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Brian Flores’ uphill battle against the NFL shows flaws in the league’s hiring process

On Feb. 1, the former Miami Dolphins head coach filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and all 32 teams

It’s not unusual for drama to surface in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. For some reason, the extra week of hiatus (ignoring the Pro Bowl, because I honestly don’t know a single person who cares) tends to stir the kettle of NFL headlines.

A little over a week ago, Brian Flores’ NFL lawsuit became this year’s pre-Super Bowl noise that dominated sports media. Among the many allegations outlined in his 58-page filing, the former Dolphins head coach spoke out about his personal experience with racial discrimination in the league’s hiring process. The story was a topic of discussion on mainstream news platforms and late-night talk shows in the days following the allegations. I won’t go into the details here but there’s no shortage of information available, and Flores has since spoken about the lawsuit in an interview on ESPN’s “Get Up.”

Super Bowl LVI will be a wildly entertaining and eventful distraction, as the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams battle for a once-in-a-lifetime chance at immortality. But once the limelights dim, I hope developments in Flores’ situation continue to nab the attention of sports fans.

Objectively, Flores is qualified to coach an NFL franchise. He put in the groundwork as a scout and assistant coach in New England, winning four Super Bowl rings with the Patriots. In his two-year tenure as head coach of the Dolphins, the 40-year-old helped produce consecutive winning seasons. Nonetheless, he was inexplicably fired shortly after the 2021-22 regular season, a decision that shocked most people in the sports world. 

There is an esteemed list of premier head coaches in the NFL, including the likes of Bill Belichick, Mike Tomlin, and Andy Reid to name a few. Flores doesn’t have the pedigree to be on that echelon yet, but purely from a football perspective, he is a coaching talent that should be highly sought by most NFL teams, in theory.

At the time of this writing, there are two Black head coaches across 32 teams (one before the Houston Texans announced the hiring of Lovie Smith on Feb. 7). When you consider the fact that 70 per cent of the players in the NFL are Black, something obviously doesn’t add up. 

By speaking out, it’s likely Flores has jeopardized his career as an NFL head coach by choosing this path against the league. But no matter the legal outcome, the attention he has drawn will hopefully set up an infrastructure that allows minority coaches an equal opportunity at success.

 

Graphic by Madeline Schmidt

Categories
Sports

Marketing an NFL franchise

Digital media and the fan experience were the focus of the “4th and Goal” panel

The intricacies of marketing a National Football League (NFL) franchise were on full display at this year’s John Molson Sports Business conference held on Nov. 4.

A panel, titled “4th and Goal,” was moderated by TSN 690’s Joey Alfieri, and featured Tanya Dreesen, the vice-president of partnership activation and special projects for the Minnesota Vikings, and Vincent Pannozzo, the director of digital and social content for the Miami Dolphins.

Alfieri began the talk by asking about hosting a Super Bowl game. Dreesen and the Vikings will host the Super Bowl in 2018, while Pannozzo and the Dolphins will be hosting the game in 2020.

“It’s an interesting dynamic when your team is hosting the game,” Dreesen said. “It’s an incredible opportunity on the hospitality side and on the marketing side.”

Dreesen explained that hosting the Super Bowl is also unique because, as the host, you might not actually play in the game. However, it is still the best time to show off your arena and what kind of fan experience you can offer.

Both Pannozzo and Dreesen said the services offered at the stadiums immerse fans in a new experience, and bring them beyond what’s happening on the field.

“Stadiums are made to enhance the fan experience,” Dreesen said. “We’re the only team with suites down by the field. We want people to be able to be as close to the action as possible.”

Pannozzo echoed this sentiment, adding that the food experience is also an important part of the games. He said the Dolphins don’t just offer the classic sports foods, like hot dogs and burgers, but also fancier foods in certain sections of the stadium.

Pannozzo added that as a social media and digital content manager, he is already planning for the 2020 Super Bowl. He said the team’s marketing strategy will begin right after the 2019 Super Bowl finishes.

Pannozzo explained that social media is the best way to showcase your team’s brand, but in the past, social media was a bit of an enigma for people.

“Social media used to be the stepchild no one knew who it belonged to,” Pannozzo explained. He later added that the Dolphins now spend all of their digital advertising budget on social media rather than television because that’s where the people are.

For Pannozzo and Dreesen, the team’s performance on the field doesn’t affect the organization’s marketing strategy. Pannozzo said fans might not want to hear from the team on social media that much after a loss, but the team is always going to keep creating content for the web, regardless of the team’s performance.

“Only on the actual day of the game does performance dictate what we do on social media,” he said.

To end the panel, Pannozzo and Dreesen explained how their social channels and marketing strategies bring fans closer to the players. For them, it’s a way to extend past typical media coverage, and tell more meaningful stories.

“We’re not in the business of breaking news,” Pannozzo said. “We want to tell the story of our players in the best possible way.”

“You don’t sell wins and losses, you sell hope,” Dreesen added. “Hope is what brings fans through the door.”

Main photo by Alexander Cole

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