Social Media Outlets Leverage NFL Ref Controversy

Monday Night Football at it’s finest.  Watch as MD Jennings jumps and intercepts the ball.  The players fall into the end zone and both referees throw up the signal – “Touchdown!”…”Interception!” …”Jinx!”?

Wait, isn’t “jinx!” when you say the same thing at the same time?  Either way, the NFL may still be in for 7 years of bad luck.

NFL Controversial MNF Game In A Nutshell | Social Media Uproar
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That’s how the NFL Monday Night Football controversy unfolded.  The Seahawks vs Packers game ended in favor of the Seahawks after an “alleged” winning touchdown (otherwise described as a very vivid interception by Jennings which would have lead to a Packers win).

Twitter Reactions: The Good, The Bad & The Angry
The minute the call was made, the twitter-sphere ran wild with comments directed at the NFL in disappointment.

twitter reaction during mnf controversy

social media updates during football controversy over refs

Sports Controversy and Social Media Frenzy

After the game, like JFK conspiracy theorists watching the Zapruder film “back and to the left,”  millions of football fans began to scour the internet in search of video replays and written articles to help them make sense of things.  To find the truth after Monday night’s questionable touchdown call, America turned to Google, Twitter and Facebook for answers.

For digital marketers, social media creatives and online news outlets alike – a light bulb goes on.  People are searching out content, they are passionately awaiting all the juicy details of this epic drama.  The internet gives the public what it wants.

By 11:55 on Monday night a parody titled “Whistle” hit YouTube.  This was probably intended to undergo a few more edits and hit YouTube later in the week to address the previous replacement ref spoofs BUT – the digitally savvy guys who released this video right in time to feed the hungry fans hit it right on the money.  YouTube is a search engine these days.  The second most used search engine after Google.  Although viral videos can be difficult to plan for – this found the sweet spot.  I’m predicting a jump in views x100 on this video.  They already went from 500 views to 10,000+ in 6 hours.

The NFL’s Digital Marketing Tactics Questioned

Not only is Roger Goodell taking some serious heat after Monday night, even the social media marketers at NFL are finding themselves in hot water.

Put it this way – when Mashable calls you out for schizophrenic Facebook posts attempting to trick your “smarter than that” audience – you pretty much know you’re in trouble.

Why?  Because Mashable (the news website and blog) gets 50+ million monthly pageviews and ranks as one of the world’s largest websites.  They are also the number one source for social media news and marketing. In the article, Mashable explains how NFL used a photo (which was not from the last play of the game) to describe the controversial last play of the game in a better light.

The Mashable blog shows that NFL Facebook updates were posted rather hastily.  The posts displayed a rather poor attempt to manage the NFL’s online reputation which backfired leading to the deletion of some posts all together.  Come on guys, you can dress high school football refs in NFL gear, but you can’t outsmart cyber geeks – we watch sports too believe it or not!  The Mashable article can be read here: On Facebook, NFL Can’t Decide What to Do About Controversy – Mashable

What Does This Mean for Sports and Social Media?

The sports world is evolving.  Digital has completely merged with the traditional.  Television talks to social.  The fans go to the games but still participate online.  80% of teenagers get their news from the internet.  The sports world needs to understand the digital space because it is how people search for information, news, truth and opinions.

10 years ago, wouldn’t we all love to know what one of the players was thinking after a call like this?  We would have to wait til the press conference and try to catch it on TV or on the radio.  Today, the players are not just breaking the news themselves through twitter – they are becoming human to their fans, relate-able and they even let out their disappointments freely.

Since the @nflcommish Twitter page hasn’t been updated since early September, I doubt Mr. Roger Goodell and his team are working on his next tweet.  BUT – if I had to give them a piece of advice… it’d probably go something like, “@America @Packers – We messed up. We’ll fix it, quickly #NFL #MNF”

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