The National Football League (NFL) brand is in some real trouble. They have managed to alienate both African American fans and for lack of a better term, ‘hyper patriotic’ fans. To truly understand their quandary, we have to first understand the situation.
Background: According to a report prepared by US Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, the report found that, “all military branches reported spending $53 million on marketing and advertising contracts with professional sports organizations between 2012 and 2015.” Also in the report, they stated that, “Americans deserve the ability to assume that tributes for our men and women in military uniform are genuine displays of national pride, which many are, rather than taxpayer-funded Department of Defense marketing gimmicks.”
Problem: Herein lies the root cause of the NFL’s brand problem, when marketing in today’s day and age authenticity and transparency are must-haves. The old adage, “what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” rings true and as the social climate has changed for the worst, the NFL’s paid patriotism is no longer an authentic representation of the players or the total zeitgeist of the US populous. In the words, the Department of Defense’s marketing spend is no longer effective. Instead, it is having the exact opposite effect and serving as fuel to disenfranchise entire American demographics.
- Authenticity: There is nothing wrong with patriotism. Having pride in your county can be a great unifying way to bring people together. That being said, patriotism is earned and should never be forced. The US Department of Defense needs to find more authentic ways to support/recruit for our military.
- Transparency: The days of secretly marketing to the masses is over. There are leaks everywhere and with the rise of social media, the word always gets out. Be open and honest on the positive cultural impact your brand or organization wishes to have and invite consumers that share your values and beliefs to champion your higher purpose.
- Have a Point of View: Passively playing both sides of an issue is no longer an option for brands or organizations. Even silence speaks volumes to potential consumers.
Conclusion: Personally, as a biracial black American man with 2 children that are half Latino, I fully support ethically rooted protests for equality and justice. This means Colin Kaepernick, Chris Long, or any other person fighting for a better and more equal America has my full support. That being said, as a lifelong fan of the NFL, I can no longer in good faith actively support their brand. Hey, at least I still got college football.
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