This post was first published by Mike Griffin on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.
Isn’t it amazing how much can happen in one week? It’s somewhat mind-blowing to think that, exactly seven days ago today, New England Patriots fans were in an uproar over several controversial calls made by the now infamous replacement NFL referees that cost them the game against the Ravens. After weeks of culminating frustration with the replacement officials, the game-ending completion/interception call made in the Seahawks/Packers game was the icing on the cake. I even heard one angry fan say on a morning radio show that until the real referees come back, he wasn’t going to watch another NFL game. Apparently, the majority of Americans disagreed.
In fact, according to an article featured in The Atlantic, last Sunday night’s ratings were up 8% from a year ago. Stephen Colbert perfectly summed up the situation when he observed, “That means that the [Seahawks/Packers] call was a great call because, apparently, people are tuning in just to see terrible calls!” While Colbert was being a bit tongue-in-cheek, the fact of the matter is numbers don’t lie. In the world of public relations, we often talk about making results quantifiable for our clients. Before bringing back the regular officials, the NFL was enjoying quantifiable results despite what could be classified as a PR crisis.
As could be anticipated, NFL players and fans used social media vent their frustrations. In fact, as an article from Mashable explains, “Song parodies have appeared on YouTube, Twitter exploded and players have spoken out against the NFL in 140 character tirades.” Last week one of the national trending topics on Twitter was #returntherealrefs. There was an abundance of funny memes that appeared all over the Internet, and I saw some of the most creative uses of vulgar language I can recall on my Facebook newsfeed. Yet there are those that would argue that the ends still justify the means.
So what do you think? Is any publicity really good publicity? Did the NFL make the right call (pun intended) returning the regular officials? Or, should the NFL have followed Colbert’s suggestion of exploring other ways to ruin games in the name of retaining high viewership?