If you think you can diminsh any part of your business without sacrificing your brand, you have not been paying attention to the National Football League (NFL) this season.
The NFL team owners and commissioner locked out the regular officials after collective bargaining negotiations failed to achieve a settlement. The NFL hired replacement officials with the assumption that the integrity and quality of America’s favorite sport would not diminish for enough fans to care.
The NFL was wrong and failed miserably at protecting its image.
In the last two weeks, the replacement officials have become the punchline to a very bad joke. The officials are out of position, not applying rules correctly, and influencing outcomes of games. The most glaring example was the September 24, 2012 game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks when the Seahawks benefitted from highly questionable calls correctly identified by the national sports media.
The NFL, usually a league obsessed with its image and branding, has completely failed with its experiment. The league did not realize how important all aspects of its on-field product is to its cusotmers’ (the fans) enjoyment of the game. The officials are usually only noticed when they make mistakes, and fans are quick to criticize and blame them for poor results. However, professional officials are a critical part of a sports league’s on-field success.
What can your business learn from the NFL’s failure? There are three key lessons.
1. Do not ignore the little things – The smallest detail can impact how your customers view your company. One of the key complaints I’ve heard about NFL officials is they take too long to discuss penalty enforcement. This seems like a small detail, but lengthy discussions can disrupt the flow of the game. What little details should be a part of your branding review?
2. Invest in all parts of your branding – The NFL has locked out its officials over 0.33% of annual revenue. The league generates over $9 BILLION in revenue each year, but they are using replacement officials because of a $3 million gap in benefits. Would you allow a key part of your identity to be destroyed because of less than 1% of revenue? Make sure you are not losing money by not investing in your key resources.
3. Do not become arrogant – The NFL is a tremendously successful league, and the NFL thought fans would accept substandard officiating as a cost of doing business. The furor over the results of the last two weeks has shown the NFL its arrogance was misplaced. The league is taking a tremendous public relations beating.
If a major business like the NFL can lose its brand value, it can happen to any of us. What can you do to avoid the lessons of the NFL? Share your comments below!