NFL Branding Takes a Self-Inflicted Blow
I watched one of America’s most beloved brands take a blow to the gut last night. And the worst part, it did it to itself. In case you missed the game, and weren’t anywhere near Twitter (there is some inappropriate language in this post), there was a bit of controversy last night. The game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks was filled with missed calls, bad calls and more than its share of chaos. The last few minutes of the game felt like a slow motion scene as the train wreck you felt coming actually happened as the time ran out. A hail-mary pass to win the game, a missed offensive pass-interference call, two refs making contradictory calls on the winning touchdown, a blown review, and a victory handed to a team that should have lost the game.
This is the worst nightmare for the NFL. Games being decided not by the play on the field, but by the referees. And not just referees, but replacement referees. There is a labor dispute between the regular officials and the NFL. So the NFL has brought in replacements this season. And after three weeks of questionable calls, the unthinkable finally happened. They made a bad call and changed the outcome of the game.
Don’t Blame the Officials
I don’t blame the officials. No one thinks they are purposefully making the bad calls. They are doing their best. But they just aren’t qualified. The blame rests on the league for putting them in the position with no chance of success.
The NFL Failed To Keep It’s Promise
The NFL brand is tarnished. It has made a promise to the fans of fair competition amongst some of the best athletes in the world. The NFL has gone out of its way to protect their brand from athletes behaving badly off the field to the extent of enormous fines and suspensions. Yet tonight the NFL itself has damaged its brand in a way that no player ever could. It failed to keep its promise. It failed to provide professionals who have the ability to keep the promise of fair competition. It let the fans down, and the fans definitely let them know about it. The question of whether they listen to the fans remains to be answered.
What Can We Learn?
The lesson we can all take from this experience is that when we make a brand promise, every employee we hire has to have the authority, the ability and the attitude to keep that promise. One wrong call by someone on your team can damage your brand in an instant. If you don’t make sure your team member is equipped and ready to do their job, it’s your fault when they fail. And when they fail your fans will let you know. How you respond will make all the difference.