Did you know that Anchorman 2 is coming out this weekend? It's true. I know this because I saw advertisements for Ron Burgundy-brand scotch, which is pretty hilarious because in the movie Anchorman, Ron Burgundy enjoys scotch very deeply.
I was in the grocery store yesterday and saw that he even had his own Ben & Jerry's flavor. He's been selling Durangos, co-hosting the evening news in North Dakota and he was going to do SportsCenter until ESPN smartly decided to scrap the segment for fear of undermining its Jameis Winston coverage (but let's face it, Ron Burgundy announcing sexual assault charges against the Heisman hopeful would have been the most ESPN thing ever).
Wait, it's not coming out this weekend? That's weird, on account of all of those things I just mentioned. Well, it's out next weekend, right? No? Even with all those things he's doing?
It's not coming out until Dec. 18 and I'm already sick of it.
I'm sick of it because the marketing machine behind Anchorman 2 has spent the past month telling me how much I love the Anchorman franchise. The more places that I spot Ron Burgundy, the closer I begin to examine what made me enjoy the first Anchorman in the first place, and with something like a movie or a sport, these things tend to become less important the more you examine them.
Anchorman was a pretty funny movie, but it puts me off to see its marketing team operate under the obvious premise that its customers are ATM machines who DVR Dodge commercials and piss themselves silly anytime they hear a "Sex Panther" reference. The NFL is starting to feel the same way to me.
I enjoy the NFL, but I've been beaten over the head with Tyler Palko, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick talk from Ron Jaworski to the point where I don't believe that he believes a damn word he says; yet I'm supposed to? In radio they call it a "burn factor" for how long it takes the audience to get sick of a Of Monsters and Men song. We've already reached that point with Anchorman 2, and the NFL isn't far behind: one says, "Stay classy," while the other asks, "Is Joe Flacco elite?"
While the NFL isn't slinging branded alcohol or ice cream (that I know of), it's also not in the business of a marketing blitz for a product with a very limited shelf life. Anchorman has about two months to make most of its box office receipts; the NFL as we know it has been operating for 93 years. But that doesn't stop the league from throwing "Official NFL Nail Polish" at us. You can tell exactly how dumb a company thinks you are by the amount of stupid crap it slaps its logo on while confidently investing in a team of marketers to sell to you and me. The actual on-field product itself is still solid (much like I imagine Anchorman 2 will be), but the beginning of the "death by a thousand paper cuts" or at least a recession is going to begin with the league losing money on its marketing efforts once the general public starts to turn away from all of the valueless fluff and excess bring crammed down our throats.
The easiest mistake that you can make in big-brand marketing is overestimating the engagement level of the consumer. Darren Rovell's entire existence should have been a harbinger for market saturation. There's a difference between marketing and pandering. Sixty percent of the time, the NFL crosses that point all the time. Take the razor battles of the late 90s/early 2000s for example: we went from having razors with one blade to having five blades and a vibrating handle within a few years until people said "enough with the blades already." Now we've got the Dollar Shave Club as a backlash. Likewise, the NFL is pushing for an 18-game season, expanded playoffs AND a team in London, which by and large doesn't seem to give a shit about American football outside of the two-game circus act we send over to test the waters.
Another fun thing to note when it comes to NFL coverage is how very little of our NFL analysis is about the sport of football. We have to modify the discussions into referendums on leadership qualities, marketability and manufactured narratives because we just don't have enough actual meaningful stuff to talk about.
Between the team of NFL PR people who seemingly exist just to validate their jobs' existence, the saturated merchandise-marketing efforts, the watered-down products like Thursday Night Football and the 11-person Football Night in America cast, the NFL spends most of its airtime strutting around pointing to its own erection and telling the fans, "Don't act like you're not impressed."