On behalf of the entire advertising industry, I would like to say we love you and we need you. Consumers are avoiding advertisements at an exponential rate and there's a reason you generate $9 billion per year: You are one of the last bastions of hope for "must see TV."
Football is the one opportunity for truly capturing the attention and imagination of our target audiences. Not just on TV. Football fans are addicted to content online and via mobile. The NFL is a crucial partner for our industry. Given that the majority of your revenue comes from advertising, I assume the feeling is mutual.
Look what happened to NHL: it's been in a death spiral since its work stoppage. Look what happened to MLB : It jacked up its superstars with performance enhancing drugs (allegedly) to re-capture our attention. If you continue down this path, consumers will find other ways to spend time. As consumers go, so will the advertising revenue. So, in the spirit of bringing an end to the possible NFL work stoppage, here is a proposal for bringing an end to your labor negotiations.
Issue I: No 18 Game Season
Football players don't just get hurt. They get maimed. They get brain damage and literally lose their minds. This is the first generation to be aware of the problem and educated fans are deeply concerned. Previous generations had no knowledge about the situation. But, if Tom Brady starts drooling during his next Stetson ad shoot, it won't help sell any cologne. If Peyton Manning can't remember his lines, I'm guessing we won't buy the Sony TV's he pitches. Two more games per year is a terrible idea. The fans that agree most strongly are those with the highest education levels -- meaning those that purchase products from some of your biggest advertisers, including Mercedes and IBM. Here's an idea: Keep 16 games and add another bye week. Instantly, you would generate approximately 5% more regular season television revenue while making players and fans much happier. How many business maneuvers instantly add 5% to a revenue stream while simultaneously improving morale and product quality?
Issue II: Removing Capital Investment from Revenue
The owners reportedly invested over a billion dollars in capital investments, such as building new stadiums. They now want that money considered an expense that is taken out before the revenue is distributed. The players need to realize that they are not going to win every negotiation and this is a place they need to acquiesce. The capital investments will grow revenue and ultimately lead to more income for everyone involved. They are now fighting over a few hundred million dollars, which sounds like a lot. But, it's only about 10%, which will be off-set by the idea of adding another bye week (which will also lengthen careers and earnings). This short-term sacrifice will generate more revenue in the long term. Owners have proven that they can grow revenue and players are reaping the benefits. It's time for players to show some trust and some fiscal partnering.
Issue III: Transparency of Financial Records
Now I finally understand how billionaires become billionaires: Owners are incredible negotiators. Players get a percentage of total revenue, but don't have access to financial records. The players in this deal are partners and they have the right to see financial performance. However, as proposed by owners, the players should not have access to all granular data. All businesses have some inappropriate expenses. Every NFL team probably has an over-paid family member on payroll or a long-term employee who is paid more than scale. It's not fair for an NFL running back to place judgment on each of those expenses. But, it's also not fair for owners to be completely obtuse. The happy medium is to deliver independently audited financial statements categorized at an appropriate level. Every expenditure and salary level doesn't need to be shared. Players simply need to understand revenue, profits and core categories of expenses.
Issue IV: Rookie Wage Scale
The rookie wage scale is an easy issue. Currently, early round draft picks coming out of college are guaranteed tens of millions before ever proving that they can perform in the NFL. Last year, Sam Bradford signed a contract for $78 million dollars. First-round draft picks have a success rate of only about 50%, which means that The Rams could be ruined for the next decade if Bradford doesn't work out. Rational players, owners and fans agree on fixing this issue. NFL careers average only 3 years, so they deserve a great pay day. But, the incredible salaries for early round picks are not currently a calculated risk -- they are an outright gamble. Gambling with contracts is no way to run a $9 billion a year industry.
It's Time for Action
The funny thing about this proposal is that it seems really easy and logical. Sure, I'm just an advertising guy so I might be simplifying it. But, I'll tell you this, if you came over and watched a few ads with me, I doubt I would argue with your critiques. So, please consider this modest proposal. It's in everyone's best interests. Remember, I'm not just a fan. I'm a business partner.
NFL Fan and Business Partner