Brand NFL

Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 344
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Brand NFL
    Book Description:

    Professional football today is an $8 billion sports entertainment industry--and the most popular spectator sport in America, with designs on expansion across the globe. In this astute field-level view of the National Football League since 1960, Michael Oriard looks closely at the development of the sport and at the image of the NFL and its unique place in American life. New to the paperback edition is Oriard's analysis of the offseason labor negotiations and their potential effects on the future of the sport, and his account of how the NFL is dealing with the latest research on concussions and head injuries.

    eISBN: 978-1-4696-0499-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. 1-9)

    Before it became a “brand,” the National Football League had an image. In fact, for most of its first half-century, the NFL had a serious image problem. Football in the United States developed over the final third of the nineteenth century as an intercollegiate game, and colleges created the standard against which other forms of football would be measured into the 1950s. The professional version developed haphazardly in midwestern mill towns for two decades before it was organized in 1920 into what became the National Football League, with franchises in places like Akron and Dayton, Ohio; Hammond, Indiana; and Rock...

    (pp. 10-54)

    Professional football became Americans’ favorite spectator sport in the 1960s. It was a decade of great players (as is every decade): Johnny Unitas and Sonny Jurgensen, Lenny Moore and Gayle Sayers, Deacon Jones and Dick Butkus, John Mackey and Raymond Berry. Nearly the entire starting lineup of the Green Bay Packers—Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, Jim Ringo, Forrest Gregg, Ron Kramer, Willie Davis, Henry Jordan, Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Wood—became household names. Without question, the greatest of them all was Jim Brown, one of the NFL’S few truly...

    (pp. 55-94)

    I entered pro football in 1970 at the end of the NFL’S second brief work stoppage and exited in 1974 at the conclusion of its first full-blown strike. Between these two events passed four relatively uneventful NFL seasons, marked chiefly by the emergence of the Miami Dolphins as the NFL’S newest “dynasty,” and of O. J. Simpson as its greatest individual star. On the field, where in 1973 he became the first to rush for more than 2,000 yards, Simpson was a marvel of speed, grace, and control. Off the field, his good looks and nonthreatening charm would soon make...

    (pp. 95-139)

    The failed strike in the summer of 1974 marked the beginning of a period of conflict that would not be resolved for two decades (and that has continued, though with owners now fighting each other instead of their players). Peace between the NFL Players Association and management arrived only after two more failed strikes and a series of NFLPA victories in court, before a labor agreement was reached in 1993 that became one of the cornerstones of the hugely prosperous new NFL. Al Davis initiated the owners’ internal conflicts when he filed suit in 1980 for the right to move...

  7. 4 THE NEW NFL
    (pp. 140-174)

    In 1989, when Paul Tagliabue replaced Pete Rozelle, the league took in $975 million in revenue and the average franchise was worth about $100 million. The most recent figures calculated byForbesmagazine in 2006 are $6.2 billion and $898 million (previous year’s revenue, current worth).aFor perspective,Forbesnoted that the increase in franchise value since 1998 was 11 times the growth of the S&P 500 over that same period.¹ The “new NFL” that emerged in the 1990s had three cornerstones: labor peace, television contracts, and stadium revenue. (Leaguewide sponsorships and licensing added a smaller but still sizable pot...

    (pp. 175-209)

    To a short list of milestones marking the creation of the new NFL—May 7, 1982, when Al Davis won the right to move his franchise; February 25, 1989, when Jerry Jones bought the Dallas Cowboys; May 6, 1993, when the owners and players finally signed a labor agreement—should be added July 12, 1994. On that day, the NFL announced that Sara Levinson, former copresident of MTV, had been hired as the new president of NFL Properties. This seemed like news of the you’ve-got-to-kidding sort. The president of a cable network feeding highly sexualized music videos to teenagers, and...

    (pp. 210-249)

    Whatever the product the NFL was selling in the 1990s and early 2000s, it came predominately in shades of black. The commercialization and racialization of NFL football have proceeded hand in hand since the 1960s, as pro football’s thrills have been disproportionately provided by African American players. The number of black players in the NFL increased from 12 percent in 1959 to 28 percent in 1968, 42 percent in 1975, and 49 percent in 1982, the last season that African Americans constituted a minority in the NFL. The black majority grew to 54 percent in 1985, 61 percent in 1990,...

    (pp. 250-257)

    Paul Tagliabue’s announcement on March 20, 2006, that he was stepping down as commissioner presented an obvious occasion for assessing the state of the National Football League after nearly 17 years of his guidance. Tagliabue broke the news just 12 days after the owners resolved their dispute over revenue sharing, in principle anyway, in order to extend their collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association through 2011. This was the commissioner’s last piece of unfinished business, and it was most fitting that this was so, because Tagliabue’s principle legacy to the NFL, and the achievement he claims most to prize,...

    (pp. 258-264)

    I concludedBrand NFLin February 2007 with an observation that the National Football League was thriving yet strangely vulnerable. Three years later the NFL still thrives, yet it is now more vulnerable than at any time since 1993, more profoundly vulnerable than it has been since its struggles to survive in its earliest years.

    None of this has been apparent on the field. After rooting for or against New England’s quest for perfection in 2007 (following the embarrassment of “Spygate”), fans the next year could follow an aging Kurt Warner’s improbable return to the Super Bowl with Arizona. The...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 265-314)
    (pp. 315-316)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 317-332)