If you're the NFL, you're getting a little worried. (Of course, there's MLB's steroid issue and the NBA's gambling referees, but that's for another blog!). After the Michael Vick mess, how do you go about re-selling the perception that all NFL players aren't dog killers? You run great PSAs (see sidebar with links below).
That's been the NFL's solution, using a host of star players from Matt Hasselbeck and newcomer Brady Quinn, to Braylon Edwards and Vince Young. As obvious and cliché as this tactic may be, surrounding these players with children or talking about their families is smart marketing. As Lisa Baird of the NFL's marketing department clearly points out, "It's as simple as this. We're going to do everything necessary to protect the strength of our brand."
The N.F.L.'s new TV advertisements:
This tactic can be especially useful for personality jocks that occasionally cross one line or another. I remember how well it worked back when the late Henry "The Bull" Del Toro was the bad boy of the FM99 show back in the '80s. Henry did some pretty vile things at times, but always came back with a high profile charitable tactic, such as locking himself in a cage at the local SPCA to draw attention and money to help orphaned cats and dogs.
In our focus groups, it was fascinating to hear listeners literally argue about Henry. Just when the group would get into that mob riot mode about something heinous that Henry had done, another listener would remind everybody about one of Henry's noteworthy civic activities. The show was able to maintain a comfortable balance between good and evil, enabling it to remain successful for many years.
The NFL's tactics have application for morning and personality shows everywhere, especially those that sometimes cross that line. For Michael Vick personally, it will be a long road back. But for the NFL, they will indeed recover and prosper.