The 2014-15 NFL season is set to kick-off tonight when the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks. However, in Washington it seems like more attention is being paid to the Redskins’ ongoing name controversy than the impending season.
ESPN aired an episode of “Outside the Lines” this week about the debate over the Redskins’ name. The sports cable giant also released some interesting statistics to go along with the segment. ESPN found that 71 percent of Americans think the name should not be changed. Among NFL players, 58 percent agreed that the Redskins should be able to keep their name.
After looking at these statistics, you might think that the Redskins are in the clear. Only 29 percent of the public has a problem with the name. If 71 percent of voters approve of a politician, that’s a pretty good margin, but this isn’t politics; it’s branding. Brands need as many consumers as possible to hold a favorable opinion. Choosing a name is the most important marketing decision a brand makes. It sets the stage for the brand’s success or failure. There is only negative equity in a bad name.
In my opinion, the Redskins need to change their name, and change it soon. The negative publicity is mounting, and it’s showing no signs of waning. It seems like every week a new media outlet or personality is publicly announcing their refusal to call the Washington franchise by its nickname. Unfortunately for the Redskins, these opinion leaders strongly influence the general public. If they call for the franchise to change its name, more and more consumers are bound to follow.
Branding isn’t about what’s fair and what’s unfair; it’s about pleasing consumers. Regardless of if the name is offensive or not, it needs to be canned. The Redskins’ name is associated with mostly negativity and controversy. It might be expensive to rebrand, but a new name would give the team a fresh start. They can focus on football and not off-field drama. The Washington football team will always be the Washington football team, regardless of its nickname. It might take a few years for fans to warm up to the new name, but true fans support their team no matter what they’re called.
It’s no secret that the NFL has been expanding its marketing efforts to women. The league has gone all out in developing its women’s clothing line and getting ladies excited for the games. It looks like the strategy is working, now almost 44 percent of all NFL fans are female. Women can be a forgotten target when it comes to sports, but they are actually a vital demographic. Did you know women make 85 percent of all household purchasing decision? I sure didn’t. That means most guys that are die-hard NFL fans are consulting with their female relatives before buying game tickets or that new jersey.
So, how can NFL teams get even further into women’s minds? How about their favorite social media platform: Pinterest. Much like the Broncos dominated the Ravens Thursday night, women dominate Pinterest. According to Contently.com, 87 percent of Pinterest users are female. Most NFL teams have an official Pinterest page. The Packers, Raiders and Titans are the three remaining holdouts. Teams pin a wide variety of content, but they usually focus on things that will appeal to women. Almost every team has an elaborate women’s clothing board.
It’s fascinating to see how many Pinterest followers each team has; only two teams have more than 20,000 followers. However, those other two teams blow the competition away. The Buffalo Bills boast 139,200 followers and the Seattle Seahawks come in first with 144,884 followers. While the difference is staggering, Seattle is really no surprise. Citizens of the Emerald City are known to be the most active on Pinterest. The Bills are far more surprising, especially since Buffalo is the second smallest metro area with an NFL team. I honestly have no clue how Buffalo has so many followers, but if I had to guess I would say they do a great job appealing to women. Very few of the Bills pins focus on the actual games. They mostly focus on shopping, football themed crafts and the Buffalo community. The Bills really promote their relationship with the city of Buffalo and their player’s charitable efforts.
Even in the past year football related Pinterest activity has skyrocketed. A year ago, Sports Networker published an article about the top four NFL teams on Pinterest. Seattle and Buffalo were still the top two teams, but at the time Seattle only had about 30,000 followers. That means they have gained more than 100,000 followers in the past year! In the future, I think we’ll see NFL teams becoming more involved on Pinterest, It just offers such a great way for teams to showcase their product, both on and off the field. It’ll be interesting to see if any other teams will eventually close the gap with Seattle and Buffalo. Below is a graph of the top ten teams on Pinterest. I’m pretty surprised the Cowboys and the Bears aren’t on this list.
NFC North: Green Bay Packers. This was a difficult pick, I think the NFC North is the most evenly matched division in football. The Bears, Packers, Lions and Vikings all have the potential to win at least ten games. That being said, the Packers are still the slight favorite. Green Bay still boasts playoff experience, one of the best quarterbacks in the league and a much improved running game.
NFC East: New York Giants. Just like years past, I think the battle for the NFC East will come down to the wire. The Redskins, Giants and Cowboys all look good enough to get into the playoffs, but no one really separates themselves from the pack.That being said, I think the Giants will solidify the division crown during their week 17 matchup with Washington at the Meadowlands.
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons. There’s really no logical reason not to pick the Falcons to win the NFC South. Atlanta’s formidable offense only got better over the offseason with the arrival of Steven Jackson and now they’re out to smash some scoring records. Even though the South in improving, no other team has the firepower to take down the Falcons.
NFC West: San Francisco 49ers. For the past few years, the NFC West has been the laughing stock of professional football. Last year, epic late-season performances from the Seahawks and Niners proved that the west could indeed be best. The two teams will likely be neck and neck again this year. It’s a close call, but I think San Francisco squad is better rounded and has a slightly more favorable schedule.
NFC Wild Card: Seattle Seahawks. It’s no surprise that the Seahawks are landing in the first wild card spot. They could easily win the Super Bowl, but unfortunately got stuck in a division with the 49ers. Expect them to make some noise in the playoffs. Seattle may well finish with a better record than most division winners.
NFC Wild Card: Washington Redskins. Despite losing in the first rounds of the playoffs last year, Washington ended the regular season on a tremendous run. They are an up and coming team with playmakers all over the field. I probably would have picked the Redskins to win the NFC East if not for RG3’s knee injury. I can see them struggling the first few weeks and then bringing it all together to close out the season.
The NFC Wildcard has the potential to be a fun race to watch, there are so many teams in the conference that have the ability to win nine or ten games. The Rams, Bears, Vikings, Lions, Saints, Buccaneers and Panthers could all claim the final spot. I definitely think the race for the first pick of the draft will be in the AFC.