The Super Bowl.
The NFL’s biggest stage.
And they used that platform to highlight every department they screwed up off the field.
Commercials of domestic violence. Racial/cultural tolerance. Substance abuse. Child abuse (seriously though Nationwide..what was with the dead kids…#DoinTooMuch).
Reactionary marketing. Completely what the NFL employed all year starting with the dissection of Ray Rice coverage.
Fueled by the paparazzi-social-police that is TMZ, a timeline investigation of when the NFL actually received the Rice elevator footage took place. This caused the league as a brand to react with a number of press conferences, social campaigns, and shiny new policies specifically addressing personal conduct and behaviors that the league will now publicly frown upon.
As a business or organization, if you’re unsure about an act, and the public finds out you did little to nothing about that act -you’re now in a position to react to the reaction – not the original act.
PR 101. It shows you don’t need a hearing aid quite just yet. You’re at least acknowledging that public opinion can and will alter your brand image. So you better act quickly with a counterpunch before the media makes a speed bag out of your representation.
But here’s the thing…everyone was upset. Everyone called for boycotts. Domestic violence. Drugs. Bruised children. Racist mascots. Spin the protest rally wheel. The NFL will certainly give you enough content to wear out your sharpie and fill a poster board. But when it comes to those glorious 16 Sunday’s (and the select few of actually decent Monday and Thursday night games) of regular season good ol’ American football – everyone still watched.
Record ratings were set this season and that carried into the playoffs. The numbers came in this morning – Super Bowl 49 is now the most watched show in US television history with 114.4 million viewers. Not even a drop in ticket attendance over the course of the season happened amid the slue of scandals. And that’s why the NFL can afford to just delegate some reactionary campaign commercials during the biggest sporting event and most looked forward to piece of live television content.
Because people will still watch.
And how does this most watched event ever end? With a fight of course!
In the most bizarre ending I’ve personally ever seen in a Super Bowl (and the worst play call ever to throw to Lockett within the 1 yard line when your running back Lunch is 2 veins away from being The Incredible Hulk…) any grip these Seahawks have of their emotion vanishes. Pats intercept the ball. And after taking a couple knees, the Lombardi trophy is theirs. Right? Except once the Pats offense starts what normally is an automatic and easy way to run the clock to zero, some excessive celebrating and smack talk boils the Seahawks over. Punches get thrown, mothers are insulted, pushing and shoving, I thought I even saw a belly to belly supple Kurt Angle would have been proud of.
Watching this from my couch, naturally I 1) shriek “IT’S GOIN DOWN” like I did in high school when Gina got cold clocked by that Prattor girl, and 2) I tap to refresh Twitter – my digital sports bar with no last call and 24/7 hours of operation. Pretty damn impossible for me to watch a sporting event without my Twitter app open and ready to send some vernacular heat. But to my surprise, my timeline was full of people bashing the Seahawks for fighting.
Now I’m thinking…really? Is it that bad? Or maybe it’s apropos given the type of year the NFL has had. But my first and honest reaction about the fight is…and? So What? Here are my tweets about it:
Some people felt similarly to me.
You can’t go on a jungle safari and complain when you see wild animals eat each other. Sure I just compared athletes to lions, hyenas and the like. But these guys don’t put on pads and discipline themselves with training and nutrition for 365 to play checkers. To anyone who has ever sweat as an athlete in their chosen sport…think of your greatest moment, with the game on the line, your family and friends in the stands watching you…and now amplify that by 9.897,674. Now you’re close to what a Super Bowl moment feels like for these guys. Moments prior leading up to the “fight,” the Super Bowl dream became a nightmare. So let’s take a step back – look at the entire situation – and remember that these guys, under the jersey and all that armor, are still human. Men playing a game. A game that they’d been playing since they were children. And it honestly would be more shocking if they didn’t react that way.
Under the NFL’s brightest lights, Super Bowl 49 became the biggest stage to shine on the bolts linking sports and society together. The 3+ hour event and 60 minutes of actual playing time was impacted by off the field issues just as much as the on the field play.
Heroic catches, leads, ties, comebacks, broken records…deflated balls, media day “thug” interviews, morbid, depressing commercials – this granddaddy of ’em all will be long remembered.
So we all might as well take advantage of social media and comment on these images, these moments,
and these sharks to see what they really mean to us. These ads, these players, and these plays all mean different things for different people.
Because clearly, no big stage comes without controversy.