The Financial Impact of an Athletic Crisis on Schools and Universities

Adrian PetersonBy Gerard Braud

Schools and universities should be evaluating whether they have a plan when the crisis of another entity becomes their crisis, forcing upon them a crisis communications challenge. Any school or university athletic program could face the same crisis management and crisis communications challenges that we see in the NFL. When one crisis spreads, it causes damage to the reputation and revenue of various teams, players and sponsors.

Most schools and universities, I suspect, would be slow to respond to such a crisis. My expert advice would be that every school and university public relations team should stop today to study the unfolding NFL crisis. Each should look for vulnerabilities on their own campus, as well as other schools. School administrators need to be a part of those discussions.

You would think the NFL would have an inside or outside expert to advise them, but apparently the leadership is trying to manage this on their own, with bad results.

Radisson logoThe NFL crisis has spread to the Minnesota Vikings, as sponsor Radisson pulls its support. Radisson is the logo sponsor seen behind the coaches and players when they have news conferences. It is the place where Adrian Peterson’s coach and general manager stood to announce that Peterson would play this coming Sunday, even though he was benched after being charged with felony child abuse for reportedly using a switch on his four-year-old son.

Radisson’s online statement says they are evaluating the facts while suspending their sponsorship.

Radisson, likely fearing “guilt by association,” is a victim of failed crisis management and crisis communications by the NFL and Roger Goodell regarding Ray Rice. The crisis then went on to touch the Vikings, Peterson and now the hotel chain.

Many schools and universities have similar sponsors for their athletic events and teams. These sponsors are critical for funding, but can be quickly lost.

Had Goodell originally handled the Rice crisis properly, the league would not be under such heavy scrutiny for other players with various degrees of accusations of child or domestic abuse. Failure to manage the crisis then communicate the action plan is letting the smoldering crisis spread like a wild fire. Many people are getting burned.

Now the NFL has a bigger crisis than the original crisis. There are the allegations surrounding Rice and Peterson, as well as Ray Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers.

Each player, each franchise, and the sponsors surrounding the teams, all need a crisis management plan and a crisis communications plan that will end each of their respective crises before each suffers damage to reputation and revenue.

In schools and universities, issues of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, rape and other sexual offenses are common. Have a plan to deal with these crises early, or suffer the fate of the NFL.