NFL Sponsors Take a Stand: For Better or Worse?

It has been a tough two weeks for the NFL, who has been under fire for two recent scandals involving how they have handled the domestic abuse allegations of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  First off, the NFL has been heavily criticized for letting Ray Rice off the hook with a 2 game suspension after allegations of abuse against his then fiancée were brought up and then when video was releases of the physical abuse in progress the NFL decided to suspend the player indefinitely. Then Vikings player Adrian Peterson has been suspended after allegations of child abuse came out against his 4 year old son surfaced, but then Monday he was reinstated only to be then again suspended until the case is resolved. However, badly the NFL has handled these cases, it provides a unique opportunity for sponsors to either ditch the players, teams or the NFL to stand up against domestic and child abuse or to stand by the NFL and their actions. This decision is a large factor that can bring the brand great praise and social marketing or criticism and a negative brand experience by consumers.


Some brands have decided to stand up against the actions of the NFL in supporting these players, by pulling their sponsorship, most notably, Radisson Hotels. On Monday when the Minnesota Vikings had decided to reinstate Adrian Peterson, to allow him to play while the case of child abuse was investigated, Radisson withdrew their sponsorship and was greatly rewarded in doing so. Christopher Heine from Adweek reported,  “On Tuesday alone, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence, Radisson received enough social, Web and mobile impressions to account for 58 percent of its total online consumption (impressions plus mentions) for the last three months.” He then goes on to report “Radisson gets a [full] quarter’s worth of free publicity for the move, all because they were the company during this current NFL [public relations] crisis willing to take the most definitive stand against domestic violence”.  Then shortly after Radisson pulled their sponsorship, Nike pulled theirs, no longer selling any Adrian Peterson gear in Minnesota stores. This combined action then forced the team to take action and suspend Peterson until the case has been fully resolved. With brands like Nike and Radisson setting a precedent for zero tolerance of abuse other brands have been criticized for sticking with the NFL.


In regards to the handling of the Ray Rice case, CoverGirl, a very large female targeted brand has received severe criticism for continuing to sponsor the NFL despite their seeming indifference to the domestic abuse. Activists have called on CoverGirl to break connection with the League and sent a meme characterizing one of their beauty ads to show domestic abuse but despite their efforts the brand has taken no action but issued a statement saying “In light of recent events, we have encouraged the NFL to take swift action on their path forward to address the issue of domestic violence.” (McDonough).

The bottom line is that those companies standing up against the NFL have received praise while those sticking with it have been criticized. Would you be turned on or off to certain brands depending on their position. And if so do you believe that if brands were to stand against the NFL could real changes in policies and procedures be possible?


Heine, C. (2014, September 17). Radisson’s Social Branding Went Through the Roof After Dropping the Vikings. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from

Manfred, T. (2014, September 17). Nike Drops Adrian Peterson. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from

Matthews, C. (2014, September 15). CoverGirl Ad Gets Disturbing Photoshop Treatment, Calls Out NFL On Domestic Violence. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from

McDonough, K. (2014, September 18). America’s new “moral” arbiters: How greedy corporations became agents for social change. Retrieved September 18, 2014, from

3 thoughts on “NFL Sponsors Take a Stand: For Better or Worse?

  1. I completely agree. I think the bigger problem is how the NFL has repeatedly handled these cases, each time claiming to not know all of the details in the cases. I think it is time that they are realize there are consequences for their actions.


  2. I not only can not understand why the NFL handles these cases so careless, I can not understand why CoverGirl would continue to support the organization. As a woman, I find it disappointing and will not be purchasing CoverGirl products for an indefinite amount of time.


  3. I’ve never been one to allow the stance of a brand’s decision makers change my view of the brand itself. Some might think that it is funding and supporting the NFL by continuing to buy tickets and merchandise, etc. Whatever opinions there are regarding how the NFL handled the Rice situation, every brand has the right to voice their opinion through their advertising. If the stance taken by a given brand turns a huge number of consumers off, then yes it could impact policy, procedure. Consumers have the power to influence brands because we are the source of their revenue. Anything is possible. A controversy provides an opportunity to get in front of consumers, nothing more. Taking a stance puts a brand at risk of losing positive consumer perception and spending, but like rumors, bad moves get forgotten over time and perceptions change with new campaigns and decisions. This too shall pass for the NFL, and people will continue to buy tickets to games and people will continue to shop CoverGirl too.


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