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The NFL Takes a Branding Hit, But You Might Want to Check the Narrative at the Door

Morning Consult put out a poll result today on NFL branding.

Via their tracking, "NFL's Brand Favorability Drops To Lowest Point Since Morning Consult Started Tracking: The NFL's net favorability has dropped from 30% on September 21 to 17% on September 28."

I have zero doubt their data is correct; however before everyone picks their favorite narrative, it's important for us, in my view, to understand branding.

In actuality, a brand does not get crushed by one, or even two missteps. United, or Coke, or hundreds of others snap back quickly from bad news. Bad branding, and resulting revenue losses are more of a boulder rolling down a hill, than an avalanche. It's why (old school) marketing firms estimate changing (or repairing) a brand can cost upwards of $50 million and take over 5 years.

The NFL has suffered from a lot of bad branding the last several years. They've had stars retire, they've saturated the airwaves and watered down the product, the games are taking longer to complete, the competitiveness of the games have been less than interesting, and ticket prices have increased; to name a few. This has caused a drip, drip, and people have been slowly losing passion for the events.

Then - boom. Politics enter the lexicon and it's another drip. Not an avalanche, but something that bothers people just enough to keep that boulder going. Because it's the latest thing that bothers them, they all answer with the latest thing that bothers them,

The above, in my view, is just the way things happen, in sports, or in business with brands. And for racing it's a cautionary tale.

In our sport you'll see a lot of customers (and horse owners) complain about the little things. They'll talk about trainers who win at big rates, rules that are more guidelines than rules, racing opportunities and the like. Bettors will speak about signal fee hikes, takeout hikes, short fields, cheap penalties for rule breakers, Churchill Downs cancelling a pick 6, the cost of data, or the fact that a bunch of horses without testicles win at Santa Anita with "h" beside their name in the form, and the trainer is given a pass.

Insiders often pick just one of these things and say, "it's a small thing, what are you complaining about?" But it's more than that. When taken in totality, it's a boulder gaining more and more speed, and when that happens, that boulder is hard to stop.

It's tempting to pick our favorite cognitive biased element as the reason for a decline in something. But when we truly examine branding it's never about one thing. It's about a lot of moving parts; parts that are moving in one anti-brand direction.

Have a nice weekend everyone.

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