Update: This is a blog I posted earlier today. Now, later in the day, Marino has withdrawn his inclusion into the suit, which you can read here. Still, the point still stands. If anyone of Marino’s stature joins the suit, it affects the brand and perception we have of that suit. The same applies for any brand and its associations.
In terms of public perception, former NFL great Dan Marino entering the retired players’ lawsuit against the league over hiding the effects of concussions could change things.
The reason is simple. It’s about brand. Really.
Up till now, I suspect most NFL fans have basically ignored the suit, noting only that it has brought about change in the game itself as the league attempts to better protect its players. That is a good thing, but it has left some fans and even current players complaining that the game has become too soft.
But now that Marino has entered the fray, the perception might change. As many of you know (because the NFL might more popular now than any sport in US history), Marino is an all-time great. He is a record-breaking quarterback for the Miami Dolphins who is likeable and charismatic pitchman on TV, as well as an analyst. Marino is one of the chosen ones and has been one of the most recognizable figures in league history.
When we at Stealing Share talk about brand, we say that we choose brands that are a reflection of me. In the NFL, that’s why you’ll have fans living in South Dakota who are Pittsburgh Steeler fans. There’s something about the Steeler brand that is an aspirational reflection of who that South Dakotan wants to be.
Marino represents that self-identification for many as well. I first got the sense that the perception of the lawsuit might change when NFL legend Brett Favre (another icon fans identify with) said he wasn’t sure he’d let his son play football if he had one. (Even as Favre is coaching a high school team in Mississippi now that he’s retired.) There was a pause among many fans that thought, why would Favre say that?
Now, the question is why is Marino doing this? Sports Illustrated’s Peter King notes in today’s column that nobody really knows at this point, but I’m sure that many fans (like me) are asking if maybe this is something that should be examined closer now that Marino is involved.
Maybe the game hasn’t become too soft. Maybe it hasn’t become soft enough.