It is no surprise that the National Football League’s handling (or mishandling) of domestic violence allegations has earned it plenty of bad press. Several major corporate sponsors, including Nike, Campbell Soup Co., Proctor & Gamble, McDonald’s and Target have been trying to distance themselves from controversy.
The NFL depends on these sponsors for a substantial part of its revenue; Yahoo Finance states that “combined, the National Football League and its 32 teams took in a record-setting $1.07 billion in sponsorship revenue for the 2013 season.”
While these corporations have publically condemned the NFL, they have stopped short of taking the most drastic steps, such as pulling TV ads or canceling major contracts – for now. However, Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at Pace University, states, “Even as prestigious as the NFL brand is, there are other ways for companies to spend their money. The discontent expressed by sponsors might not hit the NFL’s revenue right away, but further down the line when contract renewals and extensions come up.”
In addition to damaging relationships with corporate sponsors, the NFL is jeopardizing its biggest growth opportunity as a business: women.
There are nearly 80 million female football fans supporting the league on a weekly basis, and advertisers love them. To take advantage of this fan base, CNN states that the NFL has poured millions of dollars into “research and merchandise targeted at female fans” since 2011.
Research conducted by CBS News reports that “72 percent of female fans call themselves a valued participant in the league.” However, will the NFL’s reaction to domestic violence allegations drive away female fans? Several high profile women’s groups have already spoken out against the NFL. For instance, NBC News reported that women’s rights group Ultraviolet flew banners over two NFL games calling for Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign. Furthermore, CoverGirl released a statement explaining, “As a brand that has always supported women and stood for female empowerment, CoverGirl believes domestic violence is completely unacceptable … we have encouraged the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence.” Perhaps this public shaming of the NFL will have an impact on the NFL’s expected returns on its investment in ads and merchandise targeted at females.
The implications of the domestic violence scandals plaguing the NFL go far beyond a PR nightmare. Not only are sponsors re-evaluating their involvement with the NFL to some extent, but the NFL’s reaction to the issues afflicting the league have caused outrage among all fans, especially women. By pushing away female football fans, the NFL is further hurting itself by spoiling one of its biggest growth opportunities. All eyes will be on the NFL in the upcoming months, and only time will tell how these scandals will affect the NFL’s bottom line.