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The Recent NFL Draft Was as Much Heartwarming as it Was Team Building

How the NFL is Using Emotional Branding to Combat its Violent Image

By IGI Global on May 22, 2019
The 2020 NFL Draft was more than just teams choosing new players for their upcoming seasons. A recent CNN article reported that during the NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens broke tradition by having a 13-year-old fan who has been blind since birth and is also battling cancer for the third time announce the team’s fourth-round pick, making it the first time an NFL draft card was written in Braille, and stood as one of many heart-touching moments in a typically detached event. In another emotional moment, the Baltimore Ravens had Miles Taylor, a power lifter with cerebral palsy whose recent 200 pound dead lift went viral on social media, read their third round draft pick; this choice showed the impact social media has in connecting people, but also showed an understanding in marketing this event in such a way that it became relatable to the common, everyday super-fan. By doing this, the NFL presents an image that it understands and values fans, allowing them to be a part of this monumental annual event.

Instead of making the NFL Draft a sports-centered, athlete-only exercise, it promptly branded itself as a human event, with athletes, announcers, and superfans feeling the emotional moments as lives are changed. Profs. Nicolas Mathew and Ashutosh Dixit, both from Cleveland State University, USA, state in their authored chapter “Emotional Branding and Social Media: Positive and Negative Emotional Appeals” from the publication Social Media Marketing: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice, “emotional branding is increasingly being used by marketers to win customers for their products or services…(and is)…defined as the full range of relevant emotions a person can experience (which) includes love, hate, fear, joy, boredom, anxiety, pride, anger, disgust, sadness, sympathy…guilt, elation, shame, and awe.” They go on to state that emotional branding, “…appeals to consumers through the use of storytelling, narratives, and other tactics that demonstrate an empathetic understanding of customers’ inspirations, aspirations, and life circumstances,” which makes the NFL seem almost relatable to the average person. The special guests are people who do not play football, but rather are fans who share normal lives with the other viewers.

However, some are arguing that the NFL manipulated their Draft presence to alter their public perception from a violent, legally questionable powerhouse, to a human-focused, family and fan centered organization. These tactics can change the slant from focused on just money and players, to a softer focus on the wider community and making dreams come true. The NFL has faced numerous controversies recently, from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the USA National Anthem kneeling protest, and players facing domestic violence lawsuits, but the NFL Draft was set with a gentler tone, one where emotional moments shone through to cast a shadow on the doubters that the NFL had lost its connection to the fans. Some would argue that the emotional moments of the draft were perhaps misguided, and almost insincere; Profs. Georgia-Zozeta Miliopoulou from the American College of Greece, Greece, and Vassiliki Cossiavelou of the University of the Aegean, Belgium in their authored chapter “Brand Management and Media Gatekeeping: Exploring the Professionals' Practices and Perspectives in the Social Media,” from the publication Strategic Innovations and Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Telecommunications and Networking would argue that, “brand managers also need to measure engagement…(and) also need to consider issues including organizational reputation, brand generated emotions, as well as behavioral intentions.” This emotional branding is a tactic used by many companies and appears to have made a lasting effect on NFL Draft consumers, as news sources not typically related to sports were reporting on these heartfelt moments.

The NFL Draft, as well as the NFL as a corporation, used typical marketing techniques to increase brand identity and brand trust. In an ever-changing, complex marketing space such as professional sports, where all moves and business choices by the commissioner and team owners are constantly scrutinized, it is moments like this, where the audience is reminded that everyone involved is merely a human with complex emotions, dreams, desires, and plans. Prof. Kijpokin Kasemsap from Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University, Thailand in the published chapter "The Roles of Social Media Marketing and Brand Management in Global Marketing”, from the IGI Global publication Social Media Marketing: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice states “brand trust is viewed as the essence of brand’s value to consumers…(and is) an essential catalyst for establishing and maintaining long-term relationships…defined as confidence in the brand’s consistency, reliability, and honesty.” This tie from fan to newly signed athlete to the very top of management strung together by these emotional moments as seen in the Draft works to increases brand trust, but only time will tell if the marketing attempts used during the NFL Draft will have lasting effects on the reputation of organization.

The multitude of methods used by companies in branding themselves, their products and services, and the affect on potential consumers has been studied and shared for years, and IGI Global has been on the frontlines of research on emotional branding, sports marketing, and brand management. View the latest findings on these topics below:

“Turning a Person Into a Brand”
Prof. Halima Zaman (University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
Copyright: © 2019 | Pages: 9

“Brand Awareness Quotient: A Metric for Effectiveness of Employer Branding Initiatives”
Prof. Komal Ratra (Symbiosis Centre for Management and Human Resource Development, Pune, India) and Prof. Netra Neelam (Symbiosis International University, Pune, India)
Copyright: © 2016 | Pages: 13

“Fantasy Sports and Gambling in Sport: Marketing Implications for Branding and Fan Engagement”
Prof. Amber A. Ditizio (Department of Kinesiology, Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 | Pages: 14

“Nature and Characteristics of the Sport Industry and its Current Trends Impacting the Industry”
Prof. Amber A. Ditizio (Department of Kinesiology, Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 | Pages: 15

“Sports Media, Marketing, and Management: Breakthroughs in Research and Practice”
Information Resources Management Association (USA)
Copyright: © 2018 | Pages: 558


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