Recently, the National Football League has been at the center of a controversy surrounding its replacement referees and the ongoing labor dispute with its regular officials. In my last article on PR News Online, I discussed the importance of utilizing public relations to address the issues at hand and keep the situation from becoming a significant problem for the NFL brand. Additionally, I contributed a piece to The Washington Post in which I discussed the strengths of the league’s fan base and how their loyalty has helped the organization remain successful.
Thus far, the continued support of the NFL fans is effectively minimizing the impact of the referee labor conflict. Currently, the league is witnessing an example of brand loyalty playing a very dominant role, which does not seem likely to subside. The fan base has not substantially diminished and no real backlash or protests have emerged from that audience, despite the media coverage the NFL has received due to the referees and blown calls.
In fact, the situation presents the NFL with an opportunity that they are failing to capitalize on. That is, the league and Roger Goodell can further strengthen their commitment to their fans by coming to a resolution with the regular referees, thus demonstrating to their patrons the importance of delivering a quality product. Although many news reports and industry insiders have indicated that a new deal to return the regular referees to the field is currently in the works; the NFL should address the negotiations publicly in order to maximize transparency and gain greater trust with fans.
The NFL brand is secure, but could always benefit from a more direct and proactive approach to such issues. The league has learned a valuable lesson from this incident and due to the loyalty of the fans, has not suffered. However, the brand shouldn’t hesitate to utilize platforms such as public relations and social media in order to better engage their audience and maintain their loyalty going forward.