A bad-news NFL season that began with a shocking elevator video and is ending with “Deflategate” might make you wonder if the league is the damage-control center of the universe.
To which Hope Schau says: Don’t worry about the NFL. It has survived scandals in the past, and it’s going to take much more than this season’s high-profile troubles to sink the ship.
“Every brand is a work in progress,” says Schau, an expert on branding and an associate professor of marketing in the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.
“The NFL hasn’t lost the essence of what it is. There was a time when (its players) might have been more representative of ideal citizenship. But there are generations now where that may not be as important. At the end of the day, people are still going to watch football. There will be fans, and the game will still represent America.”
Schau says the NFL made at least two mistakes in its handling of the Ray Rice affair. It was too slow to act in the wake of the incident, she says, and it hasn’t helped itself by keeping the focus on a negative issue.
“It was hard to see that (elevator video) and not form an opinion,” Schau says. “Getting out in front of the message and taking action early is always the better option.”
A campaign of public-service announcements on domestic violence involving current and former NFL stars isn’t allowing the league to move forward, Schau says, by the way it inadvertently prompts the public to flash back to the Rice incident.
“I would hope that our standard is that we treat people well, not just that we don’t treat them badly,” Schau says of the “No More” TV spots. “That’s a low bar to clear. The NFL could be highlighting the good things it is doing in outreach. It could show support of women’s sports, for example. I know they’re doing some of that, so why aren’t we hearing about it?”