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NFL. Helmets against concussion

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Our Organization: The National Football League (NFL)

Who we are: We are a major professional football organization made up of 32 teams. The teams are split up evenly between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Football is the most popular sport in the United States of America. The most popular forms of the game to watch are professional (NFL) and college football (NCAA). The NFL Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event in the World.

Communication Challenge: In 2015, a federal judge approved a, “class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and former players.” The NFL agreed to give $5 million per retired player for serious medical problems in relation to head trauma. In 2016, the NFL publicly confirmed the connection between chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and football.

In 2017, CTE was found in 99% of the studied brains from deceased NFL players according to a study published on July 25, 2017 in the medical journal JAMA. CTE is, “the neurodegenerative brain disease that can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is pathologically marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety of clinical symptoms.” Symptoms include confusion, aggression, depression, anxiety, memory loss and sometimes suicide. Since, the NFL has pledged $100 million, “in support for independent medical research and engineering advancements in neuroscience related topics.”

Despite the NFL’s efforts to make football safer through new rules we are still seeing a huge decline in youth football. And while there is no exact evidence that proves the correlation between the decline in youth football and CTE it is no conscience that after the NFL publicly acknowledged the connection between football and CTE, that the number of high school football participants dropped by 25,901 in 2016-17. In addition to high school participants dropping, Adam Schefter from NFL Insider is quoted from twitter stating that, “John Urschel is 14th player to retire at age 30 or younger during 2016 offseason.”

With all of this being said, football is safer now than it has ever been. According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the NFL has made 39 rule changes in order to protect the players brains. In addition to the rule changes, the NFL has made major advances in helmet technology and established a new and improved concussion protocol.

Dr. Kevin Guskiewicz, one of the world’s leading researchers on concussions, believes as people become more educated on concussions and head trauma the safer they will be. Dr. Guskiewicz believes that a major component to concussions not being reported is little to no concussion education. Now— all players, trainers, parents and coaches have mandatory concussion education and prevention workshops/ classes. Dr. Guskiewicz believes the education on head trauma has made the game safer. “The appearance is that it’s a more dangerous sport than ever,” Dr. Guskiewicz said. “But the reason we’re seeing a spike in reported concussions is because now people are more informed and are more likely to report them.” Dr. Guskiewicz now allows his own children to play football.

The NFL needs a compelling campaign that will show the public that football is significantly safer.

The Project and Research Objectives: The NFL plans to launch the NFL Concussion and CTE Prevention Initiative— a large-scale persona-based campaign aimed at people who are already view the NFL’s website, follow sports, and care about football. We hope that through this campaign we can reeducate our consumers on the strides we’ve made to make the game safer. We are seeking a firm to conduct public opinion polling and research on the following:

  • Does the public know what CTE and concussions are?
  • Does the public understand that CTE can be caused from a car accident, falling out a tree one time, or running into a wall?
  • Does the public know that the NFL has changed 39 rules in order to keep the players heads safe?
  • Does the public know that the NFL has invested $100 million into medical research to help understand the brain?
  • How important is the safety of the players to the NFL fans?

o Are fans willing to give up some of the “hitting” that they love to watch for a safer game?

  • Which message style would best suit the NFL audience—mail, email, commercials, special events/ workshops, half-time shows?
  • What types of people would the NFL audience best react to— the players, the coaches, the scientists, the doctors, other celebrities?
  • How effective would social media be during this campaign?

o How often does the NFL audience go on social media?

o What social media accounts do NFL fans follow/ interact with?

  • What strategies would be the best in communicating with families who have already lost a loved one to CTE or serious head trauma?
  • What is the demographic of people that watch football, enjoy sports, follow the NFL?

This research will help to fine tune the NFL Concussion and CTE Prevention Initiative. We hope through this research to be able to pin-point our audience and communicate with them effectively. The message will be educational, caring and direct. We plan to use the research to develop strategic communication that will reshape the perception that football is unsafe.

Deadline: The NFL is requesting proposals no later than Friday, September 7, 2018. The NFL will make a decision no later than September 14, 2018.   

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