year after year and millions of fans smash their laptops every season due to their fantasy football drafts.
However, the NFL has had its fair share of controversies with franchises upping and moving sticks. Yet, it doesn’t seem to affect the sport’s popularity.
Why is this?
Well, firstly people just love football! However, you can’t deny the behind the scenes role PR has on the league and its 32 teams.
PR is the secret, silent ingredient to selling tickets, gaining new fans and wiping controversies under the rug.
Not convinced? Read these four ways in which NFL teams benefit from PR:
The NFL and its teams are no strangers to controversy.
Where to start?
Firstly, there was the controversy known to many football fans as ‘deflategate’.
This refers to an incident back in the 2014/2015 in which the New England Patriots’ Quarterback Tom Brady, was found to have deflated balls to gain an advantage in their game against the Indianapolis Colts. The investigation took over a year and resulted in a four-game suspension for the player and the Patriot’s being branded as cheats among the average football fan. In addition to this, there has been an increasing number of former players diagnosed with CTE and lawsuits filed against the NFL.
As you can see, the NFL is no stranger to controversies or having to deal with difficult or negative press coverage. This is where crisis management comes in.
This is one of the cornerstones of traditional PR. However, it’s also something large organizations and businesses prone to controversy need to invest in.
How can crisis management help an NFL team?
Well, in a few ways:
- Set the record straight with negative press coverage – It’s not crazy to think that at some point during the football season, there’s going to be a story about a team where the owner and players feel that the angle or content of the story is incorrect or misleading. A PR team can contact journalists and take control of the story
- Release official statements ASAP- The emergence of the internet has ensured that the news cycle is ever ongoing, even more so the case if you’re an NFL team followed by fans worldwide. Therefore, you want to be able to respond to a club controversy as soon as possible. For example, say a player is caught drink driving, a crisis management professional can release a statement that condemns the player’s actions while not alienating the player. All of this before it has a negative influence on the club’s image.
- Respond to social media comments – Since the growth of social media, the line between PR, marketing, and customer service has become blurred. This means more work for PR professionals, but it also allows them to reply to customers’ grievances or negative social media posts in real-time. This is especially useful in a time of crisis.
Help teams build relationships with the press
As the last section shows, big sports teams and controversy go together like PB and J. Therefore, in the event of mishaps, it’s good to have the contact details of relevant members of the press. This is why NFL teams invest plenty of dollars in PR.
PR firms build relationships with the press all the time. If they don’t, how are they going to pitch to journalists and win media coverage for their clients?!
A good PR agency is well-skilled in forming relationships with the press and using these relationships to gain press coverage.
This can help NFL teams in two way:
- They have friends in the press in case of a crisis
- They can secure player interviews, features or club announcements with the right publications.
Establish a club’s brand guidelines and identity
NFL teams benefit from having a clear and strong identity. There are 32 teams in the league and, unless you’re one of the top five teams, you can’t rely on football fans supporting you just because you’re the nearest team.
Therefore, your team benefits from having a clear and defined brand identity. This gives your club a USP and will help you capture more floating fans.
This is where PR can help you. PR helps NFL teams decide who their average fan is.
In PR, this is commonly known as a buyer persona.
This blog post covers the top 10 loyal fans and tries to cover what makes each one unique. As a rule of thumb, companies will always have a buyer in their heads in which they are marketing themselves towards. Football teams are no different.
Out of the box social media management
Like it or not, social media is now a big part of sports. We just mentioned establishing identity, and social media is an area where teams can define who they are to mass audiences.
A well-thought-out and creative social media strategy can make teams instantly more likable and can result in an increase in their fan base.
We’re going to go across the pond for an example of a sports team who kills it with its social media.
EFL Championship side Bristol City went viral among the world’s soccer community for their wacky, unique goal announcements on social media:
Bristol City’s GIFs went viral around the world and, although not the biggest team in the UK, the exposure instantly made the club and its players more likable among their own fans and other teams’ supporters.
All sports teams need an angle or hook to set their identity apart from other teams, and football teams are no different. A creative PR agency with an in-depth knowledge of social media will be able to provide teams with this.
There you have it. If you’ve ever wondered why you wear silver and blue face paint when the Patriots play, it might not just be down to Tom Brady’s right arm after all. Behind the scenes, the wheels of the NFL teams’ PR machines are quietly ensuring that in 2119 we’ll be celebrating 200 years of the NFL. (if the stress of fantasy football drafts doesn’t kill us before then)