Football Lockout Over: Who Won the PR Battle?

Okay, so the NFL football lockout is now over and fans can rest now that there will be a full pro football season this year. During the lockout, which began on March 11, there was an all-too-familiar phrase written about both the owners and players by mainstream scribes and murmured by the public on social media outlets: "Billionaires vs. Millionaires." Meaning, the billionaire owners vs. the millionaire players. It seemed as though public opinion was skewed against both groups.

But now, all seems right with the world, at least among rabid NFL fans who don't even remember that the lockout was about dividing up the billions of dollars in yearly revenue between the owners and the players—while more and more season ticket holders are being held hostage by seat licenses that can cost thousands of dollars, and individually sold tickets and merchandise prices just keep going up.

According to Ned Barnett, president of branding and positioning agency Brand, it's like there wasn't a lockout at all. "If one side or the other had unreasonably blocked the season, 'hell hath no fury' like the fans'" says Barnett.  But that didn’t happen. "This lockout will be forgotten at warp speed, as passionate fans who define their lives by the rise or fall of their team will focus on the games, rather than on the lockout," he says.

Now that the lockout is over, you wonder if the players or the owners "won" the PR battle, or was it a stalemate? Says Barnett: "Neither side did a great job of positioning themselves via PR, but to the extent that either side won, it would be the team owners. While fans are passionate about players on the field, the off-the-field lives of players—assault charges, DUI arrests, etc.—doesn't translate to positive PR. Most owners are far more discrete and are therefore far less likely to arouse fans’ ire." 

But the bottom line: Even in a stagnant economy with high unemployment rates, football is money for both the owners and the players.