NFL’s Off Field Brand Issues

The charges of child abuse that were brought up against Adrian Peterson has been only one of a number of off field incidents that have plagued the National Football League this year. From Ray Rice’s video of domestic violence, to a number of other legal issues. These incidents have led to questions about the culture of the NFL, and the Commissioner. Roger Goodell mishandled the Ray Rice situation by only suspending him for two games initially, then taking harsher action later after receiving criticism. Goodell states that the NFL never had access to the footage of the Rice incident despite reports from TMZ, and law enforcement that they did. Goodell recently had a press conference to address the bad P.R the league has received because of these incidents, “I got it wrong on a number of levels, from the process that I led to the decision I reached”. The business of the NFL has been booming in recent years, with viewership rising, and record television deals. One has to ask have these off field incidents and bad P.R have affected the business of the NFL?

Nike took action when it dropped Adrian Peterson’s endorsement deal, and Radisson also terminated their partnership with the Minnesota Vikings because of their displeasure with how the organization handled the issue. These two companies took action in order to create a public relations movement that illustrated their stance on these off field issues.

nike-adrian-peterson-tweet-2014-09-18-at-11_28_17-am_opt

Anheuser Busch also took action, releasing the following statement, “We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league.” As the league’s biggest beer sponsor this statement illustrates their stance on the issues. Do the actions by these companies make any real difference from a business standpoint?

The NFL saw a jump in ratings despite the incidents, in the game in which Denver played Seattle, the game produced 16.9, which is a 16% jump over the game in that time slot last year. Both Nike and Radisson wanted to take a stance and create a favorable image of their companies by withdrawing sponsorship. However despite the incidents the jump in ratings seem to indicate the NFL’s product is so strong that the off the field incidents will not hurt viewership, and the entertainment value of their product. As far as Anheuser Busch making their statement what they failed to do was take action, one can assume they were posing an empty threat to improve their company’s image.

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Sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/sports/football/tv-ratings-soar-amid-nfls-woes.html?_r=1

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11539004/anheuser-busch-not-yet-satisfied-nfl-handling-recent-player-conduct

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