Even though Commissioner Roger Goodell won’t admit it, the return of the permanent officials to National Football League games is a victory for PR.
The tipping point in negotiations that had dragged on for months was an embarrassment on Monday Night Football. The botched call by the officiating crew in that game transformed this controversy from a sports story causing annoyance for fans to the most talked news about story in America. Even the President of the United States, on the campaign trail, mentioned it. In addition to Presidential frustration, this story soared social media to new heights. It resulted in the most re-tweeted tweet of all time, from a Packers’ player. Plus, it resulted in the most-watched SportsCenter ever on ESPN – a program that has been on the air since 1979. The onslaught of negative coverage, reflective of negative emotions, singled potentially bad business to come.
Because the only upside in this mess was the number of clicks the video of the controversial game ended was getting on the NFL’s online channels, the League had to act and the officials’ union had to get real about some of its demands.
Whenever fans have to think of sports as a business, it tends to be bad for sports and potentially bad for business. In this case, fans, looking for an escape from their everyday, were forced to think of the realities of the NFL’s everyday. For the NFL, it’s best to let customers concentrate on America’s most popular game, not the business, of football. The PR imperative enabled that to come together.
At its best, PR should lead to business results. Often, PR can lead to business solutions. Anybody who thinks otherwise just isn’t paying attention to the story behind the stories.