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After watching the NFL draft last week, a few things popped into my head. Of course there was joy for the Oregon players that were drafted.  Then after watching the interviews of the top picks, I got to wondering what is the media training these guys recieve? It’s no secret that there is an extensive background process into every aspect of future player’s background (ex: Dolphin’s GM Jeff Ireland’s now infamous question to draft-pick Dez Bryant, “Is your mom a prostitute?” ).  Teams treat future players as business investments, and assessing their background in attempts to figure out how they will handle themselves in the future is very important to them.  Considering this and the emphasis on positive imaging, there must be some extensive media training to make sure these future NFL players look like future role models and poster boys for the league.

After a little research, I discovered Don Yaeger, media guru and former Sports Illustrated editor who is also the  mastermind behind media training boot camp for NFL players.  This years players included top picks Sam Bradford and Gerald McCoy, along with 26 other players.

His main message to they guys? “You are a brand.”  He compares the branding of players to any other brands, such as Starbucks or Mercedes (Terrell Owens= Toyota?). Speaking to the press is a business opportunity, he tells the guys, because through the media is how one primarily builds their “brand.”  This is beneficial to the player because a positive “brand,” or image, creates higher stock value…a.k.a more teams want this type of guy and more corporations want his face to represent their own brand, all which equals money in the bank.

One of the things Yaeger teaches is how to use words that players  want associated with their “brand.” After learning all this, I went back and watched Sam Bradford’s post-draft interviews to see the Sam Bradford “brand.”

The brand elements I get from this interview: Humble, family-oriented, a kid with dreams coming true. Seems like his media training worked, and someone a team might want to invest in aside for reasons other than his talent.

I think it is crucial for this intensive media training at the beginning of a players career  because it’s hard to redeem yourself with the media and fix a tarnished image. Oh and million-dollar endorsements don’t seem too bad either.

What do you think of the idea of “branding” young NFL players?


“To challenge National Football League players to be lifelong learners while pursuing continuous improvement in family relations, social interactions, personal growth and career development during and beyond their careers as NFL players.”

Those are words that you may not hear very often.  Yet that is the NFL‘s player development mission statement. And as a PR person, we know how crucial it is for an organization to establish and follow its mission statement.  With that being said, let’s discuss the  Ben Roethlisberger situation.

It seems that everyone and their moms have something to say about the NFL’s ordeal regarding Ben Roethlisberger, the two-time Superbowl champ and pro-bowl select.  In case you have been hiding in a cave, Big Ben was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year-old girl, his second accusation in two years. Charges were not filed, but a 500 page police report had detailed witness accounts describing reckless behavior, heavy drinking and an egotistical NFL star bar-hopping in a small, college town in Georgia.  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did suspend Roethlisberger for 4-6 games and had quite the  statement along with it. (For more details of the legal decisions regarding the case and suspension, read this interesting article by ESPN writer and legal analyst Lester Munson).

Now everyone has their opinions on the suspension and the situation in general.  But as a PR person, I am interested in looking at it from the NFL’s perspective as a multibillion-dollar organization, where issues regarding the images of its players are constantly in the news.  Sure, this recent scandal is one of many.  Yet this recent decision shows how the NFL values its reputation, especially taking into account the view of the fans (aka consumers) and the players (aka employees).

While many people are looking at the NFL’s personal conduct policy in regards to this issue, I believe looking at the mission statement is equally important.  Remember, a mission statement defines an organization’s overall purpose and essentially, its essence.  If the NFL had not acted in punishing Roethlisberger, it would be going against their mission statement, a huge PR misstep.  The punishment shows how the NFL  is “challenging (Roethlisberger) to be a life long learner,” because hopefully he will learn from his actions (I’m sure this will be a lesson he will never forget).  This will also help make improvements in his “social growth” but most importantly, “his personal growth.”

And as much as I hate to say it, punishing one of their biggest and most recognizable stars is definitely a way to make a statement.  You get the glory, but you must take the fall. Punishing him not only forces him to take responsibility for his actions, but sets an example to other players in the league.  In this way the NFL also makes another statement–that it is a credible organization who not only values its publics and reputation, but also knows its purpose.