Sunday, March 27, 2011

The NFL Crisis

As the Nfl and the Player's Union continue the lockout, and as the upcoming season is more and more in peril, both groups continue to shoot themselves in the foot with generally bad PR. First, look at the Player's Union. These are the guys that everybody wants to win. They are the face of the league. Drew Brees. Peyton Manning. Brian Urlacher. All players who fans both love and adore. I agree with many of the concerns the players have. First of all is the concern over the expansion of the season from a 16-game season to an 18-game season. It's a bad idea. They players know it. The owners know it too, yet they will overlook it if it means chances to pad their Titanic-sized wallets. Many notable injuries occur to star players every year, such as Tom Brady (2008), Brian Urlacher (2009), and Troy Polamalu (2010). If the league expands the number of games played in the regular season, it will exponentially increase the chances that your star players, or most marketable players, could spend a majority or at least part of the season on the bench due to injuries. This will cause an adverse effect to team revenue. If your star player goes down and your NFL team implodes because the don't have the right personnel, your revenues will reflect that the fan base has become uninterested in that season's team (2010 Dallas Cowboys anyone?). Second, the NFL brought in $9 billion dollars last year in revenue. That's right, $9 BILLION. With all that increased revenue, wouldn't one think that the NFL would offer the best healthcare to its players, coupled with the fact that football is the most physically demanding on your body? It's the opposite, actually. The NFL players receive the least amount of healthcare among the four major sports leagues in North America, (MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL.) With all these facts, fans want to root for the players. Except for the fact they can't get their act together. Between the lack of unity in the Union (ironic), and players speaking out of place for an organization that doesn't back those players feelings, the Union is in a world of hurt. Recently, Minnesota Vikings star running-back, Adrian Peterson, compared the player's woes with “...modern-day slavery, ya know?” No, Adrian, no. You just wrecked the PR the Union was attempting to put together. Peterson, who made $7 million last year, is far from a slave. That statement made fans across the nation think twice before jumping on the players bandwagon...
So for the owners now, how do the fight this uphill battle against the Player's Union? Well it doesn't help that owners are handing out ultimatums. If you have ever had relationship problems (and who hasn't?), you know that ultimatums are a surefire to either end up on the couch or packing your things. The owners and the NFL did just that when the stated that mandatory HGH screenings were going to take place in the NFL format, with or without consent of the players. The players' response? “Screw you.” Well done NFL. Maybe I'll get into watching pro fishing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

More Headaches for NHL

The NHL’s headaches continue as the league has continued taking fire for the seemingly increased amount of serious injuries happening on the ice. After the incident between Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and Max Pacioretty, Air Canada, Canada’s largest airline company, threatened to pull its sponsorship.  The hit came in the second period of a game between Boston and Montreal with Montreal up 4-1. Chara checked Pacioretty into the boards and the divider between the teams’ benches, striking his head. The hit left Pacioretty with a major concussion and broken vertebrae in his neck, and Chara received a minor penalty and a major game misconduct.  No suspension. No fine. The hit upset Canadians so much that the Montreal Police launched a criminal investigation into the hit.
The ruling brought the league under more scrutiny in the wake of a series of dangerous plays that have happened along with an increased awareness of concussions. The NHL has enacted rules to decreased direct hits to the head but concussions have still risen this season.  Air Canada, one of the NHL’s longtime sponsors, threatened the NHL to remove its sponsorship unless they punish Chara for the hit. The NHL is standing by its decision to neither fine nor suspend Chara because the play was clean by rule book, and the league could find no intentional motive. It should be noted that Chara is the biggest player in the league at 6’9” and 255 pounds, making a routine check for him thunderous for smaller players.
Should the NHL have suspended him not based on the rule but for the sake of the league’s image? Yes. The NHL has risen in concussions and is facing more ridicule for the gladiator like play that takes place in rinks. The league should have suspended Chara to send a message to players, fans and sponsors that league is serious about protecting its players and has more to offer than just a bunch of “toothless goons” trying to knock each other out. Protect your skilled players so you have them to market to new potential markets.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good PR will get your client noticed and the professional will remain nameless. Bad PR will get the client under public scrutiny and the professional almost certainly fired. THQ, the video game company behind the new game, Homefront ,is most likely handing out pink slips in the PR department. The video game is based on a fictitious plot where the United States has lost its position as a world power and is occupied by the nearly formed Great Korean Republic. In an attempt to promote the game's release and send a message of peace to North Korea, THQ released a thousand balloons over San Fransisco Bay. However, due to poor planning and inclement weather, the balloons never got off the ground...literally.
The weather made it impossible for the balloons to get farther than the bay before they dropped into the water, causing outrage among locals and environmental groups. The bay has been plagued with environmental problems, prompting criticism from the organization, Save the Bay. Initially, Gamestop, the video game retailer, was accused of the publicity stunt but denied allegations all together. THQ was then forced to step up and take responsibility with this statement:

The balloons released at the Homefront rally event today were made from a 100% organic product and are 100% biodegradable. The balloons have no history of causing any environmental pollution on land or in water. Although we're confident that there will be no harm to the environment, we've retained a clean up crew to remove any potential lingering debris. This was a THQ-sponsored promotion and GameStop had no involvement, whatsoever.

So where did THQ go wrong in an attempt to promote Homefront? Well first, THQ failed to research before it decided to pull the publicity stunt. Had it been aware of the environmental situation in San Francisco Bay, it would have first talked with groups, such as Save The Bay, to let them know that all the balloons are biodegradable. It would have saved the THQ the tarnished reputation in which they were called environmentally reckless. Second, THQ failed to check the weather. Had they checked the weather and had a reliable meteorologist, they would have been advised to reschedule the event for another day.
But THQ's promotional blunder wasn't all bad. I applaud the company for stepping up and taking responsibility for their actions. Even still, it all goes to show that research is the most important step of the communication plan. It establishes a baseline for your plan and gives it a fighting chance to get off the ground.