The NFL brand wins the day

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

12 March 2014

The NFL has become a full-year news cycle

The NFL brand hasn’t had a day like yesterday. As the league opened its business season, allowing teams to sign free agents, Twitter exploded (and crashed, momentarily), more than 60 players switched teams and, according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, more than $1 billion worth of contracts were signed.

That doesn’t even count the endless list of players who remain unsigned, including stars like DeMarcus Ware (multi-time Pro Bowler cut by Dallas) and Darrelle Revis, the best cornerback in the league (Tampa Bay is fielding offers and may cut him today).

“The NFL brand is so strong it even owns March.”


NFL brandEven Jonathan Martin, the victim in the Richie Incognito affair in Miami, was traded to San Francisco, where he’ll reunite with his old college coach from Stanford, Jim Harbaugh.

What in blazes is going on here?

Without getting into the nitty-gritty of salary caps, depth charts and structured deals, I have one answer: The NFL brand is so strong it even owns March.

All you have to do to know the power of the NFL brand is that, during the season, the highest-rated TV show across all networks during the week is Sunday Night Football on NBC. Now, the airwaves are dominated with NFL news, overshadowing college basketball, NASCAR and the NBA. Google Trends is all about the NFL today.

In the midst of all this, consider where the NFL currently stands. The popularity of the NFL, possibly unprecedented, is astronomical even though the league is under fire over concussions that threaten to make the sport disappear, not to mention the locker room issues brought to light by the Martin-Incognito affair and even star tight end Aaron Hernandez waiting trial for murder.

Basically, we’re all in denial. And that’s because the NFL brand is so powerful that we’re willing to overlook its flaws to embrace it.

That’s a brand. So, note to those companies and brands that have issues that threaten to cripple them. You can’t price your way out of the issues. You can’t promote product benefits to do it. You can’t even overcome them with a one-on-one sales staff that meets regularly with customers.

Nope. You can only overcome issues by having a brand that is so powerfully meaningful that you are preferred despite all the negativity.

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