Viewership is down, viewership is up, viewership is down again.
Whether you blame it on the elections, deteriorating quality of play, the antics of Tom Brady or the protests of Colin Kaepernick, the reality is that NFL viewership is off and the NFL should be doing whatever it can to regain viewers. Sure, an estimated 100 million people will tune into SuperBowl LI but how many will still be viewing come next season (or perhaps even after the halftime commercials)?
When Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed recently suggested that Atlanta should open the soon-to-be-demolished Georgia Dome so fans could pile in and watch, the NFL should have been thrilled. An honest-to-goodness, city-sanction celebration should have been a windfall of PR opportunity for the NFL. And given the much publicized success of the Cleveland Indians Postseason World Series Watch Parties, this seemed an obvious choice with potential for sponsorship by a home grown brand (the Progressive Field parties were presented by Pepsi).
Instead the NFL in all their greediness said no and suggested fans congregate at their favorite neighborhood watering hole.
Certainly the NFL makes money on licensing and viewership and eyeballs but they are going to get the same metrics if I view the game in a bar or at the dome, so there is truly nothing to be lost here except good will.
And with this we have a PR 101 lesson. When the media gives you an opportunity to do something good, especially something with little or no cost, you take advantage of it. You get out in front of it and make it like it was your idea. You capitalize on the opportunity to turn it into something that can generate money — positive earned media, attraction and retention of new fans — and you don’t let the well-meaning folks in charge of finance or legal stand in your way. Certainly the NFL is paying some mighty proficient communications professionals to promote their brand. Isn’t it time we let them do their job?