As the NFL and its public relations team continue to battle a PR crisis over the league’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal, it appears that the NFLPA is doing what it can to try to get the public relations teams that run its campaigns to change.
Nike’s public relations director, Dan Zampino, has been on the front lines of efforts by the league to address public relations issues, specifically in relation to the fallout from the Rice situation.
Zampino also is one of several PR firms that are taking part in a partnership that is attempting to raise awareness about the problems in the NFL’s public affairs department.
Nissan released a statement on Thursday that said the company would be providing the NFL with a “pre-paid phone number” to call to “get more information about how to work with the NFL in the PR space.”
Nissan’s PR team, led by Paul H. Johnson, a former VP of public relations at Nike, has partnered with Nike+ to “focus on educating consumers about the important role that public relations plays in helping people achieve their dreams,” according to the statement.
Nissan also is working with other sponsors, including Nike, on a “one-stop shop for fans” to learn about the importance of PR.
A new public relations strategy is needed, said Michael Ragsdale, senior VP of marketing at Nike+.
He pointed to the ongoing PR crisis in the wake of the Rice-Browning case, which resulted in the resignation of the NFL commissioner, Greg Hardy.
“There’s a lot of work to do,” Ragsdal said.
“We’re all just scratching the surface of it.
This is something that’s going to take a long time to get right.”
Ragsdale also pointed out that there’s not an easy solution.
“There’s not a magic pill that you can put in front of this that will solve the PR problem, and that’s not going to be easy,” he said.
The public relations problem is the most significant thing the NFL has faced since the Ray Browning scandal broke.
The NFL’s response was initially very limited.
The league had to turn to a small group of PR experts, who were mostly former NFL employees.
The response also was very limited to what was already publicly known.
“The NFL has a problem with how they deal with public relations,” said Jim Zorn, a sports-marketing consultant who also served as a VP of communications for the Minnesota Vikings from 2009 to 2012.
“They’ve been very good at getting their message out, but they have not been very effective at getting the message out to the public.”
After the scandal broke, Zorn said that the league was forced to look at its own internal communications, which were not particularly effective at reaching out to fans.
“If the team wants to do something with the fans, they have to do it by their own internal communication channels,” he explained.
“This is the new normal,” Ragesdale said.
“When you go to the NFL, you’re not going in and out of the PR department every week, you know, going through your contacts and meeting with people who are in the industry,” he added.
“The PR people are now doing that all day long.”
As part of the partnership with Nike, Ragsda said that Nissan is partnering with other PR firms, including Edelman, which is helping with its partnership with the New England Patriots.
Edelman is also working on an outreach campaign for the New York Giants, which has already been announced.
“Edelman is trying to figure out how to make the Giants as a brand even more authentic and relevant in terms of how they communicate to fans,” said Zorn.
“Edelman’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, but it’s trying to think outside the box.”
“The Jets are doing some work to build a new brand identity and brand identity that speaks to the fans,” Zorn added.
The relationship between the PR firms is part of a larger effort that has been going on to increase awareness of the issues facing the NFL.
In November, the league began a nationwide public relations push that included a radio show and an ad campaign.
The ad campaign featured a group of players kneeling during the national anthem, and the radio show focused on the importance that athletes have of having a presence on social media.
“If we don’t have this sort of awareness, how are we going to continue to build our brand?”