Entries tagged with “NFL”.

What’s worse than being a liar? Falsely – and knowingly – accusing someone else of being one.

Completely unconnected yet intrinsically linked, both Penn State and Syracuse universities are under fire for child molestation charges surrounding athletic coaches.  While the charges against former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky have been hovering publicly over the university for weeks, the allegations against Big Orange’s associate head basketball coach, Bernie Fine, surfaced just Sunday night.

Both universities have done a poor job handling media relations – and both have used possibly the worst public relations move in the books: Accusing the accusers, without a shred of supporting evidence.

When the charges against Fine initially were brought to light, Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim was anything but sympathetic to the three alleged victims who came forward. He called them “liars” in the media and accused them of just being out for the money. Similarly, now-former Penn State University President Graham Spanier implied in his media release that the victims in Sandusky’s case were lying: “I am confident the record will show that these charges are groundless,” he wrote.

Besides being boldly insensitive, it was a big mistake.

In both situations, the price is high for covering-up information and completely disregarding victims’ legitimate allegations. Yet one school is learning from the other’s blunders. While Penn State foot-dragged and cancelled press conferences, Syracuse has been proactive in its crisis communications plan. For that, it should be commended.  In an effort not to repeat the serious lapses of Penn State — and after seeing Spainer lose his job — Syracuse Chancellor Nancy Cantor has taken the right steps to uncover the cover-up.

In a release Sunday night, the school announced upfront and outright, “At the direction of Chancellor Cantor, Bernie Fine’s employment with Syracuse University has been terminated, effective immediately.” No games. No deflections of blame. No cover-ups. And Cantor wants you to know this is under her order.

As a Sports Illustrated column so eloquently explains, “Syracuse is learning a lesson from Penn State, a lesson that every university and major institution needs to learn: When an accusation like this hits you, don’t hit back.  And the best way to protect yourself is not to look like you’re protecting yourself at all.”

And that’s no lie.

The University of Miami football scandal has rocked the college sports community, players, and coaches for almost a month now.

In mid-August Yahoo! Sports reported the corruption within the University of Miami football program- detailing a UM football booster’s showering of 72 players (and even administrators!) with lavish gifts including parties at night clubs, prostitutes, jewelry, clothing, and electronics. Nevin Shapiro, the culprit who is currently serving time for a $930 million dollar Ponzi scheme, wined and dined the players to get into the “in crowd,” and develop a posse of top players turning top recruits and then pro. Shapiro is serving a 20-year prison sentence for his actions- but the University of Miami as a college, community, and brand is facing serious repercussions. In fact, in their September 5th game against Maryland, certain UM players who were deemed ineligible to play because of their part in the scandal left many inexperienced freshmen taking over their positions. The investigation will continue on.

The scandal floats like a black cloud over campus, and University President Donna E. Shalala has only recently instated a crisis communications plan. As WPLG-Miami reporter Michael Putney writes in his opinion piece in The Miami Herald on August 23rd, “UM President Donna Shalala certainly didn’t look good the other day striding around the campus with a pasted-on grin as she welcomed reporters, none of whose questions she would answer…Not even ‘no comment.’” Even if Shalala didn’t have all of the facts, we at Boardroom Communications would have advised her to at least let reporters know she was on their side. She could have said, “I have no comment at this time other than to say that we are taking this very seriously and investigating it,” or something of this nature, from the very start. Putney puts it well, asking, “Why didn’t Shalala just call a news conference, say she wouldn’t be answering questions and read the limp, ineffectual statement her office issued…?” Maybe the media would’ve given her a break if she went humbly to the camera right away.

Then again, it probably wasn’t too fun greeting the parents and students of the Class of 2015 amidst the biggest scandal in University of Miami history.

Shalala did pen a letter to the community, and has made two videos reaching out to the university and community at large- directly addressing the incident from her own office. “When our values come into question, we only have one option,” she says in the video. “Do what is right and have confidence in tomorrow. The allegations leveled…are serious. And we are treating them with the urgency and priority they warrant.” Shalala also notes that the NCAA has instructed her and the university to not yet comment on specifics, and her personal frustration with being “unable to speak more freely and answer questions.”

Though initially faltering (and getting beaten for it), Shalala is starting to take the right steps by confidently looking straight into the camera and accepting responsibility for this scandal. When CEOS and corporate executives are faced with any sort of catastrophe, more often than not there is simply a press release, a general statement sent to publications and mass media, and nothing more. Shalala has employed a simple yet successful public relations strategy- appearing personal, humbled, and intimate with her audience and community. It’s obvious that she and the University of Miami administration are trying very hard to remain proactive in an attempt to redeem themselves and the reputation of their college. Thankfully, their current coach Al Golden remains untainted by the scandal- having arrived long after Shapiro’s departure. If he takes the reins and focuses on the future, maybe, just maybe, Miami can recover.

Under the “What was he thinking category..”

‘Ex-NFL Coach to Help Position $150M Male-Enhancement Brand as Mass-Market Product’


The above headline appeared in a recent article in Advertising Age, trumpeting football great Jimmy Johnson as the new pitchman for ExtenZe, a male enhancement supplement whose infomercials have been blanketing cable and satellite television for years.

Johnson is among the most famous football figures of the past 30 years. He was the first football head coach to win both a college championship (University of Miami in 1987) and a Super Bowl (Dallas Cowboys in 1992 and 1993). More recently, he has been a TV studio analyst for Fox Sports, appearing in its pre-game show on Sundays.

In his newest job with ExtenZe, Johnson told Ad Age’s Jack Neff,” “Most men want to perform the best they can in just about everything,”

In the TV ad, Johnson says, “Isn’t that why we buy the biggest and best of everything?” He signs off with the tagline: “Go long with ExtenZe. I do.”

The question is, why would a successful sports celeb like Jimmy Johnson choose a supplement that gives men hope of becoming better lovers/performers?  When I saw the TV ad for the first time this morning, I was more than surprised to see Johnson pitching for the product.

Tiger Woods took few risks when choosing which companies to associate with his reputation as a winner. This appears to be the opposite scenario for Johnson, in terms of the potential hit to his image and legal risks of pitching a product that the FDA has not evaluated for the claims made in ads.

Some might say Johnson isn’t much different from professional athletes who do ads for beers or pain remedies. As a public relations and reputation management consultant, I beg to differ. It must have been the money.

Corporations went to great lengths and expense at Super Bowl XLIV to make the weekend in Miami fun — but not for the fun of it. Participation in events with a global audience can help a company make money, Boardroom Communications COO Don Silver told NBC 6 for a news report that aired on the eve of the big game.

Even though there is a trend to tone down the glitz and spending, companies still look for high-profile opportunities to showcase their products and services. Most important, Silver told a WTVJ reporter, the Super Bowl provides business owners and managers an exciting stage on which to solidify and build relationships with those most important to them: customers, prospects, distributors, vendors and employees.

A company that engages in sports marketing should evaluate whether the rewards justify the costs. If the payoff is there, he said, the public relations and advertising efforts tend to fall into these categories:

  • Branding of events and locations, such as the recent renaming of Sun Life Stadium, where the Super Bowl was played
  • Gaining paid endorsements from famous athletes like the Indianapolis Colts’ Peyton Manning
  • Getting exposure through sponsorships of sports organizations like the NFL
  • Hosting of events tied or timed to high-visibility sports competitions such as the Super Bowl

Even if a company has no direct connection to sports, the association with the nation’s most watched sporting event creates a buzz, Silver said. The lucky people invited to a sit in a skybox or go inside the velvet ropes of a VIP event come away with a more positive impression of a company or brand.

To capitalize on the huge audiences that watch the Super Bowl, many makers of consumer products and services think it is a good investment to pay millions of dollars for a 30-second spot to reach hundreds of millions of viewers, Silver said. Those dollars are leveraged through the free exposure that their crazy-funny ads get from news and entertainment media.

The most popular videos get free publicity through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This is known as earned media, Silver said.

Super Bowl ads can also support online marketing campaigns that drive people to a company’s Web site, Facebook page or virtual store, he said. And the spots can help young companies and non-profit causes gain national notice from consumers and potential supporters.