Branding the World of Sports

The NFL is too focused on controlling their brand

Posted by ZA on September 2, 2009

The NFL has the largest television contract among the four major U.S. professional sports leagues.  In-fact the paid media rights to the National Football League are surely the largest in the World, along with the Olympics and Premier League.  So there are a lot of dollars at stake for the NFL, which means they are extremely vigilant about how their product is distributed.  You’ve probably heard their “This broadcast cannot be redistributed without the express written permission of the NFL…” warning at the beginning of football games so often that you hardly notice it anymore.  But that pre-game warning is just part of the NFL’s strategy to protect their marks.

Now the NFL is expanding their protection to include a ban against social media.  The NFL is restricting players, coaches, league personnel or media from engage in social networking during games.  The purpose is to prevent a media member from twittering the activity on the field, which would be a form of redistribution that potential violates their television rights deal.  As if a reporter in Cleveland posting something on his Facebook page is going to ruin the entire Browns/Steelers broadcast for CBS.

I mean come on, isn’t this taking things a little too far?  I personally think it would be a more enjoyable experience if while watching the game on TV (on an NFL sponsor network) I was also able to read Peter King or Chad Ochocinco’s thoughts on the game.  Maybe Chris Cooley or his wife would post some scoop from the locker room that would totally enhance the game watching experience.  But that is exactly what the NFL does not want.

The NFL does not want some practice squad player posting from the New England Patriots locker room that Tom Brady was injured during a meaningless preseason game with the Washington Redskins.  They want to control the message and feel that’s the only way to protect the integrity of the game and their (high paying) media partners.  Which is dead wrong in my opinion.

The world today is too wired to try to control the message all the time.  Twitter, Facebook, etc. are meant to be means of distributing information to the masses.  The internet is the great equalizer in that it makes it easy to quickly spread information.  True, often that information might not be correct.  But to try to control that message to inhibit people from sharing their thoughts, ideas or opinions isn’t going to work.  It’s like trying hold a gallon of sand in your hand; it’ll first start to slip through your fingers and then eventually come pouring out.  The NFL would be better served to realize this now and refrain from trying to restrict entirely the information, but perhaps rather limit the information (e.g.- no distribution of injury related information).  They’d stand a much better chance of achieving their objective if they started with a reasonable goal.

I personally cannot wait until Ochocinco twitter’s after his first touchdown of the season.  It’ll be great to see how the league tries to penalize him.

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