The NFL started to take some heat from various sponsors on Tuesday, including Anheuser-Busch, Campbell’s Soup Co, and Visa. These corporations started to voice concern over the NFL’s recent handling of domestic violence cases.
Anheuser-Busch was the most outspoken about the issue, making it clear that the NFL did not correctly punish “behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.” Coming from the holders of a six-year, $1.2 billion sponsorship contract, this might rattle the NFL a bit. But it’s likely that this is simply an Anheuser-Busch PR gimmick. Nike did not address the NFL directly, but on Wednesday announced that they suspended their contract with Adrian Peterson after child abuse allegations.
Football has an enormous fan base, and the NFL is an advertising giant. Super Bowl commercials, for example, are so sought for by corporations that a 30-second commercial costs an incredible $4 million, and a full minute costs $8 million. This is exactly why it is difficult to imagine that the aforementioned corporations will actually take action, rather than simply voicing publicly that they don’t approve.
But what if the situation develops to the point that these corporations start to drop the NFL? Similar events have occurred in the past. Anheuser-Busch and Nike both dropped endorsement deals with Lance Armstrong in 2012 after it was reported that he had been using performance-enhancing drugs. Public disapproval of the seven-time Tour De France winner ultimately pushed these corporations to cut ties. McDonalds dropped Kobe Bryant in 2003 after an alleged rape. This was also largely caused by public outrage, as McDonalds didn’t want to associate itself with a situation that could potentially cause harm to the franchise.
McDonalds, Nike, and Anheuser-Busch are all huge sponsors of the NFL, and it is clear that these corporations do not want to be connected with situations similar to that of the NFL’s. Granted, these corporations were only dealing with one-man deals rather than a super power like the NFL, but it still is enough to raise eyebrows. This is the first time the league has been subject to such large-scale criticism. So what would happen?
If even one big corporation decides to drop its NFL contract, it could potentially start a domino effect. The remaining companies would, in comparison, appear to by standing by the NFL during its time of scrutiny. These corporations could in effect be nudged to follow the leader, and yet again be forced by public disapproval to drop sponsorships.
But that isn’t to say that there aren’t corporations out there willing to fill those shoes. One can assume that there are some businesses out there that would leap at an opportunity to make a deal with the NFL, and a cheap one at that. New corporations could potentially take advantage of the tight spot the league would be in, and shake hands over deals that are much more favorable than $1.2 billion for six years.
So it isn’t lack of sponsors that the NFL would have to worry about, but rather, a lack of money. I know, it seems absurd that the NFL could possibly have insufficient funds, but we are all familiar with how coaches, owners, and players react to pay cuts. And that is exactly what could happen if this domino effect ensues. Is the NFL on its way to a crisis?
Only time will tell.
Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Zac Koch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @zactkoch