Is Marshawn Lynch a PR genius?

Somehow, it seems appropriate. The guy getting absolutely the most attention from the media in this Superbowl ramp up is Marshawn Lynch. Why? Because he won’t play their game, at least not the way they think it should be played.

He’s obligated by his NFL contract to talk to the media. Now where did that obligation come from? The media one would suspect. They want unfettered access to the players. So, when Marshawn gets the big fine for not living up to this part of the deal, who goes along. Sort of. He first answers all questions with the same response: “Yeah.”

Then, he ups the game at this pre-Superbowl media day by answering all questions with: I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” I was watching “His and Hers” on ESPN last night and they were furious. But they spent probably 20 minutes talking about guess who? Not outspoken Richard Sherman, not deflategate, not Belichick and his propensity to break the rules. No, they talked about Marshawn Lynch. Same with the print news coming out of media day. What was the story: Marshawn Lynch.

Now, I might conclude that he is doing this because he is painfully shy, hates the media, or doesn’t know the first thing about brand building. Or he could just be a complete jerk.

But after seeing this commercial for Progressive featuring none other than the non-spoken Marshawn, I’m starting to conclude the guy is the smartest PR guy in football, if not in the world. (And Kenny Mayne’s got to get credit for making this happen). Now I could still conclude that Marshawn is just a jerk, but not from what I’ve heard. In fact, it was our son Chris of BaronVisuals who helped shoot the Lynch commercial–not he’s not the guy seen behind the camera (I’m not that old) he’s behind the actual camera. And he tells me Marshawn is for real.

What does this mean for crisis communication? That one should answer all the questions the media through out at you with “Yeah”? No. But what it does suggest is that not playing their game the way they want it played can sometimes, in the right circumstances, and done right, really pay dividends.

OK, this post was just my backwards way of slipping in a comment about the SuperBowl. Hey, I’m from the Seattle area. How about those Hawks?

3 thoughts on “Is Marshawn Lynch a PR genius?”

  1. Seems that this is an example of the media’s outrage if you don’t ‘feed the beast’. In Marshawn’s case the ‘media’ was mad at him for not talking, and consequently besmirching his character when it, and his performance, was excellent. Doesn’t matter: he’s not talking, so he’s being tried and convicted for…. not talking.

    Imagin the outrage if he had been accused of something, say deflating footballs, and he was using the same words. He’d be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion.

    Lesson one: Don’t make not talking the issue, it will only seal your guilt.

    Also, everyday people didn’t mind Marshawn’s silence, in fact they enjoyed it. The media hated it, because it took them out of the center. While they were inadvertently promoting his name and brand, they still hated and feared the fact that he didn’t need them to tell his story.

    Second lesson: We don’t depend on the traditional media any more. We have other ways of telling our story. If worst comes to worst, the condemnation of the ‘nattering nabobs of negativity’ doesn’t necessarily carry the day. Be ready to communicate around the media.

    Of course, the spotlight has shifted, who cares about Marshawn today? Questions about his silence have been replaced with questions about why he didn’t get the ball. Now he’s the neglected hero who could have saved the game, and Pete Carroll is the villian-du-jour.

    Lesson 3: Media attention is flitting – the spotlight will turn somewhere else. Endure the spotlight, it won’t shine on you for long. Maximize your message for the moments you can deliver it.

    Here was Marshawn’s genius: His chosen words pinpointed the NFL’s hyprocisy, burnished his own brand and deflected criticism for his behavior, maximizing his moment in the spotlight.

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