I’m not sure about you, but I’m an avid fan of professional football. I’m amazed by the athleticism, skill and talent displayed on the field each week between September and February. Personally, I’m a Carolina Panthers fan, which can make for some challenging Sundays.
This season has been especially tough as the NFL has been embroiled in a controversy that has diverted attention from the play on the field to a focus on the pregame protests and subsequent reactions from fans and owners alike. Not only has this controversy raised questions related to decreased television audiences and stadium attendance, it has also taken a toll on the nearly 100-year-old brand.
According to a Winston Group Survey conducted each month, the NFL’s unfavorable rating has increased from 23% at the end of August 2017 to 38% at the end of November 2017 (down from a high of 40% in September and October). To put this into context, Major League Baseball’s unfavorability rating is only 15% and and even the somewhat controversial NBA comes in at 26%. So, needless to say, the NFL’s brand reputation has suffered considerably due to this season’s distractions. And the league’s handling of the situation has led to disappointment from both those for and against the protests.
But why should we care that a bunch of well-paid owners, athletes and league officials are under fire? Because this kind of damage can be inflicted on our organizations’ brands just as quickly. With that in mind, here are a few things the NFL and our organizations can do to help us maintain the integrity of our brands.
1) Stay laser-focused on your mission
Mission creep is one of the most common and destructive misses made by organizations. Keep your eye on the ball and stay true to your primary purpose. While social justice is a noble cause, when players and owners turned their attention to protests and crisis management, their brand suffered. Fans just wanted to watch football, which is the primary mission of the NFL. Be cautious when you’re tempted to extend your services, expand your market or open new offices. Though it could be the right move, you may also be putting your organization’s brand at risk.
2. Remember your WHY
Your organization was likely started by someone who was passionate about the cause. Their WHY (or belief) was the motivating factor for seeking to fulfill your mission. The WHY is your true north. Your guiding light. While I’m not certain, the NFL’s why is probably that it believes the game of football can make life better in some way for the fans, players and owners. Do you know your organization’s WHY? Is it really true for you and your organization? Knowing and adhering to your belief, like your mission, will help ensure your brand maintains its integrity.
3. Be consistent
Supporters want to know what to expect from an organization. In the NFL’s case, fans were disappointed by the incongruent messages delivered by players, owners and the media. When it comes to your nonprofit, is your organization consistently communicating its mission, its impact, its needs and the opportunities for supporters to contribute to the cause? If not, it’s not too late. At Angel Oak Creative, we use tools like strategic plans, campaign overviews, messaging matrices, content calendars and more to help our clients plan for and execute consistent communications across all of their channels.
You’ve invested a great deal in building your organization’s brand. Maybe not the billions the NFL has, but to you and your supporters, your brand is just as important and valuable. Be sure you’re taking steps to maintain the integrity of your brand by staying focused on your mission, remembering your WHY and consistently communicating to your donors, volunteers and the public. And be sure to check out our Nonprofit Nuggets for more tips on how to make the most of your nonprofit’s communications.
– David Chatham, Senior Marketing Consultant