A highly respected brand is something very special. Ultimately it takes talented employees, governed by the choices of management and its leadership to transfer excellence into the wanting hands of customers. It takes a true team effort to raise, and maintain, a brand in high regard.
In 2012 there are not many more respected and valuable brands as Apple. Worldwide the iPhone, iPad, iPod, Macintosh, and the late Steve Jobs created a fanatical following that has propelled Apple to the most valuable (market capitalization) company – ever. Another entity with high recognized brand value, and a fanatical following within the USA, is the National Football League (NFL). The NFL is America’s most popular sport, with the highest TV ratings – every week, every year. The NFL and its brand is a huge economic force that touches countless people and organizations including communities, schools, universities; big business products, merchandise and services; as well as local businesses catering to the fan base. NFL football is more than just a game, it’s 2011 estimated take is about $9.5 billion and another $5 billion created in the local economies surrounding the NFL teams cities (32 of them). This may pale compared to Apple’s worldwide revenue of $100+ billion per year, but the NFL’s branding, policies, processes, and product/service all need to be working at a high level to keep it at the top year-after-year.
When Apple makes a mistake there are legions of business folks that will report and communicate it through many media outlets. When the NFL makes a mistake it is also reported through an army of media writers, TV personalities, former players, and coaches. When something extraordinary happens on a Monday Night game, many folks are tweeting, sharing, or talking about it throughout the next day at their respective ‘water coolers’.
On Monday, September 24, 2012 the Green Bay Packers were playing in Seattle against the Seahawks. This game has already become one of the most famous football endings in the 90 year history of the NFL. Not because of the exciting ‘miracle play’ at the ending of the game – but because of what unfolded from the outcome and circumstances of that ‘miracle play’. There has been monumental debate, but mostly outrage and disgust of the NFL’s process policies, and leadership failures that were displayed at this game – and they all could have been avoided.
Many of you know about the particular game specifics and the ‘2012 replacement officials process experiment‘ that led to the situation debacle. For those of you who don’t and don’t care about football, there is reason to care because there are many applicable organization and leadership lessons that can be learned.
For sure, there were many issues up for debate around this incident. However a principle ethos surfaced from the positioning afterwards by NFL management which stated that procedures were followed correctly around the incident and that basically everyone did their job according to the policies and processes installed.
If that statement and belief is true for the NFL, then why did most customers (fans), employees (football players/coaches), and business partners (advertisers/media), feel that the product/service (game) had become flawed and the overall organization lost integrity. Not that football – the game – was flawed, but how the NFL’s governing leaders, processes, and policies – in place – created an inferior quality that needed to be addressed. A true gap between management and everyone else had been manufactured and established.
We can all learn from this situation, especially on how leaders have to act quickly in the face of adversity to preserve a top brand. Denial and stubborn positioning that creates a gap between everyone is not good leadership. Change is required.
OK, with more details & specifics – what can we learn from this situation and how does it apply to everyday organization processes, policies, change management, and leadership?