Sunday night as Super Bowl week began the NFL brought everyone the Pro Bowl, which for any number of reasons seems to have become the least interesting and most controversial of any professional all-star event. Instead of championing the great players of the season past, the Pro Bowl continues to become more of an afterthought, even lodged into the week before the Super Bowl. Other than the obvious difference…all other All-Star games fit into a break in the regular season…the game has become one to avoid as many players look to heal, relax and avoid injury for the future.
Now the game has some great benefits for the NFL…it is a big sponsor perk for companies who invest heavily in the game throughout the year. It provides a nice financial bump for the state of Hawaii and for those fans who would never get a chance to see the NFL live…especially those in the military stationed in and around the Islands. The trip is a very nice reward for the players and their families not moving on to the Super Bowl, and in recent years the game has served as a mice way for the league to test some fun and innovative digital and sponsor initiatives in a real-time setting that usually can’t even happen during the preseason. The give and take for the game will probably go on for a while longer, as the league weighs the cost benefit of putting on the event, which will still draw OK ratings on NBC despite its perceived lack of interest…it still does have many, albeit not most, of the league’s biggest faces, many of whom are its rising stars.
So if the game is scrapped, is there something the NFL could do that would benefit a wide audience, maybe not millions on TV, that would showcase these stars in another setting? How about a league-wide day of service. Now this is not to say in any way the NFL and the NFLPA do not give back to their communities. They do, in the form of millions each year. But instead of playing the game, have each of those selected for the game…either in the city they play in or their home town, use the Sunday between the Championship Games and the Super Bowl to give back. It is somewhat along the lines of the Yankees Hope Week, but here, as a homage to the season, every top star takes one more day to work in the community of his choice. There is no risk of injury, it could combine teammates, and benefit the charities of their choice. The publicity received, as well as the opportunity to lift brand partners with a CR initiative, could not be beat in market and would make for a very interesting one day compilation of best practices to send off into the craziness of Super Bowl week. Heck, you could even send a contingent to Hawaii to work on a charity initiative if that is needed.
It certainly doesn’t have the flash and buzz of an All-Star Game, and yes it would be complicated and probably more work market by market than staging the game in Hawaii, but if the game is going away and the stars want to align, why not do it for the greater good that would put a nice cap on am amazing season for top stars of the NFL, not to mention a very nice give-back to the communities that have supported the team and its stars throughout the year and into the future.