The Influence of Football Players: NFL PLAY 60

Childhood obesity is an unfortunate epidemic that has swept through the United States and has been heightened in the past several years. Unhealthy food and lazy lifestyles are at our disposal and therefore have plagued the country by storm. To address this epidemic, I’ve seen a couple of efforts by various organizations to turn this young plagued generation into a healthy, active group of kids. The coolest effort I’ve seen was started by the NFL in 2007.

Photo Credit: Flickr // United Way of Greater St. Louis

One of my favorite campaigns that addresses the epidemic is the NFL PLAY 60, “a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of young fans by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a day.” The NFL’s commitment to health and fitness partnered with other organizations, combine to make a stand against the expected health decline of kids.

Photo Credit: Flickr // West Point Public Affairs

The organization’s efforts include grassroots implementations in schools and communities all over the nation. Not only are the efforts aimed at kids to be more active, but for parents to communicate to their children the importance of a healthy lifestyle by setting a good example as to how to lead a healthy and active life. While not every school is visited by the official PLAY 60 program, schools are encourage to initiate their own efforts supporting the movement’s message. PSA’s are also shown on television and if you haven’t seen any of the cool ads I have linked some here and here.

The NFL is promoting a bigger cause, something more than the organization itself. Many kids look up to NFL players as role models and strive to one day fill their shoes. While very few may actually make it to the NFL, athletes can use their popularity to encourage kids to stay healthy. The leverage and influence that big name football players have on these little dreamers is unbelievable and the NFL is making a sincere effort to use the big guys to positively influence the future generations. By expressing the importance and the fun behind being active, NFL athletes can create a much needed wave in healthy lifestyle trends.

Photo Credit: Flickr // United Way of Greater St. Louis

This public relations effort by the NFL is not only smart and needed, but it reflects well on the league as a whole. It’s inevitable that at least a few of these kids will grow up to eventually play in the NFL, so it makes sense that the league puts forth the charitable efforts to the younger generation. The league is relating big time football players to a generation that needs coaching the most. At a grassroots level, the NFL is making a positive impact on our little ones by leading by example. The NFL organization is using it’s powerful influence in a needed and refreshing way.

 

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Party With Gronk

Arguably one of the biggest kids, both literally and figuratively, in the NFL is Rob Gronkowski. The star tight end for the New England Patriots has a youthful personality that can captivate any audience.  Venerable is certainly a word that has remained synonymous with the Patriots franchise over the past several years. Ironically, that would be one of the last words I would use to describe Gronkowski, one of the teams and leagues best players.

E:60 is one of my favorite shows on ESPN. It’s a show that features in-depth analysis on the world of sports and athletes. The investigative reporting show allows for people to see the impact that sports has in society. Jeremy Schapp, one of the reporters for the show, and E:60 recently took the time to learn more about the 23 year-old when doing a segment about the “wonderful world of Gronk.”

If you haven’t seen the segment, let alone any stories from E:60, I suggest you take a gander. Sports fans are able to get an alternate view of an athlete; one that probably would have overlooked from just watching the athlete perform on TV. We can form our own opinions about players from what we can see from their on field performance, but dynamic views of these great athletes are rarely seen, until E:60. The idea of the show is to unleash a different side to sports.

“While “Gronk” has been making defenses look bad for two-plus seasons as the Patriots’ devastating tight end, it’s the complete package of on- and off-field antics that piqued E:60 producer John Minton III’s interest in the 23-year-old,” says ESPN Front Row. Gronkowski does his signature slamming of the ball on the ground after scoring a touchdown, tweeted pictures with a porn star, and party’s with his shirt off; these are just a few of his antics. His life is a party, and everyone’s invited. He’s virtually a frat boy stuck in an ideal body for a football player. At 6 ft 6 in and 265 lbs, he sets the standard for an NFL tight end.

Photo Credit: Google // USAToday

You may automatically think that immaturity on the field might concern the Patriots and their attempt to preserve the organization’s image, but they seem not to be too worried as they recently signed him for a deal worth $54 million that will span over 6 years. His contract is the richest ever among tight ends.

Schapp noted at the end of his segment, “For now, at least, it’s clear that whatever he’s doing, however he’s doing it, Gronkowski should just keep doing it. Adulthood can wait.” As big of a kid as he is, the Gronk gets the job done. In 2011, “Gronkowski’s antics were superseded by his 17 touchdown receptions, the most in the league, the most ever for a tight end,” noted Schapp. Numbers don’t lie. He’s good and that’s all that matters.

Emotions of Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day and since there are few things more beautiful than the game of football and the men in uniform that serve our Nation, I figured that taking the time to thank both the creator of football as well as our Nations Armed Forces was necessary. The men and women that serve in our military put their lives on the line everyday to ensure America remains the land of the free. Football is nothing compared to what they do week in and week out. In my opinion, every day is Veterans Day. Veterans Day itself specifically highlights the glory and sacrifices that has made this country what it is today. I feel blessed for the freedoms that I exercise on a daily basis and I feel sorry for those who have lost their lives while serving to protect. Veterans Day remains one of my favorite days of the year.

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Defense // Flickr

Emotions are a funny thing, as they can sway someone love or hate an organization. People can tend to associate Holidays, natural disasters, taglines, teams, public figures, colors, etc. with various emotions depending on an array of factors. For example, I liked the Denver Broncos when I was a kid because I thought they were cool for having the same colors as the University of Virginia Football Team. Christmas is exciting for obvious reasons. I associate snow storms with school being  cancelled. Veterans Day is special to me because I absolutely love our nation. While I don’t necessarily support war, I will always support our troops. My father served in Vietnam as part of the special forces, my Grandfather was in the Marines, one of my sisters and her husband both continue to serve in the Army after graduating from West Point, and my other brother in law is a JAG in the Marines. It’s fairly obvious that life is a compilation of emotional things and events. Sports in themselves are very emotional, so when you combine them with major causes or events, the emotional factor skyrockets.

ESPN is a medium that provokes emotions out of people that few other sports networks can. Thousands of eyes watch the every move of the NFL, NBA, MLB, or anything on ESPN- not in a creepy way, but in an informational-seeking way. So when the organizations twitter handles, facebook pages, or websites make a move that may provoke emotions, it probably won’t go unnoticed. What this leaves is an opportunity for sports organizations to tap into people’s emotional rollercoaster and draw them into a forming an emotional tie between a fan with the respective team or athlete.

Thanks to behind the scenes work of public relations professionals who get the ball rolling on forming the emotional ties, spectators then tend to shed tears, get chills down their spine, or applaud in response to those efforts. When the various Holidays are celebrated during the year, I find it kind of interesting to see how the various sports organizations respond to or celebrate the event.

Veterans Day is a great example of an opportunity for sports organizations, such as the NFL, to enhance the emotional gameday experience while thanking those who serve in our military. The NFL can use their name and reputation to get messages across to fans and other stakeholders. Two of the biggest messages I’ve noticed are spreading breast cancer awareness and highlighting the appreciation to our military. Social media is one of the tools that public relations professionals use to communicate messages during emotional times, whether good or bad.  It allows for our generation to simply look on twitter or facebook to form opinions on such events. This “power” and influence, however, can work negatively against an organizations efforts if not handled correctly.

“Companies need to approach their social media efforts carefully—at all times, though especially during a disaster when emotions are running high,” says Michael Sebastian in his article written in response to Hurricane Sandy. From what I can tell, the NFL handled Sandy pretty well, as no obscure posts pertaining to the event on twitter sparked conversation. In regards to Veterans Day, the NFL is continuing its tasteful social media efforts while doing its annual Salute To Service campaign. This emotional event hits home to many, as a lot of folks know a loved one that is currently serving or has served in the past. Putting on this campaign in a tasteful manner is extremely important in maintaining the NFL’s brand, and from what I can tell, it’s doing a good job of it thus far.

Photo Credit: The U.S. Army // Flickr

Top 5 Reasons to Follow Chad Ochocinco on Twitter

Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the kind of player Chad Ochocinco is on the field, at least try following him on twitter for a bit and hear what he has to say when he’s off the field. If you think about it, NFL athletes are constantly under the microscope, are (typically) athletic, and receive pretty cool paychecks. With this of combination of attributes, athletes are basically obligated to live interesting lives. Twitter ends up being the outlet in which we are able to get the scope into the more personal life of that man under the helmet and pads. Chad Ochocinco is entertaining to follow on twitter for many reasons. Here are several of them:

1)    If you’re nice you might win something

2)    If you frequent Ochocinco’s account at the right time you might win something

3)    He expresses how much he truly loves his followers

4)    His filter is basically non-existent

5)    He’s funny (in a smart aleck kind of way)

After watching a hilarious and quotable video of Ochocinco (pardon the offensive language), my interest in the man grew ten fold. But it wasn’t until I saw one of his “gifts” unfold right before my eyes that I really started noticing what kind of dude he was on twitter. It was January 13, 2012 when I looking at my most recent twitter feed and saw Ochocinco respond to a fan named Victor Gonzalez. After a couple of tweets back and fourth, Ochocinco invited Victor up to the next Patriots game to meet, feed, and buy things for this fan he had never met.  I wasn’t sure if Ochocinco was going to follow through with the offer of flying Victor up to the Patriots game, but he did. And I was extremely envious.

What impresses me most about Ochocinco is his simple public relations practice. Twitter is quick, free, and concise and he uses that to his advantage to give back to his fans. His “gifts” to fans can range anywhere from a retweet to his 3.7 million followers to a free dinner. Apparently he even gave away his custom made Lamborghini.

What this amounts to for an athlete is a fan base that appreciates his generosity despite his performance on the field or the team he plays for that year. Whether he knows it or not, Ochocinco is a public relations practitioner. He’s great at showing love to his followers and building relationships that will more than likely last longer than his football career. I’m not the only one who feels this way either, as The Bleacher Report named him to its list of 15 Best NFL Athletes to Follow on Twitter.

Try following Ochocinco on twitter. If you happen to snag a cool prize, tweet me about it. Good luck!

photo by clayjseal on Flickr