This post may not be as off-topic as you think simply by reading the title. Yes, I will be licking my wounds as a result of an opening day fantasy football loss, but what is really prompting this article is a discussion this morning on ESPN radio with host Eric Kuselias, who incidentally was managing partner of Goldblatt, Kuselias & Rashba, P.C. prior to becoming a sports radio personality. I must confess to being envious of Kuselias, an attorney turned ESPN radio star and fantasy football guru, and would love to turn my passion for sports into a gig on ESPN radio, but I digress. Kuselias was filing in for Mike Greenberg and former NFL superstar Chris Carter was filing in for Mike Golic, the two Mikes being in California to call the second half of the ESPN Monday Night Football double header. It seemed as if the producers played the long familiar Monday Night Football theme song and Kuselias screamed YES, and Carter explained that something physical comes over him when he hears that music. Upon hearing it myself I got goosebumps, and I just got them again as a chill ran through my body just thinking of the tune. Yes, the NFL is the king of US sports, grown men wait in anticipation through the dark days of the calendar year (i.e., February through through the draft at the end of April and then from the draft through training camps opening at the end of July). The truth is the NFL has a great brand, they monetize the brand well, they keep us engaged, and the hype leads to anxious anticipation. So without further ado, are you ready for some football?
NFL music, whether it is the Autumn Wind or the classic NFL Films theme song, is highly identifiable. The NFL trademark is simple and classy. Like so many others across the country I am thankful the Fall is upon us and football is once again being played. But even for those who are not football fans, and are simply intellectual property aficionados, a lot can be learned from looking at the NFL and what they do to protect their image, build their brand and keep delivering an entertaining product. The NFL provides a highly choreographed and glamorous look into the sport, and unlike the NBA the glitz and glamor is built in to crescendo with the games not in spite of the games. The NFL effectively uses trademark and copyright protection create assets and then monetize them in a way that all business could learn from.
For those who are not football fans it is probably hard to understand why the sound of the NFL Monday Night theme, or Hank Williams Jr.’s rendition of the popularized “are you ready for some football” theme matters so much. Even the Faith Hill Sunday Night Football anthem, and the Pink version from previous years, lead to anticipation. The music becomes a ritual, it becomes familiar and most importantly it identifies the product that is about to follow. When many are looking to obtain trademark protection they forget that sounds can be trademarked as well. I am not suggesting that a song should be trademarked, but it is undeniable that the music used by the NFL, ABC, NBC, FOX and ESPN build the anticipation and lead to easy recognition of the product, American football played at a high level.
Well, OK, maybe American football is not always played at a high level, the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders seem more akin to the Washington Generals, who famously lose almost every game to the Harlem Globetrotters. Then there is my fantasy team in the IPWatchdog league. Yikes! At least one person in the league told me they thought I drafted the strongest team, and if that is the case my fantasy team is proof that games are not won on paper! Andre Johnson (WR – Houston) gave me 3 points and Steve Slaton (RB – Houston) gave me 2 points, so I didn’t get any production from my first and second picks respectively! Add to that my starting Lance Moore (WR – New Orleans), who seems to be the only eligible receiver Drew Brees did not find for a TD, and me starting the Carolina Panthers defense, which was thrown under the buss by Jake Delhomme (QB – Carolina) giving the game away with interception after interception and killing his defense, and it became comically bad for my fantasy team yesterday.
In any event, a patent agent friend of mine who shall remain nameless, unless he wants to identify himself in a comment to this article, sent me a link to a Times article about delusional fantasy football fans. The articles starts off:
A rich fantasy life is important, but a fantasy life that drains your riches is, in this particular economy, perhaps not the greatest idea. And yet there you are — if you count yourself among the millions of Americans who indulge in fantasy football — spending your hard-earned money and precious time pretending to be an NFL general manager. Tom Brady is not really on your team, my sweet — dare I say deluded? — friend. Your draft decisions don’t affect reality. They only, sadly, bore your nonfantasy friends.
I suspect the author isn’t into fantasy football, and probably was the last kid picked for teams in gym and recess, but there is no point denying that there are legions of people who would disagree. Yes, in any endeavor there are those who go to extreme, but the article points out that there are 30 million fantasy football team managers in the US and Canada, and that is certainly a statistically relevant portion of the American football audience. So there!
The truth is that the NFL gives us games worth watching, an off season that keeps you engaged and as any Cubs fan can tell you, and Red Sox fans used to know, hope springs eternal with the start of every season no matter how futile the effort will become. The NFL has become more than a sport and more than a business. It is an integral part of the lives of many people. We keep in touch with long lost friends who have weird names for their fantasy teams, we go to games and root and cheer together, and if you are like me during games you are tied to the phone with geographically distant relatives who are watching the same game and more or less experiencing the same thing at the same time. The NFL connects many of us in ways that little else does or can. Whether through effective marketing, recognizing and exploiting new trends or relying on core intellectual property protections such as copyrights and trademarks to make it seem reachable, attainable and a part of our lives, the NFL does a lot right and pretty much any business could learn from paying attention to the masterful business acumen portrayed by the NFL and many teams.
So are you ready for some football? I know I am! Enjoy the games everyone.