Never Forget… and do the DAMN RIGHT THING!

So week one of the new NFL season is in the books and what have we learned?  Well, the lockout hasn’t seemed to diminish offensive production that many had predicted (Brady threw for 517 yards and 4 TDs… I guess those of you who I suggested to draft him #1 in your fantasy leagues can now elicit a cohesive… ‘you told me so!’).  Tony Romo is still a choke artist, the NFC East (which is all anyone should care about) is going to be a battle between our beloved Iggles and – gasp – the Redskins????  And, perhaps most importantly, the NFL remains the best run marketing organization – on the planet!

Why you ask?  Well it’s not due to promoting ‘team’ over the individual (how’s the latter working for you, NBA???  Wait, that’s right, you aren’t going to matter for quite a long time…), nor having a game that translates perfectly for TV (sorry NHL, love you, but I’m in the minority), nor the brute force collisions that make us cringe but force us back time and time again (NOT going to rip MLB – Phillies btw just suffered their 50th loss… most teams hit 50 losses around June 15th!).  No, they are so successful because they DO THE RIGHT THING WHEN IT MATTERS MOST!

For any who missed the opening kick-off festivities from last weekend’s action, each stadium paid tribute to the 9-11 heroes and victims by unfurling gigantic American flags accompanied by moments of silence and stirring renditions of our national anthem.  The flags were supported not by the players (though they joined in later) but by the families who lost so much on that fateful day 10 years ago and the first responder heroes who risk their lives everyday to keep us from harm’s way.  This was all extremely appropriate, heartfelt, and honorable… but pales by comparison to what followed later that evening.

Major League Baseball had their chance to also set aside 1 day (out of 162 regular season games + playoffs + world series) to allow for a tribute by its players to honor both the 9-11 heroes and their loved ones whose scars are re-opened with every new terror attack/alert/warning – any place on the globe. The NY Mets – who I routinely lambaste when given the chance – desired to wear hats in their nationally televised game bearing the logos of the NYPD and FDNY, to honor the fallen who so bravely entered the World Trade Center infernos as well as those who continue to do so today.  MLB’s answer: “Get ready for hefty fines“.

The NFL is often dubbed the ‘No Fun League‘ as they routinely slap players with uniform violations for mis-matched socks and the like; have legislated (some) show-boating out of the game; issue unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for excessive celebrations and for taking off helmets in a ‘look at me’ show of exuberance; for preventing players from Tweeting too close to kick-off (forget about during the games!); etc., etc., etc.  But you know what they DIDN’T do during the games on 9/11????  That’s right… they DIDN’T fine the players for paying tribute via their uniforms to the heroes and victims of 9/11. Meanwhile, the erstwhile commissioner of MLB baseball, Bud Selig, threatened heavy fines to the Mets if they went with the NYPD/FDNY hats over special hats that MLB had prepared for all of the teams to wear… which was a nice gesture for sure, but also one with a profit motive attached as replicas of said hats are now offered for sale… a portion of which is going to 9/11 charities, but a lot of which is profit for MLB.

It’s no surprise that the NFL has taken over as ‘Americas Game’:  From ignoring the health needs of ex-players, to being late to the game in seriously studying/treating the impact of concussions, to a protracted work stoppage this past off-season that could have eroded fan loyalty, to continual scandals of rising stars dating back to their college careers, to vastly overpaid divas acting as, well, divas, the ‘teflon’ league steams along unscathed.  Why? Because they keep the customer #1.  That’s it.  Well, they also have great product but so do most of their competitors.  They routinely keep fans top of mind throughout the gameday experience at the stadium or on the couch… and a little thing known as fantasy football that allows all of us to become coaches and general managers.  Why do I mention fantasy football?  Because the league wisely hasn’t banned its own players from actually playing along with all of us… how’s that for marketing?

Bottom line is that if you want your customers coming back for more, do right by them all the time.  This demands adjusting rigid decisions in the face changing environments. The fact that Major League Baseball prevented one of its two teams most geographically impacted by the 9-11 tragedy from honoring the fallen and those close to them in a manner best determined by the team is simply further tragedy.  But also serves as a lesson that there are better business considerations beyond boardroom decisions; most importantly, doing the damn right thing even if it flies in the face of short-term profits!

  1. Nice TC!

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