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Volume 27 No. 53
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SBJ Football: Fired Texans PR Chief Lawyers Up

Please keep wearing masks and socially distancing. The winter is going to be tough enough without more lockdowns.

 

FIRED TEXANS PR EXEC RETAINS COUNSEL

  • Former Texans VP/Communications Amy Palcic has hired Houston lawyer Joseph Ahmad, he confirmed to me. Ahmad “represents executives in a variety of matters, including breach of contract, trade secrets, covenants not to compete, breach of fiduciary duty and other matters,” according to his website.

  • "The only thing I can say is I’ve been retained by Amy, and other than that, at this time, I don’t really have anything to say,” Ahmad said. Palcic hired him less than 48 hours after her surprise firing by Texans President Jamey Rootes.

  • If she sues, her precise cause of action is not yet clear, but some educated guessing is possible. Palcic was told she was not a “cultural fit,” sources said, a phrase with some history as a cover for discrimination. The team has not denied the use of that phrase. There’s also been speculation that the firing came after her online celebration of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

  • Rootes: “It was definitely my call. I gave her the role a number of years ago and felt the need to make a change. Leadership is a lonely role and sometimes you have to make a move that impacts people that you care about deeply.”

  • Palcic tweeted this morning: “On what was arguably the most humiliating day of my life, people showed up -- my friends, colleagues, total strangers. PR can often be a thankless job. We live behind the scenes lifting others up. A great reminder that being a good person matters in the long run.” Palcic's firing led to an outpouring of support from a wide range of NFL beat reporters and Texans star J.J. Watt.

 

 

NFL, TEAMS BEGIN STRATEGIZING FOR 2021

  • Nearly all the NFL’s energy is focused on navigating this pandemic-plagued season, but teams are trying to prepare for 2021 too. In a virtual meeting set for tomorrow, Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league execs are scheduled to begin answering some of their questions about the path forward amid COVID-19.

  • Agenda items include club preparation and fan engagement for 2021, the offseason calendar -- such as the Senior Bowl, Combine and Draft -- updates on all commercial partnerships and something called a “marketing innovation preview,” per sources.

  • This would normally be fairly routine stuff, but it comes as clubs struggle to sell and plan for 2021 with little clear picture of what business conditions await them. Despite this week’s optimism over a vaccine, current information suggests attendance restrictions will continue next fall, insiders say.

  • One team exec said: “We’ve been on tactical things for six to eight months, understandably, but we need to start talking strategy again."

 

FANCAM FINDS NEW USES AMID THE PANDEMIC

  • High-res pictures of large crowds used to be a simple fan engagement tool, letting fans tag themselves amongst the hordes. But the Vikings have used images from vendor Fancam to measure mask wearing compliance -- and to recoup sponsorship impressions inside U.S. Bank Stadium lost to the pandemic.

  • When the team invited up to 250 friends and family into the otherwise closed stadium, it used the images to count masks, and then showed that data to state officials as proof bigger crowds could work. “We had 100% compliance, and we were feeling pretty bullish, pretty good that we could do this for 4,000 people,” said Rich Wang, director of analytics & fan engagement.

  • The lobbying effort failed, but it’s just the start of the data Fancam is generating for the Vikes. The images, plus artificial intelligence software, can quickly gauge where fans are looking any given moment (the field, video boards or other fans, for instance) -- and how often they’re in their seats.

  • Fancam, which has its North American HQ in Minneapolis, is also powering an online tool that allows fans to insert their own images into an empty seat inside of a real photo taken at a recent game. The much-maligned tarp logos are in the picture, and include a link to their web pages. The site has generated 300,000 page views and 9,000 hours of fans looking around the image of the stadium, recovering some impressions sponsors lost to the fan restrictions.

 

Fancam allows attendees to find themselves in a massive crowd, such as this Bears-Vikes game from 2019

 

SPEED READS

  • The Weeknd has been chosen by the NFL to play the Super Bowl Halftime Show in Tampa, per the N.Y. Times. The selection of the 30-year-old singer is in "keeping with the NFL’s recent attempts to attract a wider audience by pivoting from classic rock acts dominated by white musicians to artists with large social media followings who are popular with younger fans and people of color." It will be the second halftime show produced in part by Jay-Z and Roc Nation.

  • Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said that he "sees double standards in the safety protocols the NFL has instituted as it tries to complete a season amid the coronavirus pandemic," according to the AP. Rodgers on SiriusXM’s “The Pat McAfee Show" said, "You can go down to practice and hit each other and be in close contact, but you have to have Plexiglas between you and the guy next to you in the locker room. I just think some of those things to me really don’t add up.” 

  • With Week 10 beginning tonight, the NFL is averaging 14.86 million viewers for game telecasts, per SBJ's Austin Karp. That figure is down 6% from the same point last season. Week 9 numbers, amid hefty cable news competition, were not pretty. CBS led the way with Steelers-Cowboys in the national window (22.7 million), up 1% from last year when Chargers-Steelers was featured. CBS was down 11% for the regional window. The Saints' blowout of the Buccaneers on "Sunday Night Football" was down 24%. Fox's singleheader was down 15%. Patriots-Jets on "Monday Night Football" was down 30% from Cowboys-Giants last year.

  • In this week's SBJ Marketing newsletter, my esteemed colleague Terry Lefton furthers the pessimism surrounding Super Bowl LV’s corporate marketing and party scene amid the pandemic. “The more people we talk to about the upcoming Super Bowl in Tampa, the more convinced we become that it won’t be much more than the football game.”

  • The good vibes continue to come out of Buffalo after fans donated over $63,000 to the John R. Oishei Children's Hospital in honor of Bills QB Josh Allen's grandmother, Patricia Allen, who passed away on Saturday. The Buffalo News’ Pete Rosen writes, “Rarely has a community, an organization, a player and a fan base ever mirrored one another like these 2020 Bills. Buffalo is a tough, blue-collar town -- helmed by a stubborn, nose to the grindstone coach and general manager -- led by a fierce, never-say-die quarterback and team -- performing for a hard-nosed working class fandom.”

  • The Dallas Morning News’ Jean-Jacques Taylor writes the 2-7 Cowboys are a "franchise in disarray," and the Jones family "must acknowledge it before they hit rock bottom." Taylor: “It's never been my inclination to deal in hope, faith and optimism when it comes to the Cowboys. Reality and pragmatism serve the fan base better. Jerry and Stephen should take the same approach."

 

 

 

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Something on the football beat catch your eye?
 Tell us about it. Reach out to me (bfischer@sportsbusinessjournal.com) or Austin Karp (akarp@sportsbusinessjournal.com) and we'll share the best of it. Also contributing to this newsletter is Thomas Leary (tleary@sportsbusinessdaily.com).