We are pleased to serve as the primary source of sponsorship information and analysis for news media around the globe. Our current annoucements and news releases are viewable through the links below.

Time For N.F.L. Sponsors To Demand Change

The New York Times, February 14, 2014

By Juliet Macur

You know those funny Campbell Soup ads starring N.F.L. players and their mothers? The ones where moms pop up in locker rooms and on fields to bring their sons bowls of steaming Chunky soup?

Those moms have more problems than just keeping their sons fed, now that a 144-page report of an independent investigation has made public the details of the bullying on the Miami Dolphins. It’s nothing that can be fixed by a bowl of soup.

Campbell Soup Company is one of the N.F.L.’s many corporate sponsors that are bankrolling a league that we now know includes workplace behavior so vile that much of it cannot even be repeated in detail here.

This is what mothers’ sons are facing in the league: locker room bullies who wield so much power that even some coaches kowtow to them. Gay jokes. Slavery jokes. Racial insults directed at a player, and ethnic insults, some of them in a mocking Asian accent, aimed at an assistant trainer who was born in Japan. Persistent jokes about gang raping a player’s sister.

Sure, the league will punish those players and coaches involved in the Dolphins case — hopefully including the firing of some of the key offenders, Richie Incognito and his henchmen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey, at the very least. Even if those players were gone, along with the coaches, who should have known what was going on under their noses, the league’s dysfunctional culture would survive.

The best way to effect real change would be for the league’s corporate sponsors to take a stand. Companies like Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and Visa hold the only lever that really matters — the purse strings.

The N.F.L. is a $10 billion behemoth, the largest show in American sports. It’s fueled by corporate dollars, and without those steady infusions, the engine would stop running. If the big companies stopped advertising, television channels would get spooked and the N.F.L. would be forced to make systemic changes.

Pepsi is paying $50 million a year for its long-term sponsorship with the league and Bud Light is paying nearly $47 million annually for its deal, according to a sponsorship report by IEG, a sponsorship research, valuation and consulting company.

The sponsors, more than two dozen of them, should recognize that they are promoting a workplace in the N.F.L. that instills fear in some of its employees, while mortifying others.

Would it be O.K. if the employees of Microsoft, Papa John’s, Verizon or General Motors — four companies that are “proud sponsors of the N.F.L.” — walked into their workplaces and pretended to have sex with a co-worker? Or used racial slurs, then defended them by saying everyone was in on the jokes? Of course not. But players on the Dolphins felt free to do that, and it’s likely that it wasn’t an isolated case on one team.

Would companies like FedEx, another N.F.L. sponsor, still want to run commercials featuring a young, skinny quarterback who has dreams of being a starter in the league, if they knew that quarterback would be bullied to the point that he would consider suicide, as was the case with the Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin?

So far no company has stepped up to help rid the league of that abusive locker room culture. To do that, those companies have to threaten to pull their sponsorship dollars, but that would take guts and a belief that N.F.L. teams should not be exempt from following common standards.

Does any C.E.O. whose company already pours money into the league want to change the league for the better? Or will they continue to turn a blind eye to the sport’s dark underbelly, as they did regarding the concussion problems that led to players’ having brain injuries?

Now the sponsors are faced with another moral dilemma. It should be an easy call, but there’s big money at stake, which always complicates things.

Perhaps those companies don’t realize how much power they have to change a workplace that has gone bad. Perhaps they think it’s not their responsibility. But it is. By paying tens of millions of dollars to the league, they are tacitly condoning the behavior of Incognito. Press releases condemning bullying aren’t enough. If they really want to see change in the N.F.L. — and remember, the culture of the N.F.L. shapes team sports from pee-wee football to the largest college programs — they will demand change. Or else.

They should look to sponsors in the sport of cycling for guidance. Real action to clean up the widespread doping there didn’t happen until sponsors started pulling out and TV stations, including a state-sponsored station in Germany, refused to broadcast live coverage of the Tour de France.

Roger Goodell should be lauded for commissioning the report that uncovered the embarrassing mess that is now the Dolphins. But he would work much harder to fix the structural problems that created the Dolphins culture if the C.E.O. of McDonald’s called him and said their financial relationship was over.

Procter & Gamble, whose brands include CoverGirl and Tide, could call the league and say it’s out as a sponsor because its marketing goals don’t match with a place where inflatable female dolls are part of the Secret Santa gift exchange.

Perhaps moms, who do most of the shopping for their families, would reach for other brands at the store if they realized those sponsors were complicit in promoting misogyny.

Something drastic needs to be done. And in the world of business, there’s nothing more drastic than losing money.