Is the NFL Losing 45% of Its Fan Base?
If NFL stood for "not for long" instead of "National Football League," the debate would center on how much more time it would take for its reputation to recover from a perceived cover-up of a crime—Ray Rice punching and knocking out his then-fiancé, now-wife, Janay Palmer, in February in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Or "NFL" could continue to stand for what comes up in Twitter searches on Wednesday for the trending topic of #RayRice: "Related Searches: #nfl, #domesticviolence"
The Ray Rice situation serves as a marketing lesson for leaders of brands who think customers will stay, no matter what, because they love/want/need/are addicted to their products. As the tobacco industry can tell the NFL, there's always a turning point. And decisions organizations make during the turning point can make all the difference. (See below for details of the consequences for the tobacco industry's cover-up.)
If brands contemplate a cover-up, one crisis communications thought leader says to think again. "The cover up can be worse than the crime," says Judy A. Smith, founder and president of Smith & Company.
Even as the Baltimore Ravens let Rice go and the NFL suspends him indefinitely, is it enough for the 45 percent of NFL fans who are women? Or will the problem blow up and become bigger than Rice?
" 'Suspended indefinitely' 'Not ruling out Rice playing in NFL ever again' Why? Why should anybody ever get away with assaulting anyone? @NFL," tweets @TheDesertDoll on Tuesday. "If he ever plays another game in the NFL, I'll never buy another licensed NFL product again. I refuse. I don't condone domestic violence."
@NFL doesn't respond to her, but tweets on Wednesday, "Commissioner Goodell sends letter to owners detailing Ray Rice investigation: http://on.nfl.com/1uIZ8h2"
The letter from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the NFL didn't ask the casino directly for the video, but requested it from many law enforcement agencies.