I think most brands are better off in the long run staying close to home. "Sticking to their knitting" as a once esteemed business consultant said many years ago. Hummer is a good example. The Hummer brand started off appealing to a small, hard core niche of alpha males. It grew slowly, primarily by word of mouth, and was coveted by a small but fanatical band of enthusiasts willing to pony up $100k to drive the vehicle. Enter GM who acquired the Hummer rights from AM General and then proceeded to position the vehicle as a fashion accessory for women. Hummer had a few good years of growth in between but today is an orphan brand - nobody wants it. Had AM General/GM kept the focus on their original small but fiercely loyal audience the brand would likely continue to resonate today.
It looks as if the NFL is trying to embark on the same trajectory. I read a creative brief by one of the NFL/NBC agencies who is attempting to position the Sunday Night NFL broadcast as an "academy award" event for couples. This from the agency's co-founder:
"We realized that watching sports on a weekend night is a social and interactive activity for TV viewers," said McCarley. "Think of Sunday Night Football like the Academy Awards show, where friends gather to eat and talk, root for their favorites and comment about the action on the screen--except this event comes every week," noted Dev Patnaik, Jump co-founder. "Our research showed NBC that the game's real content is the people in the room. The people watching are part of the show. Sunday night is not the time for the attitude 'Shut up or leave the room so I can watch the game,'" he said.
Now, without benefit of focus group or research study, I'm going to make a guess that most of the current LOYAL fans of the NFL do not identify with Academy Awards events. And the more the NFL attempts to shape itself to appeal to this scenario, the more fans they will begin to alienate. So if you combine this move with other recent NFL moves like the game in London and the NBC's "green week" debacle on last week's Sunday Night game, it's not hard to see the NFL brand extending itself to the point of irrelevance. They're violating Smock's number one rule of branding - keep it small, keep it sharp, and keep it scarce.
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