Joe Burrow, the Cincinnati Bengals quarterback, is an athletic sensation on the field. But the NFL is promoting his sex appeal in TikToks, including voiceovers describing him as “daddy,” The Washington Post reported.
The NFL doesn’t typically show off their players in this manner, but they’re hopping on the social media trend because they know that TikTok loves Burrow. TikTok reaction is mixed, ranging from those who want to give the NFL’s social media person a raise or for the NFL to “chill.”
“We’ve seen (the NFL) glorify players in the past in different ways, … but I’ve never seen it to the point of them playing into the sex appeal of an athlete,” Felipe Fontes, Game Day social director, told the Washington Post. “But it’s 2023, and TikTok is massive. … It’s just the perfect storm as Joe Burrow is ascending in this magnitude as an elite quarterback.”
Why it matters:
The NFL is using this growing, almost obsessive, love of Burrow to draw in straight women. Women make up about 47% of the NFL’s 88 million fans. And the League’s not shy about their blatant efforts to woo these fans.
The NFL’s shameless, though often hilarious, Burrow bait on social media is an interesting tactic. However, will women take the bait?
Humor aside, being overtly sexualized in this manner could still be viewed as objectification. Burrow is a person just doing his job. The NFL and other sports leagues have a long history of objectifying women – think cheerleaders – for, primarily, the male gaze. While their latest attempt at attracting more female fans might work, there’s a risk of the effort falling flat, or alienating, some, including other female and male fans.
Lia Haberman, a digital media marketing expert, told the Post that it’s not appropriate for entities like the NFL to sexualize their players.
“I think the NFL and the Bengals also can give a wink and a nod to the trend without actively actually participating in it,” Haberman told the Post. “It’s always in good fun until someone gets offended, and then all of a sudden you need to backpedal.”
While Burrow, per the article, doesn’t seem to mind the extra attention on TikTok, the NFL needs to stay in touch with him and ensure he is comfortable with the attention and characterization of him.
When trying something new, there are always risks. The NFL needs to keep balancing various stakeholder demands and desires and see what works. This campaign might offend some — but it might draw in many more. Social listening and adjusting strategy is key.
Editor’s Top Picks:
- Rupert Murdoch, 92, a media legend, is retiring from his post as the Fox Corporation chair and News Corp executive chairman, FOX News reported. Murdoch will step down from his post in November. Murdoch told employees about his move in a letter on Thursday. Murdoch’s son, Lachlan Murdoch, will take over as chairman to the two companies. “I am truly proud of what we have achieved collectively through the decades,” Murdoch said. Murdoch’s departure marks the end of an era in the media world that was marked by both controversy and extreme influence.
- Donald Trump, Jr.’s X account was hacked Wednesday. The account shared false posts about the death of Donald Trump, an insult to President Joe Biden and a threat to North Korea, CNN reported. Spokesperson Andrew Surabian posted on X about the hack: “This is obviously not true,” Surabian said with a link to Trump’s now unavailable post. Hacking is a risk on any social network — make sure all passwords are strong and regularly changed. Have a crisis comms plan in place for regaining access to misappropriated accounts and countering their lies.
- Some brands are neglecting Gen X when it comes to influencer campaign spending. According to a Wavemaker report, “Finding the Gen X Factor,” Gen X makes up roughly a third (28%) of those on TikTok but just 5% of money is spent on influencer campaigns. Ninety-two percent of Gen X are on social media daily. Just 13%, though, see themselves in social ads. When they do see their peers repped in social ads, “it doubles their preference” for those brands, according to the report. Don’t leave Gen X behind in your brand’s social media strategies. With the zeal brands put out to target Gen Z, put some of that same effort out to reach this large market, too.
Sherri Kolade is a writer at Ragan Communications. When she is not with her family, she enjoys watching Alfred Hitchcock-style films, reading and building an authentically curated life that includes more than occasionally finding something deliciously fried. Follow her on LinkedIn. Have a great PR story idea? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.