Vikings PR Disaster

blg 31 vikings giantsIf there was ever a bad time to be indicted on abuse charges it was September 12, 2014. Adrian Peterson was indicted for reckless/negligent injury to a child in Montgomery County Texas. Peterson’s charges came just days after the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence incident became public knowledge and ignited the fury of fans across the nation.

The Vikings handled this situation in the most disastrous way possible and created awful public relations for themselves in the process. Here’s the timeline:

  • Friday, September 12th The Vikings initially deactivated Peterson for that week’s game (Sunday, September 14th)
  • Monday, September 15th Peterson is reinstated for the following week’s game (Sunday, September 21st)
  • Monday, September 15th Six hours after Peterson’s reinstatement Radisson hotels issued a statement that it was suspending its sponsorship of the Vikings
  • Tuesday, September 16th Minnesota’s governor issued a statement scolding the Vikings for not suspending Peterson indefinitely
  • Wednesday, September 16th the Vikings finally deactivated Peterson and removed him from all team activities pending the outcome of the trial
  • Wednesday, September 16th Nike and Castrol suspend their sponsorships with Peterson

It was a good first step to initially suspend Peterson but because this Peterson controversy came on the heels of the Ray Rice Incident the Vikings should have gone the safe route and suspended Peterson indefinitely right off the bat. As soon as they reinstated him for the [huge] game against New Orleans the next  week the fans saw it almost an as endorsement of Peterson’s  behavior and  the Vikings basically saying they didn’t care what their superstar players did off the field because they were so integral to the Vikings winning games.

As can be seen by the fact that the Vikings leadership didn’t even address the media until six days after the indictment, their strategy was to pay no attention to the controversy and instead focus solely on winning the next week’s game. By not immediately addressing the situation, the Vikings gave up their chance to be in control of the situation and be on top of the media firestorm. They opened themselves up to things like being reprimanded by the governor.

Press conference before Radisson sponsorship removal

Press conference before Radisson sponsorship removal

Press conference day of sponsorship removal

Press conference day of sponsorship removal

Right now public opinion of the Vikings is very low and their public relations team has a lot of work to do to get the fans back on their side. This morning the NFL announced the Peterson is suspended for “at least” the remainder of the 2014 season. The Vikings should make some sort of statement today acknowledging the NFL’s punishment. Then they should move on and never talk about it again.

I recommend that once the suspension is over the Vikings slowly re-introduce Adrian Peterson to the media by highlighting all of the good for the community he did during his time off (Good that they told him he should do…). They should also have him focus on how excited he is for the new season and how hard he has been working in the off season to get ready to play. It will take time but I think that if the Vikings PR team can avoid any more mistakes like this one the fans will eventually welcome back AP.

Farewell Captain

This weekend, the baseball world said goodbye to a player that will one day surely be elevated to legend status like his predecessors, Lou Gehrig and The Babe. Derek Jeter announced his plans for retirement at the beginning of this season and advertisers have been capitalizing on it ever since. Jeter’s biggest sponsors, Nike and Gatorade have ran brilliant marketing  campaigns all summer that center around Jeter’s retirement and also manage to masterfully promote their brand as well.

After their “Re2pect” ad debuted in July which now has over 8 million views and an overwhelming number of positive reactions, Nike trademarked the phrase  for use in connection with headwear, hats, caps, shirts and t-shirts. The trademarking paid off. In less than 24 hours after Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium last week the hashtag “#Re2pect” was trending on Facebook and Twitter. The jitter to purchase Jeter items on Nike’s website led to “RE2PECT” hats being sold out within minutes after Jeter won the game for the New York Yankees in walk-off fashion. This RE2PECT campaign is important for not only Jeter but is probably even more important for Nike who also sponsors Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  Peterson remains with Nike, but the business relationship has been suspended while allegations of child abuse are further investigated.  Nike completely terminated its relationship with Rice. Instead of Rice, people are now talking about Jeter and RE2PECT.

The best tributes to The Captain this season have captured the style, grace and connection to the city for which Jeter is known. Last week Gatorade hit the nail on the head when they released a sentimental black and white ad paying tribute to Jeter.  Since the campaign’s launch last Thursday, the ad has gone viral and been viewed more than five million times.  While this ad is not meant to drive sales in the way the Nike RE2PECT campaign is, it gave baseball fans everywhere goose bumps and was a fitting end for one of the best players of all time.

As a Twins fan I grew up hating Derek Jeter and the Yankees. It wasn’t until much more recently that I realized he is not only one of the best players of all time but one of the classiest as well. Unlike many of the steroid users on the Yankees roster, Jeter has never gotten mixed up in that mess and that is something I greatly respect. He’s been a consistent, dominating player for the last 20 years. Farewell Captain, you will be missed.