Deciding When The Envelope Has Been Pushed Too Far

A few recent instances have come up which show when sports or entertainment brands can test the waters to see what is acceptable for their fans and more importantly, their business partners. First was the UFC. CEO Dana White has done a phenomonal job of building that property to as close to mainstream as MMA may ever get, especially in a down economy where discretionary dollars will still go to the main four team sports, as well as NASCAR and soccer, in North America. Still, the UFC, with their great TV partner in Spike, have carved a niche with sponsors like Bud Light and Harley Davidson among others. Not huge spends, but very smart ones to access the demo and the UFC experience. Then last week, White went off on a video rant, aimed at a journalist, with profanity and anti-gay comments. It was premeditated, well thought out and then posted on the UFC website. Totally unprofessional and uncalled for and damaging to the brand for casual fans. Now White did recant some of his comments the next day after they received strong criticism, but there was no outcry from most MMA fans or from their brand partners, at least publicly, so perhaps the shock value outweighed the brand damage and the UFC got some edgy headlines with an edgy leader that they enjoy and can benefit from. Still it was way over the edge for a sport looking to be mainstream and poor leadership. Next comes a very interesting Yardbarker blog by the WNBA's Chantelle Anderson on what the public perceives as sexy and what is not. It is a very well thought out post by a young female athlete and really oputs into perespective what can be edgy and damaging to a brand for women and what can be more acceptable, garner attention and be mainstream. Then Media Post today has an interesting piece on the letter writing campaigns around a too sexy Burger King commercial, aired during many sporting events, which is promoting a kids meal. Again, it is suggestive but not risque, but it caught the eye of a special interest and advocacy group during a sporting event which may make other groups sit up and take notice, and in these challenged times could create a problem for Burger King with the discretionary dollar of conservative families. So here we have a CEO dropping F Bombs and living to fight another day, we have a subtle mix of cartoon characters with a national popular brand being called on the carpet, and we have a top athlete wondering where the middle is. If you are a property, you hope you are smart to make sure partners stay in line but still speak to your clientel, and have leaders who are savvy enough to tow the line and still give your fan base what they want. End of the day, if the ticket buyers and the advertisers remain happy and engaged, then the envelope remains in a good spot. It is when the push becomes a distraction that the crisis management begins.

Some other good reads…Vanity Fair has a good piece on the growth of baseball from a fans's Rick Reilly has a good piece on a special treat some D-Backs fans received on opening dayBloomberg has a good summary of Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid…and the New York Times has a great look at cinderella Bemidji State at the Frozen Four.