The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business and the runaway most popular sport in America; Apple is a nearly trillion-dollar business and the most popular company in the world.
Given that, it's more than a coincidence that both organizations have taken rare PR hits over similar subjects.
While Apple is taking heat for its negligence surrounding its Maps app, the NFL is allowing the labor dispute and lockout of its officials to impact the outcomes of its ever-important regular season games.
Apple’s PR headache: Maps
Apple’s release of the iPhone 5 and updated operating system update was, at the outset, yet another giant leap forward for the company—until people started using the so-called “improvements.”
The Maps app on iOS 6, which Apple built to be a giant improvement over previous efforts, turned out to be anything but. A number of reaction articles have noted errors in Maps as major as entire cities missing or being placed in the ocean. According to one tech writer: “The Maps app simply isn’t ready for use. And Apple knew this before it released iOS6, as developers had complained for months during the beta-testing cycle about the app’s problems.”
The NFL’s PR problem: referees
The NFL’s officials have been locked out of the league since their contract expired in June. In their place for the opening three weeks of the season have been replacement refs, who are simply not up to the task. Think of it as associates in a law firm suddenly being thrust into the roles of senior partners.
The result has been a myriad of missed, phantom, and overall wrong calls that have impacted the outcomes of numerous games. The New England Patriots-Baltimore Ravens game on Sunday Night Football (a national audience on NBC, mind you) reached a boiling point. That is, until a call that handed the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers on ESPN’s Monday Night Football took it to an entirely new level
According to an Associated Press report:
“[The] league and the NFL Referees Association (NFLRA), which covers more than 120 on-field officials, are at odds over salary, retirement benefits and operational issues. The NFL has said its offer includes annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than $200,000 annually by 2018. The union has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it would ultimately reduce their compensation.”
But tangible results, not numbers and clauses, are all that matter to NFL fans, players, and coaches right now. Through nearly three weeks of the season it was impossible to ignore the negative impact replacement refs have had on the NFL's games, and after the Monday Night debacle, things are out of control.
The NFLRA has become exponentially more appreciated as bad calls have worn on, and from a consumer perspective, the issue has become one-sided.
Apple’s dispute with Google was about more than just money. Now, the NFL referee lockout is, too.
Both Apple and the NFL need to swallow their pride—not tomorrow, or the next day, or next week, but now—and give the other side what it wants before these bruises turn into long-lasting injuries.
It’s doubtful that the NFL can repair the damage done, especially given Monday’s fiasco. For Apple, it’s possible that a restoration of Google Maps will do the trick.
The demands each face are hardly unreasonable, especially given all the external business issues that are affected by the disputes.
Nobody likes greed. The NFL and Apple are two of the most popular brands in the world for a reason. But in each case, someone forgot why, and took his eye off the ball. Never jeopardize your brand if you don't have to.
Steve Herz is the president of IF Management, an on-air media talent representation company. A version of this story first appeared on the firm’s Facebook page.