Women Put A Searing New Game Face On the NFL, Corporate Sponsors Actually Start to Notice
As ever, money talks. With profit-driven carnage the name of its game, little wonder the NFL has been trying to turn a conveniently blind eye to its latest domestic violence scandals: the horrific video of Baltimore Ravens' Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend and Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson's two child abuse charges. But much of the public, and especially women - as almost half the NFL's fan base a major marketing target - aren't having any of it. Using social media savvy to brilliantly sabotage an ad campaign by CoverGirl, the NFL's "official beauty sponsor" - yes, this is a thing - they've triggered a major backlash against the league, and its acceptance of the unacceptable.
Activists first took on CoverGirl's "Get Your Game Face On" campaign, which sought to girl up the brutal $9.5 billion business of guys whacking into each other by creating WTF team "fanicures" and then bizarro over-the-top "team makeup looks"; the company is evidently oblivious to the terrible irony that make-up has long been used by domestic abuse survivors to cover up unsightly bruises. The new photoshopped images of black-and-blue, sometimes bleeding women have now gone viral.
There's also a petition aimed at boycotting the NFL's corporate sponsors - among them, Anheuser Busch, Apple, AT&T, Barclays, Bose, Bridgestone, Campbell Soup, Corona Beer, FedEx, Ford, Geico, GM, Jack in the Box, Jeep, Marriott, McDonalds, Microsoft, Moulson Coors, Nissan, PepsiCo, P&G, Taco Bell, Verizon Wireless, Visa - unless they either drop their sponsorships or pressure the NFL to address a domestic violence epidemic the NFL has long viewed as simply a pesky public relations problem. The demands begin with the removal of the grossly inept NFL commissioner Roger Goodell - whose tenure has seen 56 domestic abuse allegations - and the adoption of a retroactive zero tolerance policy for abuse.
In response to the growing uproar, Raddison Hotels have already announced they're suspending their NFL sponsorship. Anheuser Busch has said they're "disappointed and increasingly concerned" by the NFL's sketchy response, FedEx and Marriott are watching to see if they get it together, and NIKE has pulled Peterson merchandise off some shelves. It's impossible to know if the corporate reactions are based on worries about the bottom line, or an actual real-life moral compass that mandates doing the right thing. Even though corporations are now people and all, the former seems likely. We're not sure how much it matters. Most telling here is that activists have learned to attack the beast where they know it will hurt the most, a strategy that, while dispiriting, seems to work.
The protests have also sparked a flurry of hashtags - including #GoodellMustGo and #BoycottCoverGirl - a MoveOn petition, an appearance of anti-Goodell banners flying over multiple NFL stadiums - and damage control efforts on all sides. Goodell announced the creation of a new Vice-President of Social Responsibility, slated to work with three female consultants to shape league policies on domestic violence, and CoverGirl issued a lame statement that it "believes domestic violence is completely unacceptable" and that "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." Activists, citing the company's failure to put their money where their mouth was, remained unimpressed.
"That's awfully...umm...decisive of you, CoverGirl," said one typical commenter. "If you're sponsoring the NFL, you're supporting what they do." From another: "Aw that's so cute, your PR team spent hours crafting a well written Facebook post! What pretty words!!" So much for the company's call for us to "Catch the Fandemonium!"