We all know I’m a Patriots fan, right? That being said, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about how the Deflategate scandal has been handled, particularly from a marketing perspective.
Things haven’t been fantastic in the interim; the entire saga has dragged on and on in the public eye, negatively impacting several brands, including Tom Brady’s, the Patriots, and the NFL’s. Now a judge has overturned the NFL’s suspension of Tom Brady. The NFL has announced it will appeal the decision.
I’m just ready to hear somebody say “Game Over!” We have a situation here where it looks like each party is so determined to be right that they’re acting in a way that’s ultimately not in anyone’s best interest. There’s definitely some controversy-fatigue being expressed. And while there is a portion of the Patriots fan base who have grown more devoted to the team during this scandal, there’s a portion who finds themselves not nearly as enamored as they used to be. Damage has been done to the brand relationship.
But so has good. Ben Shields, writing for USA Today points out that the ongoing reality-TV style drama has increased fan engagement online and on social media. He projects that TV ratings will be higher than ever before during the 2015/16 season, generating increased revenue for the league, the team and the players. The brands that looked like they were losing may have, in fact, be winning.
In an ideal world, of course, none of this would have ever happened. But it has, leaving us with an important marketing question: can a brand win and lose at the same time? It comes down to understanding what your customers truly want for you, and what it takes to deliver that experience in a way they find meaningful. It’s easy to assume that Patriots fans are turning in because they love superior football, but it may be more true that they’re on board for the feeling of being part of a fan base, having a cause to defend can be as powerful as having victories to celebrate. Sometimes you lose yards before you win the big game – and that may be exactly what’s happening here.