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The NFL Woos Female Fans – Just Not on Pinterest

On September 5th, Bloomberg Business Week published an article with the title “How the NFL Woos Female Fans.” Within the article the NFL’s Vice President Brand & Creative, Jaime Weston explains some of the reasons behind the push:

“About four years ago, there was a push, recognizing how many women fans we have, that we need to speak to them. And while they follow the game like every other fan, like our male fans, they do want to be spoken to in a little bit different way.”

The article goes on to share the efforts the league will make to reach out to female fans, including a special insert in Marie Claire, print ads, TV spots and the pop-up boutiques called “style lounges.” Note that this push began four years ago.

This morning, I watched the 10am Chargers game, drank my coffee and perused Pinterest. I checked out the NFL’s account. I am disappointed. Where is the strategy? Knowing that (still) nearly 80% of pinners are women, it would seem that a well developed Pinterest strategy would help the NFL connect with precisely the audience it wants to woo.  I would think that the stats for purchasing power alone would lure the NFL to Pinterest. Here’s a screenshot of what the NFL has going at the moment:

NFL Pinterest Page


Haphazard attempt, it appears. In the “NFL” board, there are roughly 530 pins. And the content is all over the place. Some of it is news, some of it is cool photography, some of the pins are uploaded, some are repins. For many of the photos which are uploaded by the NFL, the URL redirects you to the Pinterest account, not to the NFL site or blog or press or the store. There is no care in the captions and no strategic use of hashtags. All I can think is, “Some dude who totally doesn’t get Pinterest must be running this account.”

In fact, on the board titled “NFL Store,” many of the products are not from the NFL store, but from Amazon. The seven pins on the “NFL- Women’s Fashion board have nothing to do with football at all and look like an Amazon wish list of the person behind Pinterest. Speaking of which…The two main boards are managed by multiple people, people who do not look to be affiliated with the NFL. On the “NFL” board, these accounts are also pinning.

NFL Pinner

NFL Pinner 2

And on the “NFL Store” board, these two accounts have been added as managers.

NFL Pinner 3

NFL Pinner 4

Who are these people and how are they representative of the NFL?  Is this is an NFL Official account at all? And what do you know … This website, note the address – nfloffical.org – and the random Pinterest accounts behind it appear to be the very unofficial NFL organization presenting themselves as the real National Football League.

NFL Official dot ORG


FUMBLE! Wow. I cannot possibly be the first person who has followed this train of thought.

The NFL needs to get a handle on this – and quick. This nflofficial.org account has accumulated 15,570 followers (people who likely believe that this is the real NFL account). NFL Official, the largest of accounts with “NFL” in their name, is completely misrepresenting the league. Essentially, the NFL has NO presence on Pinterest. The NFL is SO missing an opportunity to woo its female fans via a major social network dominated by women.

How can the NFL get set up on Pinterest and truly connect with female fans?  Here are a few of the boards I would set up:

  • One board per team (and work with each team’s digital media director to insist that all 32 teams are following a similar Pinterest strategy so that repins are stategized).
  • NFL News (linking back to the NFL site and the blog and news stories)
  • NFL Players (stories featured in any publication or news outlet)
  • NFL Moms (Think Campbell’s soup)
  • NFL Biggest Fans (Feature fans from around the league)
  • Together We Are Football (Feature the stories of fans as on the site. Let most likes, repins, comments help decide who goes to the SB.)
  • NFL History (great old photos from the archives)
  • NFL Films (also from the archives)
  • NFL Fantasy Football (feature what’s happening in the leagues)
  • NFL Store (general products)
  • NFL Women’s Style
  • NFL Men’s Style
  • NFL Kid’s Style
  • Homegating (term pulled from the Bloomberg article)
  • Tailgating
  • NFL Sponsors (always good to place nice)
  • Superbowl Champions
  • Superbowl History
  • Football Movies
  • NFL Guest Pinner Week #1(this could be a contest and feature one new pinner each week)


….I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The pins of each of these boards would strategically link back to nfl.com, the NFL store, sports publications, etc. Of course, the account would repin, comment and use hashtags just as strategically. And all of this effort is measurable. Through web analytics and even Pinterest’s analytics. Is the Marie Claire insert measurable? How much will the TV spots cost? How will the NFL measure the direct impact of a TV spot?

It’s almost inconceivable that the NFL has completely ignored Pinterest and even worse that some totally random people (who don’t even appear to be football fans) have intercepted the NFL brand on the network. It’s 3rd and goal, NFL. Will you take it into the endzone for a touchdown? I’m always wooed when my team scores.



(Feature image directly from the Bloomberg article: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-09-05/how-the-nfl-woos-female-fans


NFL bans bags from stadiums for 2013 season

You’ve probably caught the news by now about the NFL banning what amounts to any kind of purse, backpack or bag into stadiums. If you missed it, you can read up HERE, HERE or even HERE. If you want to read the entire policy published by the NFL itself, you can click HERE. There’s also a friendly website which lists FAQs: http://www.nfl.com/qs/allclear/index.jsp

Understandably, people are upset. Women are particularly upset. The policy states that women are allowed to bring a clutch purse that is no bigger than a hand. Heck, photography enthusiasts should be pretty peeved, too, since camera bags are not allowed, either. Did you want to make your game experience a family outing? Sorry, diaper bags (or kid-bags) aren’t allowed. Backpacks? Uh-uh.

I understand that the NFL would like to create a safe environment for their fans. But turning stadiums into something worse than a TSA nightmare is probably not the answer. This is a sure way to alienate fans all together. Or maybe they want to turn the stadiums into a big bowl of drunk dudes? I understand the intention and reasoning for safety, however I do not agree with their decisions.

I’ve been impressed with the NFL in the last couple of years with their efforts to make football a female-friendly sport. They even launched a terrific site called the Women’s Resource Initiative. You’ll find that at: https://www.nflplayerengagement.com/wri.

So with these welcomed efforts to be more inclusive of a wider audience, I cannot understand why the NFL would institute a policy that is so extremely exclusive. It is hassle enough, and expensive enough, to enjoy a game in person. All the NFL has done by establishing the “no bag” policy is give every single fan one more reason to stay home. And is the NFL certain that come the start of the season, all fans will have gotten the memo? What chaos will there be in those first games when people bring their bags, unaware of the new policy?

thumb.aspxBy the way, you can still buy tote bags through the NFL shop (which you won’t be able to bring inside the stadium). And no surprise here – clear, branded tote bags are already for sale! http://www.nflshop.com/All_Clear

I’m curious how the fan backlash will affect this policy. I’m sure we’ll see some changes.

Tailgate with the Chargers and WISE!

For those familiar with WISE Los Angeles, I am so happy to let you know that they are expanding into San Diego. I’m so pleased to have the chance to sit on the committee and help launch this great organization in America’s Finest City. I’m really excited about our event with the Chargers on December 2nd. We’ll tailgate before the game and meet Chargers Executive VP/CFO, Jeanne Bonk. There is also an NFL Fit For You Style Lounge that day and participants receive a 15% discount on purchases. We’ve got great seats reserved in the stadium at the Endzone View Level. Have a look at our invitation on Eventbrite. You can reserve your seats right from there. I am impressed with this great group of WISE women! I highly recommend your involvement. See you on December 2nd!

What Crock-Pot Could Have Cooked Up

This tweet landed in my stream today:

And it immediately got me thinking about what Crock-Pot could have cooked up for marketing this awesome new product!

I mean … look at that! Your favorite team’s colors and logo is on a Crock-Pot! Die-hard football fans are likely to be the same people who consume the most chili on this planet. How many times have you been to a football party where chili was served?  Crock-Pot, the NFL and chili are nearly a branding match made in heaven!!!

And so, I keep scratching my head as to why the release of this perfectly branded product is so ill-timed and flying very under the radar. My marketing instincts were shouting at me…Here’s what I would have done, if I were the marketing guru at Crock-Pot:

Once the approval from the NFL was received to use the team colors and logos on a crockpot, I would have then reached out to each team’s Community Relations Director. Together, we would have held chili contests in the summer time, keeping the buzz going and engaging fans for all teams in the off season. For each team, a winning chili recipe would have been selected to accompany the team Crock-Pot. So if you bought the San Diego Chargers Crock-Pot, the San Diego fan’s winning chili recipe would be inside. Wait, there’s more!

The product would have been released shortly before pre-season with an ad-campaign featuring the chili recipe winners from each team. Crock-Pot could have partnered with S&W to feature the award-winning ingredients of football’s chili recipes (side note, but still a good opportunity).  Through the season, there would be chili cook-offs across the nation between the recipe winners featured in the team-themed Crock-Pot. Could have been set up like a tournament where the brackets are put up online and you follow your team’s chili recipe winner through the brackets. That would have led to a Superbowl Sunday chili cook-off finale extravaganza to determine which team’s fan had the winning recipe in all the league. Imagine the commercials. You could end up with some rare “live commercials” campaign during the Superbowl.

The social media marketing, promotion and engagement opportunities would be endless. Voting could have occurred online, in addition to the live chili cook-off events. People who try the included recipes could give reviews, share photos, etc. Fan participation surrounding the competition on the field and for the Crock-Pot chili challenge would spike. Gazillions of NFL Crock-Pots would have been sold. And there would be millions of satisfied bellies full of chili.

Really – how tough is it NOT to see the possibilities here? This is common sense to me. What a huge opportunity missed by Crock-Pot and the NFL. I mean, REALLY! If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, get out of the Crock-Pot!

How would you have marketed this product?


Business Lessons Learned from the NFL Referee Scandal

We can learn a lot about business from the football field. The NFL employing replacement referees came with lots of lessons. The idea that there would be a seamless transition and that, perhaps, no one would even notice, fell flat on its face.  The use of replacement referees is considered by most to be a complete fiasco.  But what lessons can we learn and apply to our own businesses?

1. Value your team

Everyone in you organization contributes to your success in a specific manner. Each employee is an integral part of the operation. Recognize the role that each team member plays and imagine trying to operate without that person. Appreciate that they are working hard and also want to see the company succeed. Take time to show your employees how much you do value them.

2. Listen

When employees raise issues, you have got to listen. It doesn’t matter if they want to talk salary, job function, a change in roles or product flaws. If an employee approaches you with an issue, it is because they care. The same goes with customers. The ones who care the most about your brand are the ones who complain. Employees and customers who raise an issue need to be heard out. It’s your opportunity to improve the business.

3. Train

Proper training cannot be touted enough. It doesn’t appear that the replacement referees where given extensive training prior to taking the field. That is the responsibility of the company. Those employees represent you, your company, your product or service and your brand. Throwing your team into the fire without proper training is recipe for failure. In addition to the specifics of their job, they need to understand what your company values, what are your goals, and what targets they are working toward. Lots of people complained about the poor performance of the replacement referees. But it was not their fault. They got called to do a job they were not trained and ready to do. They meant well and tried the best they could within their ability and experience. If the NFL wanted seamless transition, they should have spent a little effort to train the replacements.

4. Backup

Football teams have second and third string quarterbacks, baseball teams have a crew of pitchers, and the President has his VP. What’s your back-up plan? If your customer service team walked out of the office today, how would you handle it? Would you throw your accountants at the job because they “talk to customers and vendors” on a daily basis? What have you done internally to cross-train employees so that everyone can appreciate everyone else’s job? If you hire temporary employees, what will you do to ensure that they provide the same quality product or service? (See above.) No matter how well you address points 1-3, you still need a plan B.

Everyone is delighted that the real referees are back in the game and that negotiations reached an agreement. But had the NFL been more prepared for the situation, they would have been able to make it a lot less painful for the fans who love them, as well as less damaging to their brand. I’m sure the referees are glad to have their job back, but do you think they feel valued? Appreciated? With the way the negotiations where handled, what’s their level of job satisfaction?

What lessons can you pull from the NFL and the referee negotiations? Please share in the comments.

When pressure builds, what do you tweet?


Running through my various lists of San Diego Sports Tweeps today, I came across this tweet from Bill Johnston, the PR Director for the San Diego Chargers.

I was a little surprised to see the PR Director tweet something so negative.  Ridiculous?  How is pressure for a great draft ridiculous? Or is it the fans who are ridiculous for putting the pressure on the team?  I felt compelled to point this out to him. You can see here my response and his “save.”

This is a really great example of someone not taking that one extra moment to re-read a tweet before hitting the send button. With 6281+ followers, I suspect there are a few Chargers fans in the mix. Would Bill’s tweet have made a more positive impact had he posed a question?

“Who are you hoping the Chargers pick up in the NFL draft?”

Or could he have shed some light on the secret wishes of the players?

 “The buzz in the locker room is that so-and-so is high on the wish list.”

To keep the communications in the positive zone, I responded with:

Main point being, there was a good chance to engage fans and let them have a say, take a moment to interact. The comment/opinion from the PR Director only sets a stage for negative replies, as some might interpret him calling the fans ridiculous.

I’m all for being human and authentic, and certainly feel that even frustrations can be creatively vented online with a dash of humor and an open invite to comment.  When you are a public figure, or sit in a position like the PR Director for a professional sports team, you really must remember that every time you post to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or elsewhere, you really have to give second thought to how your post will resonate with your audience.  For someone in Bill’s position, he should be able to turn what seems like a personal frustration into a positive interaction with Chargers fans. Furthermore, and no less significant, when the PR Director for a sports team sends tweets out a bit haphazardly, what kind of example does that set for the players and FO staff?

How do you think Bill should have tweeted his pressure-filled comment? What examples have you seen where a negative sentiment or frustrating situation is turned into a positive moment where fans feel included?  Thanks for sharing your links in the comments!



Redskins Need a Lesson in Branding

If you follow the #smsports feed on Twitter, you may have caught the discussions about Tim Tebow’s move from the Denver Broncos to the NY Jets during the NFL trades.  You may also have caught some buzz about a particular tweet that appeared on the @Redskins feed today. The tweet that started the discussions began with a comment about Tebow’s move:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Redskins/status/182526346185015296″]


Was that the view of the team? Everyone who works for the Redskins agreed that it was an awkward fit? Collective opinion? Most of us could see that it was not the Redskins organization that held that opinion, but the person in charge of the Twitter account, Gary Fitzgerald. So when @dcsportsblog called him out on the comment, the Redskins feed posted:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Redskins/status/182531179784847360″]


And that was exactly the point. Just an opinion.  On a corporate, team or business Twitter account, personal opinions of the tweeter have no place in the feed.  This echoes the GM scandal awhile back when an employee made a nasty comment about the driving capabilities of his fellow citizens, a tweet which appeared to be from GM itself. Major hiccup which led to the firing of the employee who tweeted the statement.

Those of us who were chatting about the Redskins comments agreed that the team had not only misstepped by tweeting a personal opinion as representation of the view of the organization, but also really missed an opportunity to bring their 93k fans into the conversation.  Instead of letting Gary tweet his personal opinions (which weren’t even positive), why not stimulate conversation with a simple question, “What do you think about Tim Tebow’s move to the Jets?” Redskins fans react, discuss and grow affinity for their own team and the Redskins positively impact engagement. Win.

It was clear that Gary picked up our tweets, as we all made sure to include the @Redskins handle in most of our conversations.  A few hours later, this comment appeared:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Redskins/status/182569952820211713″]


Again, a misguided employee tweets something inappropriate for the brand. The Redskins need to yank that computer away from Gary Fitzgerald and let him understand that he needs to stop injecting Redskins communication with his own personality.  The above tweets were not edgy, informative nor entertaining. The Redskins allowed the person in charge of Twitter to share his personal opinions as though they were the opinions of the team and everyone within the Redskins organization.

What is clear, then is that the Redskins have lost their grip on their brand’s core values. They do not have a clear brand message and certainly, they have no social media guidelines for employees to follow. It looks like Gary runs redskins.com, which also makes me question who they’ve assigned to communicate their brand messaging. Is the webmaster the right person to manage the Twitter feed? What value does the Redskins organization place on social media if they just toss the duties to the web department? Why not hire a branding, marketing or communications professional?

More important than the lack of internal organization and training, the Redskins simply don’t understand that Twitter provides more than a forum for information and entertainment. They could have used the Tebow news to their advantage to spark dialogue with fans, and shed some positive light on their brand. Sure, they would have been talking about Tim Tebow and the Jets and possibly even Denver and Manning, but they would have engaged their fans on the topic of football during a crucial time in the off-season. There were so many opportunities missed here, mistakes made, and that’s why their comments came into focus – for all the wrong reasons.

My course of action for the Redskins?

1. Do an organization-wide branding exercise so all employees are aware of the brand’s identity and messge

2. With all employees, players and coaches, provide social media education and training

3. Consult with the marketing and communications staff to integrate social media throughout their marketing and business plans.

4. Reassign the Twitter responsibilities to someone who understands that they speak for the brand, and that every letter they type needs to be in-line with brand messaging. “Just an opinion” is never something we should see from a brand like the Redskins.



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