Why the NFL Needs Richard Sherman


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The NFL needs brash personalities such as Richard Sherman to keep fans engaged. This presentation discusses the outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback in context of the rise of the modern-day NFL player/brand. The presentation asserts that the NFL should be thankful for Sherman: no doubt he will be good for Super Bowl XLVIII ratings. The presentation contains speaker notes.

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  • Is Richard Sherman a reckless trash talker or an entertainer? I think the Seattle Seahawk cornerback is an entertainer who knows how to use trash talk just as comedian Sarah Silverman understands the shock value of being a potty mouth.
  • Much as been said already about the self-aggrandizing interview that Sherman conducted with Erin Andrews of Fox Sports seconds after Sherman's Seattle Seahawks had defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the January 19, 2014, NFC Championship game. The social media world exploded with predictable reactions of shock and awe from fans who heard Sherman on national TV proclaim himself to be the best cornerback in the game after making a game-saving play. Tommy Tomilson of Forbes wrote a thoughtful reaction that touched upon issues of race, hypocrisy, and media saturation of sports. To be sure, Sherman made his comments in the heat of the moment, apparently in the aftermath of a trash-talking duel with 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree. And let's not forget that football is an emotional game, even at the professional level. In our quest to get on the field with the players and capture their instant reactions to a highly emotional event, we're going to sometimes see and hear these kinds of raw moments. We would have witnessed more trash talk decades ago had the NFL been subjected to this kind of saturation coverage then. (Remember Brian Bosworth? Hollywood Henderson?) But the NFL is also big entertainment as well as a sport, and players are entertainers, just as they are across professional sports. Athletes are walking, talking brands who not only lend their names to products but also create products in collaboration with other brands – a phenomenon that Michael Jordan and Nike really created. Not only are athletes ranked for their on-the-field performance – but also for their brand appeal, as per the Forbes 40 ranking of the world’s most valuable sports brands.
  • On the one hand, the Denver Broncos feature Quarterback Peyton Manning, who caters to fans of the strong, silent earnest persona -- the Harrison Ford of pro football.
  • And as even non-football fans know by now, the Seattle Seahawks feature Cornerback Richard Sherman, the cocky, loudmouthed Kanye West of pro football.
  • Richard Sherman understands what the game has become. He has a well-established history of taunting and showboating on the field and on social media, including mocking Tom Brady of the Patriots on Twitter and feuding with cornerback Darrelle Revis on Twitter and in the streets of New Orleans during the 2013 Super Bowl. Controversy and self-aggrandizement are part of his shtick. Sherman, who has a degree in communication from Stanford, knows what he's doing -- and so does any journalist who sticks a microphone in his face, including Erin Andrews.
  • Sherman is the latest in a long line of NFL stars who attract attention by courting controversy and threatening the established order. In the 1960s, Joe Namath raised eyebrows with cocky behavior that included guaranteeing his New York Jets with win Super Bowl III (a guarantee he delivered). Duane Thomas, Hollywood Henderson, Brian Bosworth, and Deion Sanders are among Namath's many successors -- especially Sanders, whose high-wattage personality earned him the nickname "Prime Time."
  • Savvy NFL athletes have always found ways to parlay their athletic talents for commercial gain, usually by pitching products and services for advertisers, including Sherman himself. (Ironically, in a masterstroke of timing, Beats by Dre unveiled a new ad featuring Richard Sherman as his name was exploding across national TV in the aftermath of his post-game interview). But today’s stars, Richard Sherman included, have learned how to cultivate personal brands on and off the field all year-round by tapping into media platforms that did not exist in Joe Namath’s time, especially social media. Athletes can burnish their reputations and develop their brands by constantly interacting with fans, brands, and each other.
  • And, they are smart to do so, both from their standpoint and the NFL's.
  • Today's NFL competes with an overwhelming number of entertainment options vying for the attention of our multi-tasking minds. A football game certainly no longer has our undivided attention. Viewers increasingly play video games, text each other, and otherwise consume content using personal devices while they watch TV. (Data source: 2012 THR and Penn Schoen Berland Study reported on This Moment blog.)
  • The strongest weapon the NFL has in its entertainment arsenal is drama, which the players provide through their personalities and performance. The NFL cannot always rely on quality of performance to create an engaging game, which is why personality is so important.
  • Thanks to the explosion of self-publishing platforms such as blogging, tweeting, Instagram, and Vine, NFL players and their peers in other sports are literally showing us the humor, emotion, quirkiness, and, in short, personality that you don’t always notice beneath the uniforms they wear. And we are responding by following them en masse on all the platforms they use.
  • It took Richard Sherman only 30 seconds after the NFC Championship game to create brilliant drama for the NFL and Fox — which will help build anticipation for Super Bowl Super Bowl XLVIII. 
  • He has also generated an instant audience who will watch to cheer him, jeer him, and anticipate another “Richard Sherman moment.” Similarly outspoken broadcaster Howard Cosell attracted viewers to ABC’s “Monday Night Football” for the sole purpose of hating him. But as far as the networks and the NFL were concerned, Cosell mattered because he kept people engaged in the game.
  • Which is exactly why the NFL needs Richard Sherman. The "No Fun League" needs the Joe Namaths, the Deion Sanders, and the Richard Shermans to shake things up. You can be sure the NFL and Fox are thanking their lucky stars for the drama he just injected into Super Bowl XVLIII. Whether viewers watch to boo, him, cheer him, or do a little of both, they will watch.
  • Why the NFL Needs Richard Sherman

    1. 1. Why the NFL Needs Richard Sherman David J. Deal Instagram.com/davidjdeal
    2. 2. We live in the age of the athlete as brand
    3. 3. Super Bowl XLVIII will feature two bigtime player brands
    4. 4. The Peyton Manning brand: strong and silent, like Harrison Ford
    5. 5. The Richard Sherman brand: brash and cocky, like Kanye West
    6. 6. Richard Sherman has worked hard to build his brand
    7. 7. Just as many stars did before him
    8. 8. Today’s athlete/celebrities can build brands 24/7 across multiple media
    9. 9. And the NFL needs 24/7 player brands
    10. 10. The NFL faces more competition for your attention
    11. 11. And the NFL cannot always count on the quality of play to keep us engaged
    12. 12. Colorful personalities keep fans engaged even when the games disappoint us
    13. 13. It took Richard Sherman 30 seconds to inject unexpected drama into a 3-hour game
    14. 14. He will also generate viewers for Super Bowl XLVIII
    15. 15. The NFL needs Richard Sherman
    16. 16. Thank You David Deal davidjdeal@gmail.com