Despite the fact that it’s the start of a new season for an organization that represents one of the world’s most popular (and profitable) professional sports, the National Football League’s image has been tarnished off the gridiron thanks to its response to a rash of arrests and charges related to domestic violence.
This is the type of family unfriendly publicity that gets sponsors like Pepsi and AB-InBev nervous. The NFL and its relationship with advertisers was expertly skewered this week by journalist Adele Stan, who took an existing Cover Girl ad–showing a Baltimore Ravens-themed make-up look–and added a hard-hitting Photoshop flourish. The image became a focal point for a Fire Goodell social media movement to force the resignation of league commissioner Roger Goodell.
The image puts an ugly accent on an NFL/Cover Girl cross promotion (yes, that actually exists) and deftly juxtaposes how the league wants to be seen with the unfortunate reality splashed across on the front page of the news. And since a moral mandate wasn’t enough to spur action from the NFL in the wake of domestic violence incidents, consumer actions like Stan’s ad hit the NFL in the place that has always mattered the most–the bank account. The ad, and related social activity have earned the attention of Cover Girl consumers, who are now threatening to boycott the brand if its relationship with the league continues.
Read more below about the NFL’s new game face and the rest of our picks for this week’s best in brand creativity.
What: Another major brand, another stylish send-off for the future baseball Hall of Famer.
Who: Gatorade, TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles
Why We Care: This is textbook classic sports advertising. A good tune, a great star, and a relatable story. Sinatra’s “My Way” plays, Mr. November is on his way to Yankee Stadium, then decides to get out and walk the last few blocks in the Bronx among the people. The mix of a skillful script with the looks of surprise, shock and joy on the faces of those fans, knocks it out of the park. The fact it may have been Jeter’s suggestion to get out of the cab in the first place is almost too perfect, but a suitable tip of the hat from the dugout by a legend.
What: The Breaking Bad star is trying to condense an entire baseball season into one Broadway play.
Why We Care: Okay, we all know that sports are a controlled drama of the human experience but this hilariously brings things to a level of artsy none of us are perhaps ready for. Whether it’s when Cranston launches a pitch right into the audience, gets advice from Pedro Martinez on how to lift the World Series trophy, or brings to mind a fake Robert Goulet with his rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” this is a thing of beauty.
What: A PSA that turns back the clock on horrors in a Syrian schoolyard in an effort to encourage action from the United Nations.
Who: With Syria, Martin Sterling
Why We Care: Sterling is the director who has already forced us to imagine the plight of Syrian children here at home, and again hits us with another stunning and heartbreaking look at the devastation Syrian civilians have been subjected to over the last few years. The slow-motion forbids you to look away, while the act of reversal reminds us that unfortunately in real life time only moves forward.
What: Director Jonathan Glazer uses a Canon camera to stylishly introduce us to a brutal, historic Italian sport that makes hockey, rugby, and MMA look about as violent as a charity golf tournament.
Who: JWT London, Canon, Jonathan Glazer
Why We Care: First, it’s Glazer and when the guy behind Sexy Beast, Under the Skin and Guinness’s “Surfer” shoots something it’s worth paying close attention. No product shot or obvious pitch, just a smart and entertaining move by a brand, using a talent like Glazer to show rather than tell what its cameras can do. Plus, bonus bloody history lesson courtesy of Calcio Fiorentino.
What: A protest ad aimed at the perception and realities of the NFL’s image right now.
Who: Journalist Adele Stan, and a number of Twitter users who adapted her image
Why We Care: Well, it’s not an officially sanctioned ad per se. But it’s a powerful creative statement concerning two big brands. The fact this is a Photoshop job on an actual NFL cross promotion with Cover Girl perfectly illustrates the image problems facing the league right now, both in the number of players being charged with domestic violence-related offenses lately, and the way the league has responded, or failed to respond. For a long time the NFL has been the model professional sports league when it came to entertainment, TV, sponsorships, and just generally being a money-making machine. The last few weeks’ worth of soul searching on players and domestic violence, added to longer-term questions about the impact of the game on players’ health, have shaken that image to the core.