Dear CMO:

The NFL thinks Twitter is bad for business, which confuses me as a marketer. I need someone at the NFL to tell me why banning their players, coaches and operations personnel from using social media 90 minutes before games and until post-game is wrapped up makes sense for their brand.

As marketers, we’re responsible for deepening our relationships with our fans at all levels of engagement because their passion becomes our revenue stream. Ticket sales, merchandising, television rights, advertising, and the entire sports marketing ecosystem is driven by our psychological need to associate with our team. So cutting us off right when our passions are at their peak – the 90 minutes before game time – baffles me. Here’s why.

If I went under the hood at the NFL, I think I’d find that they are looking backwards and protecting what they think is theirs: undisputed control of content. Much like music labels and Hollywood studios, they are quickly finding that their model has leaks. Access to players in an age of Twitter is available to anyone with a connection. While many players follow few, some make themselves available on particular days to talk to fans – DeAngelo Hall (@dhall23) of the Washington Redskins being one example. This hooks fans because they get something they have never been able to have before – real one to one access to professional athletes.

What could go wrong for the NFL? Would a tweet from a player obviate the need to watch the post-game show? Hardly. We still watch the post-game show even if we watch the game. Even if we’ve already seen the post-game show, we still watch the re-runs because we want to relive the moment. Social media doesn’t take the place of the network. And the network can’t take the place of the immediate access that social media provides. Nor can the league control what is inherently out of their control. You need to embrace what you can’t control and find a way to make it work for you.

Access and personal engagement drives interest. The NFL is in the business of deepening its engagement with its fan base. Embracing social media seems like an easy step.


Photo courtesy of Flickr.