Disruption Drives the NFL to Gamble — Or How to Kill a Sacred Cow in 3 Easy Steps

A couple weeks ago, the NFL discussed gambling and the game. … No, not the impact gambling could have on the game. Actual gambling as part of the NFL — from your seat, at the game or in your home, every Sunday. Why would they do that? Disruption. What will you do when the sacred cows in your industry are brought to the butcher’s block?

NFL considers killing a sacred cow and allowing gambling back ino the game.
Credit: Pixabay by Keith Johnston

A couple weeks ago, the NFL had a summit to discuss gambling and the game. … Not the impact gambling could have on the game; actual gambling as part of the NFL — from your seat, at the game or in your home, every Sunday.

If they do that, it will mark the death of one of America’s most sacred cows: the separation of the big four team sports — football, baseball, hockey and basketball — from dirty, dirty gamblers who could taint the games. It could also bring Brink’s trucks full of even more money into the league coffers.

Why would they do that? Disruption.

Like many industries, the NFL sees a game-changing event on the horizon. The owners need to decide whether they want to stay the course (and potentially see someone else benefit from that disruption), or move first to make the most of it (and potentially ruin everything they’ve built).

If your industry hasn’t faced this kind of decision, it will. What will you do when your sacred cows are brought to the butcher’s block? Here are three steps to think through whether to keep Bessy on her pedestal, or make the hard cut.

1. Recognize the New Situation

This sacred calf has been venerated for nearly 100 years — ever since the “Black Sox” scandal, when the Chicago White Sox were accused of throwing the 1919 World Series. That was when the big leagues realized gambling could undermine the legitimacy of sports in the eyes of the American public (and any sports fan will tell you the referees do a good enough job of that all on their own).

While U.S. attitudes toward gambling have changed in the past decade, for most of my life, the idea of league-sanctioned gambling was absolutely unthinkable. Now, NFL ownership is considering not just whether they could cozy up with casinos, but how they might do it, and how many zeros those checks might have.

It could be the boldest stroke of genius, or the dumbest butt-fumble, in NFL history.

via GIPHY

Gambling exists in a grey area of American entertainment. By and large, sports gambling has been limited to just Las Vegas in the United States. Now the Supreme Court appears ready to allow New Jersey to add sports gambling to its casino and race track games, and that would open the floodgates for other states to do the same.

This is a remarkably new situation for the NFL. Gambling may be coming, and the owners would rather ride that wave than be drowned by it.

At the same time, some of the underlying realities of the Black Sox scandal have changed as well. Athletes of the time were not that wealthy, and very vulnerable to outside financial influence. Today, professional athletes are some of the wealthiest people in the world, and gambling payoffs large enough to motivate them seem unrealistic. What’s more, Europe’s soccer leagues have been in bed with gambling for years, and the nightmare scenarios just haven’t materialized (although it hasn’t been all clean, either).

All of those factors mean the context that made this cow sacred have changed. And the business people who’ve been holding it sacred need to recognize that, too.

2. Identify the Business Opportunities

It’s one thing to recognize the situation has changed. It’s another to identify the opportunities in it.

Should I Accept Your LinkedIn Invitation?

Recently I accepted a full-time position with one of my clients, the Digital Advertising Alliance, which makes me particularly happy to have benefits again, but I sure will miss my daily freedoms from the past six years. Since I updated my LinkedIn profile, a plethora of people I do not know have reached out to me asking for LinkedIn invite acceptances—but not stating anything specific or particular in their request of me

Recently I accepted a full-time position with one of my clients, the Digital Advertising Alliance, which makes me particularly happy to have benefits again, but I sure will miss my daily freedoms from the past six years.

Thankfully, I get to maintain a small stable of freelance clients that keep me busy at night and on weekends, too. And I enjoy uncovering new business opportunities for myself or to steer potential business to trusted colleagues in my field. Other folks have done much the same for me, a virtuous circle.

Obtaining a new job is one business happening that “triggers” marketing events of one sort or another. While I haven’t made it yet to the C-suite (I can only imagine the triggers there), I’m getting my share of social check-in’s, emails, not-so-many telephone calls, and a direct mail piece or two.

Since I updated my LinkedIn profile, a plethora of people I do not know have reached out to me asking for LinkedIn invite acceptances—but not stating anything specific or particular in their request of me. Please, take a moment and give a short sentence stating what we have or could have in common. I’m a PR guy, and I genuinely like getting to know people and how we can build bridges and do business together … but I don’t want the quality of my social network to become watered down. I wonder if LinkedIn has relaxed its rules for enabling introductions.

My normal protocol in response is to visit his or her profile, and see if there’s an apparent fit to my professional life. Sometimes I discover it’s someone I do know with a new or different surname (and I readily accept), but most of the time it’s a complete stranger, with only imagined relevance. Is it me they’re after, my position that intrigues them, or my employer’s marketplace presence? It’s always good form to keep your own profiles edgy and up to date for the inspection of others—and your invites to the point.

Let me also state the opposite: I do feel some guilt dismissing online a complete stranger (but perhaps an industry cohort) because I wonder if I’m doing myself, my new employer and my existing social network a disservice. Shouldn’t I be willing to talk to a stranger—I do it all the time at tradeshows and industry gatherings (we’ve self-qualified each other by both being there)? Yes, I should be willing—but I don’t’ always feel the need to get a business card.

Recently, I came across these rules for accepting LinkedIn invites which I believe are worth sharing.

  1. I accept/send LinkedIn invitations if I have had the opportunity to work with you
  2. I accept/send LinkedIn invitations if we have met in person
  3. I accept/send LinkedIn invitations if we have spoken on the phone (and an in-person meeting is not feasible)
  4. I accept/send LinkedIn invitations to initiate a professional relationship where phone, online, and/or in-person collaboration is expected.
  5. My goal in every LinkedIn relationship is to be able to recommend your services to other professionals who trust my opinion.

I’ve built my network with rules one, two and three—which has allowed me to implement Rule 5. I’m admittedly not so quick on rule four, precisely because of Rule 5! The integrity of anyone’s social network is one’s ability to leverage it: quality before quantity.

As interconnectedness grows in our world and our field—all marketing is integrated, and my status as a PR professional informs marketing—I’m going to try and be more open to new faces online, but I will continue to insist on some due diligence. Otherwise, what’s the point in having a connection?

Feel free to post your own rules on social networking. Or offer an opposing point of view.