NFL Labor Dispute - First of the Social Media Era

Cross posted from Ogilvy's Fresh Influence blog.

Disclaimer:  Due to several conflicts (including children, work, wife, The Office, Jersey Shore and sleep) I had to  schedule this post 12 hours in advance of it going live; meaning I might not have the latest information on the talks between the concerned parties.  However, that has no material impact on my main points.  Trust me, I’m a journalist.

With that out of the way …

By the time you read this the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between NFL owners and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) will most likely (see disclaimer; and even if there is a 24-hour extension of the CBA, as reported Thursday afternoon, this thing will eventually come to blows) have expired, leaving the two sides without a labor agreement and the 2011 football season - or at least part of it -  in serious jeopardy.

As a sports fan, I’m totally turned off.  As many people will tell you, this is billionaires fighting with millionaires over sums of money unfathomable to the vast majority of fans (Charlie Sheen excluded, of course #winning!).

As a marketer, and one who currently focuses on social media, I’m keen to keep a close eye on how the dispute plays out in public, particularly in social media.  This is the first pro-sports labor dispute of the social media era (the last being the National Hockey League during the 2004-5 season, when MySpace was hardly a hotbed of sports discussion and Facebook was just blooming as a place for Zuckerberg to exact revenge on a girl who slighted him - at least that’s how the movie goes).

It’s 2011 (you’re welcome for that nugget) and I can’t help but imagine the stream of opinions flowing effortlessly from the Twitter feeds of NFL players, owners, media and fans as the dispute moves into the grind-it-out-let’s-pretend-we’re-all-working-towards-the-same-goal-when-really-we’re-just-interested-in-protecting-no-actually-growing-our-pile-of-money phase.   In fact my crack research staff tells me that between February 15-28 there were 11,000 Tweets mentioning “NFL and lockout.”  Just since March 1 there have been the same amount.

The NFL is a public relations juggernaut, second only (in my opinion) to the NBA.  And it’s worth noting that basketball faces this very same situation next year; though as many sports writers have noted, the NBA actually needs a battle like this to realign a really broken compensation scheme; whereas football seems to be in pretty good shape.  In any case, I’m sure commissioner Stern is paying very close attention to the public sentiment as owners prep for battle with the NBA players union.  In fact I bet this post makes his morning clip pack (#DavidStern #Stern #DStern #NBA #TallAndRich #TheDecision #GoBulls).

But while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has proven to be a disciplined voice for the league, he can’t control what has already been, and will continue to be, said on the social web.

But he can influence it.

See what I did there?  Can’t control.  Can influence.

Below are a few tactics I would expect the league to employ, as I would any brand heading into a very public battle.  As a marketer or fan (or fanketer - helloooo Urban Dictionary), what have I missed?

Paid Search
Using Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool I took a look at the competition against the search term “NFL Lockout” and found it surprisingly low.  What if the NFL launched a SEM campaign against terms related to the lockout, driving people to either an FAQ on the domain or even a Facebook page?  Seems simple enough, and moderately effective at delivering a message to people actively seeking out information.

Live Listening
I’d be shocked if the NFL doesn’t already have in place an incredibly robust real-time monitoring solution.  The challenges, I suspect, are twofold:  (1) How are they filtering the signal from the noise and (2) What are they doing with the intelligence gleaned from the monitoring.  Which leads me to my next point …

Response Protocol
All the listening in the world won’t do you much good if you aren’t analyzing, looking for opportunities and disciplined about how you do/don’t engage with supporters and detractors alike.  At Ogilvy we often develop bespoke response protocols based on the issue, the client, the nature of the discussion and other factors.  The NFL must be really clear and consistent in their response protocol about what they say, when they say it, to whom they speak and what tone they take.

Conversation Management
Whether it’s to the 2.6 million fans on their Facebook page or their 1.9 million Twitter followers, the league must carefully map out what they are going to say publicly on the matter, where they’re going to say it and how, if at all, they are going to react when publicly challenged (or lauded).  Effective conversation management, very much tied to the response protocol, is kind of the backbone of everything the league is going to do (on social media) during this time.  They must get this right.

Content Creation
You better believe the players are pumping out content to tell their side of the story.  Check out the video below from the NFLPA’s YouTube channel, which has garnered 152K views.

What’s troubling, from the league’s standpoint, is that a pretty sophisticated YouTube user (me - don’t laugh) can’t seem to find the NFL’s official YouTube page after about 30 seconds of searching.  And guess what - I give up.  So the message here is that not only do they have to consider a content creation strategy, but just as important a distribution and optimization one as well.  By the way, not just video but also photos, written content, etc. - anything that can be indexed by The Google and helps the league put forth their perspective.


This entire episode will be interesting to watch play out.  As a fan I truly hope they resolve it sooner than later so we can get on with a great 2011 season. 

5 Things I've Observed About #SXSW From Afar

A few quick observations from afar ...

  1. As a brand you really don't want to piss off a bunch of social media professionals. 
  2. A few people have taken a very clever approach to cutting through the Twitter noise.
  3. This year's Twitter hasn't seemed to emerge.
  4. BBQ is the official city cuisine of Austin.
  5. It sounds like people are having a great time and really value making offline connections - that is cool. 10 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2010

Always a good read, even if clearly skewed towards a hipster subset of society.  Table of contents below.  Read the full report here.

Forget the recession: the societal changes that will dominate 2010 were set in motion way before we temporarily stared into the abyss. More »

Urban culture is the culture. Extreme urbanization, in 2010, 2011, 2012 and far beyond will lead to more sophisticated and demanding consumers around the world. More »

Whatever it is you're selling or launching in 2010, it will be reviewed 'en masse', live, 24/7. More »

Closely tied to what constitutes status (which is becoming more fragmented), luxury will be whatever consumers want it to be over the next 12 months. More »

Online lifestyles are fueling and encouraging 'real world' meet-ups like there's no tomorrow, shattering all cliches and predictions about a desk-bound, virtual, isolated future. More »

To really reach some meaningful sustainability goals in 2010, corporations and governments will have to forcefully make it 'easy' for consumers to be more green, by restricting the alternatives. More »

Tracking and alerting are the new search, and 2010 will see countless new INFOLUST services that will help consumers expand their web of control. More »

Next year, generosity as a trend will adapt to the zeitgeist, leading to more pragmatic and collaborative donation services for consumers. More »

With hundreds of millions of consumers now nurturing some sort of online profile, 2010 will be a good year to introduce some services to help them make the most of it (financially), from intention-based models to digital afterlife services. More »

2010 will be even more opinionated, risqué, outspoken, if not 'raw' than 2009; you can thank the anything-goes online world for that. Will your brand be as daring? More »

the3six5 Project

Len Kendall - he of Constructive Grumpiness - has taken on quite an ambitious project for 2010.

Everyday next year a different person will pen a 250 word entry abouttheir experience that day. No specific topic - just as long as it relates to something going on that day.  Come December 31, Len expects to have collected the story of one year, told by 365 individuals.


It's called the3six5 ... you can check it out at

I was thrilled Len asked me to contribute.  I chose January 8 for three reasons: (1) I figured it might help get my mind going after the holidays (2) I wanted to go early enough as to not be influenced/intimidated by months of great entries and (3) It's my son's birthday.

If you're interested in contributing, email [sounds like Len has been getting a lot of emails, so be patient]. 

What's With The Media Bashing?

To those using Michael Jackson's death as a reason to bash "Old" Media:

You rightly criticized the mainstream media for calling the 2000 election prematurely.  That was an unmitigated disaster.

Now you're wrongly criticizing them for their initial reporting (or lack thereof) out of Iran; and their hesitation to confirm Michael Jackson's death.

You can't have it both ways. 

At at the end of the day, I'll take solid reporting over knowing something 20 minutes earlier. 

Because unless we're talking a terrorist attack or natural disaster, those extra 20 minutes it took to get the story right won't matter in the long run.

And besides, what value comes of bashing "old" media?  Perhaps I'm biased since my wife spent many years as a national TV news producer, but what seems lost on the Twitterati is that behind the mastheads and animated logos sit a smart, dedicated, thoughtful group of producers, editors and reporters who want - more than anything - to get the story right.

Will Susan Boyle Usher In A New Era Of Profile Pics?

There's a good read at the New York Times about the impact looks have on perceptions. 

Of course the story is pegged to Susan Boyle, who's got NOTHING on Joe Cocker and Janice Joplin in the Oh my god I can't believe that voice belongs to that person category.

Joe cocker Janice joplin

This quote caught my eye ...

Indeed, attractiveness is one thing that can make stereotypes self-fulfilling and reinforcing. Attractive people are “credited with being socially skilled,” Professor Fiske said, and maybe they are, because “if you’re beautiful or handsome, people laugh at your jokes and interact with you in such a way that it’s easy to be socially skilled.”

I see this play out in social media all the time ... people manipulate their "about me" or bio pics to make themselves attractive, provocative and interesting - perhaps more so than they really are. 

I don't blame them [see quote above for a good reason why].  But I try not to join them.  If I meet someone in real life who only knows me from Twitter or Facebook, I want them to recognize me right away.  Would I recognize you?

I've been to quite a few events where I look at a name-tag ... face ... name-tag ... face ... name-tag ... face and it just doesn't match up.  It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  And to be clear, I am not just talking about women - I expect the same honesty from men and women.

While I don't doubt the validity of the New York Times quote above, at the end of the day sincerity, honesty and self-confidence are much more attractive than a pretty picture.

As I finished this post, my wife reminded me that my Facebook profile pic is a bit on the abstract side.  I'll go change that now ... must practice what I preach.

P&G's Tide Loads of Hope T-Shirt

You'll recall a couple of weeks ago the folks at P&G conducted a social media experiment, while raising money for charity.  My recap here

My shirt arrived the other day, and David Armano asked people to submit photos in exchange for some link love.  P&G digital brand manager, Dave Knox, promised me the T-shirt would be of good quality - and it is.  Pretty cool design, and not the typical stiff/ill-fitting corporate apparel. 

Using the Photo Lolz Polaroid emulator ...


P&G's Social Media Experiment [Tide Loads of Hope]

[UPDATE:  Read David Armano's inside account; AdAge's report]

A funny thing happened last night.  P&G - as part of a private digital night in Cincinnati - turned to some of the most well-known names in social media to accomplish a few things [all but #1 are speculation only]:

  1. Raise money for their charity, Tide Loads of Hope [clean clothes to families in need of support after natural disasters]

  2. Demonstrate the power of social media to senior executives
  3. Self-promotion
  4. Ingratiate themselves with the social media who's-who [a proactive insurance policy]

What did they do?
For a few hours, several teams - led by different cewebrities hunkered down at P&G headquarters - bombarded Digg, blogs, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and more with links to Tide's web site where you could buy vintage looking Tide t-shirts.  Twitter was particularly insane, with #pgdigital appearing non-stop.

How did they do?

  1. According to one participant, $50K in four hours, with P&G matching $50K.  I don't care how deep P&G's coffers are, they should be commended for the match.  Bravo!

  2. I'm sure this experiment went a long way towards changing some old school minds within the organization.
  3. Tide's name was all over the Internet last night, and I'm sure it will be written about a lot today.  The thing to watch for today is backlash, which you saw starting last night and I'm sure Tide knew was inevitable. 
  4. All the usual social media suspects were virtually tripping over themselves to help promote this.  But come on, who doesn't want to be in P&G's good graces [and help raise money]?


Did you participate [disclosure: I purchased a shirt]?  Either way, what do you think of the excercise?

Did you think the external agency participants at P&G last night went far enough to disclose their relationship with the company?  I saw a video from Ian Schafer of Deep Focus (@ischafer) who was very clear to state his agency did not work for P&G.  But I didn't see that same transparency from others.  Maybe I missed it in the frenzy?

Do you think, as Brian Morrissey, Digital Editor at Adweek seems to based on his tweets below, that we were all played?

Picture 1

An Unintended Consequence of Harsh Economic Times

The economic news is grim, for sure.  Just today the New York Times reports nearly 600,000 jobs have been lost in January alone.  And just look at the list of companies ... whether you work on an auto assembly line or make advertisements, no job is untouchable (except perhaps outplacement services). 

But today, on the anniversary of Bob Marley's birthday [you know, One Love, One Heart], I'm struck by an unintended consequence of all this bad news.  I've noticed, even more so than after 9/11, a sense of empathy.  A sense of one-for-all, all-for-one.  A sense of, I'll help you out, because I may be asking you for help a month from now.  Or even better, I'll help you out because it's just the right thing to do.  A sense of, let's share some good news in all this misery.

Maybe I'm blind to reality, but don't you see it?  A few examples on my radar:

  • Jeff Woelker takes the time to post tech-related job openings in Chicago on Chicago Tech Report.  I haven't asked him about why he takes the time to do it, but I can only guess it has something to do with Karma [and that he's just a good person]
  • Noah Brier and Rick Webb have started a Twitter handle @mediaisthriving to serve up some refreshingly positive news about the media industry.  A welcome respite from all the bad news.
  • As I previously posted, David Armano activated his social network to help a family in need, with incredible results.
  • I notice a tremendous amount of chatter on Twitter between job seekers and industry leaders.
  • Even I have gotten into the act, fielding several calls, tweets and emails from people looking to make contacts.  I try to help the best I can.

So while very insightful men like Steven Overman express a sense of disappointment in how brands are behaving during this extraordinary time, I hope he sees that many everyday people are rising to the occasion - in our own small, but hopefully impactful, ways.

Please share your stories of positivity ... they will most certainly be appreciated.

P.S.  Happy birthday, Bob.

Bob marley

Did I Read That, Or Just Hear About It?

Noah Brier must have bugged my phone line, because my wife and I talk about this all the time.  Too funny.

And if you have never visited Noah's blog, I recommend doing so - it's a great read and refreshingly absent of attitude or hubris.

Here's the post:

Over the last few months Benjaminand I have been having funny conversations comparing the different levels of exposure/knowledge in the age of blogs. To aid in the process we've come up with this handy glossary:

I READ THAT: I actually read that.
I READ ABOUT THAT: I read a blog synopsis, article about a subject, or article about an article.
I KNOW ABOUT THAT: I have read several different opinions/reviews/synopsis to the point where I not only know the basic content of the original article but also the cultural impact it has made, yet I have not read the original piece.
I HEARD ABOUT THAT: I saw a bunch of headlines about that thing, leading me to believe it was important, but read nothing in depth.
I'VE BEEN REALLY INTO THAT: I read the original, and then have followed up on various other people's opinions and reviews and synopsis
I'VE BEEN DISCUSSING THAT: I read about it, then posted something and am now commenting, discussing, etc.

John McCain: A Long Day's Journey into Vietnam

This is part one of a fantastic fictional NPR-like piece my friend Michael wrote,produced and voiced.  The story takes place a few days before McCain ships out to Vietnam.  The full 30-minute program should be coming soon.  I've heard the entire thing - it's great.  I will post the full steam when it's available. 

John McCain: A Long Day's Journey into Vietnam

Some language NSFW.

Allergic to WiFi

My brother-in-law points me to this gem out of KOB-TV in New Mexico ...

A group in Santa Fe says the city is discriminating against thembecause they say that they're allergic to the wireless Internet signal. And now they want Wi-Fi banned from public buildings.

Arthur Firstenberg says he is highly sensitive to certain types of electric fields, including wireless Internet and cell phones.

"I get chest pain and it doesn't go away right away," he said.

Firstenberg and dozens of other electro-sensitive people in Santa Fe claim that putting up Wi-Fi in public places is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The city attorney is now checking to see if putting up Wi-Fi could be considered discrimination.

But City Councilor Ron Trujillo says the areas are already saturated with wireless Internet.

"It's not 1692, it's 2008. Santa Fe needs to embrace this technology, it's not going away," Trujillo said.

The city attorney hopes to have a legal recommendation by the end of the month.

Gender Bending?

Names_2Interesting read [full article here] in the New York Times about "gender fluid" names.  Do you know that Shirley is a historically male name? 

The article talks about the notion of "crowding out" ...

"Not long after a boy’s name catches on with girls, parents shy away from christening sons with it. “We crowd them out,” Nilsen says ... Through 1955, “Leslie” consistently appeared among the 150 most popular boys’ names. About a decade earlier, it began to catch on among girls. And the “crowding out” Nilsen mentioned took place ... Dana, Carol and Shannon met similar ends."

For the record, my son's name is Henry.

The Miniature Earth

I'm sure I am late to the game here, but stumbled on The Miniature Earth Project [via] this morning.  See the Miniature Earth video below.  And to quote their Website ...

The idea of reducing the world’s population to acommunity of only 100 people is very useful and important. It makes us easily understand the differences in the world.

The text that originated this webmovie was published on May 29, 1990 with the title “State of the Village Report”, and it was written by Donella Meadows, who passed away in February 2000. Nowadays Sustainability Institute, through Donella’s Foundation, carries on her ideas and projects.