December 4, 2018
NFL Found the Secret to Revival: Touchdowns
For two years, the most popular, and one of the most profitable, programs on television suffered an ongoing consumer PR crisis. The NFL just couldn’t seem to get out of its own way. From Roger Goodell being booed during televised draft programs to the exodus of fans from live games and TV viewing, the NFL struggled to find solutions to their nagging troubles.
The issues, from the fans’ perspectives, were many: the deaths of legendary players from brain disease, unpopular rule changes, the anthem scandal, the so-called “coddling” of quarterbacks, and the off-the-field issues of well-paid players committing violent crimes and seeming to receive relative slaps on the wrist. As of this writing, it was announced a player accused not once, but twice, of domestic violence was signed by the Redskins just after being cut by the 49ers. Fans and critics raged.
For years, the NFL has pondered what to do to repair its image. They needed to be seen to be protecting players without diluting what people loved about football: the combination of violence and artistry that thrilled and enthralled. So, they made rule changes that, mostly, impacted defensive players, and those changes were called “too much” and “too far.” Even former players accused the league of coddling players and watering down the game.
Then came the ambivalent and indecisive actions related to the anthem protest controversy. Millions of fans were enraged, on both sides of the issue, but the league did nothing. Then it did something… and quickly took it back. This reversal earned the NFL more scorn, so the 2018 season kicked off in an cloud of uncertainty and protest.
Then came the touchdowns.
Upstart programs like the newly-relocated LA Rams and the resurgent Kansas City Chiefs started putting up numbers that looked more like NCAA basketball scores week in and week out. This electricity on the field culminated in a showdown that broke all sorts of long standing NFL records, as the Rams edged the Chiefs 54-51 on Monday Night Football.
This game earned the league some of the best ratings in nearly half a decade, and easily the best MNF ratings in several years. Ratings were huge for that game, but that wasn’t the only game in town getting people excited. Parity in the league made certain games more competitive, the Browns started showing sparks, and the Saints’ ageless quarterback Drew Brees broke a passing record with a 60-plus-yard bomb in front of a rapturous home crowd.
When Brees knelt down to hug his children, the on-field camera caught his message: Work hard, don’t quit, and you can accomplish anything. Middle America, raging since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee, heard the message they had been waiting to hear. Suddenly, football – especially NFL football – was about hard work paying off again… and not about politics.
It took touchdowns to get people paying attention again, and, when they did, they liked what they saw and what they heard. The league is not completely clear of scandal and PR issues, but the tide seems to be turning, because the league gave the fans what they wanted to see and presented the message they wanted to hear.
-Ronn Torossian, 5WPR CEO