#PRWin? NFL Sponsor Verizon Clarifies Position on Domestic Violence

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So far, we’d be hard-pressed to name an organization whose handling of the NFL domestic violence controversy made it look good. While some of the league’s larger sponsors have issued statements about their disapproval of domestic abusers, they haven’t done much to back those statements up.

For example, here’s the initial statement on the Adrian Peterson story from Verizon:

“We are supportive of the NFL and, at this point, we are satisfied with our sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings…In fact, for the past several years we have collaborated with the Vikings on several programs to raise awareness of the impact of domestic violence, an issue Verizon has had a long-standing commitment to.”

Yesterday, Forbes contributor/Media Carmudgeon writer Charles Warner shared a message that the company sent him in response to a story criticizing the league; he thought it was good enough to warrant a follow-up post with the headline “Great PR.”

The email, reprinted from Warner’s post:

Hi,
I was checking out this page on your site:http://mediacurmudgeon.com/enough-roger/
Amid all the recent horrific domestic violence reports from the NFL, Verizon Wireless, one of the league’s biggest partners, has stepped up to reaffirm its stance on domestic violence: We must all band together to end domestic violence.

The company’s CEO, Lowell McAdam, made it clear in a recent editorial that the real issue at hand is not the image of Verizon or the NFL, but “the scourge of domestic violence itself.” He noted that it’s highly likely that you know someone who have been abused, physically or emotionally, by someone close to them.

According to the Avon Foundation for Women, 60 percent of Americans know someone who has been abused while 22 percent of people are victims themselves. Those staggering statistics only further drive home McAdam’s main point: We need to talk about domestic violence, because that is the only way we can eliminate the culture of denial surrounding the topic.

To help accomplish this goal, Verizon launched a new public awareness campaign this past June called Voices Have Power. You can see it here:http://www.voiceshavepower.com/

It is an online, social media platform that allows users to send messages of hope to victims of domestic violence. And for every message sent through the service, Verizon will donate $3 to domestic violence prevention organizations throughout the U.S.

If you would like to participate in Voices Have Power, you can do so via text at 94079 or through social media using the hashtag #VoicesHavePower.

Voice Have Power is run through HopeLine (http://www.verizonwireless.com/aboutus/hopeline/index.html), a program started in 1995 to provide domestic violence organizations and shelters with recycled wireless phones and accessories. Victims then receive the refurbished phones with free minutes and texting plans. Since 2001, they have donated more than $21 million in cash grants and 180,000 cell phones.

Can you help spread awareness of the #VoicesHavePower fund raising campaign? Every message shared provides hope for victims and is $3 raised for domestic violence prevention.

Thank you so much!

Sincerely,

Joanne

It’s essentially a (partial) reprint of CEO Lowell McAdam‘s LinkedIn post referenced in the email itself. And the program mentioned launched in June, before any of the league’s most recent problems came to light.

The follow-up was “great PR” in the sense that the sender found a good example of a story that could be tied to the company’s initiative. But you’ll also note that it includes no statements about the league’s general conduct — and for good reason.

We don’t expect corporate sponsors to make bolder statements regarding the NFL. This one, released by Anheuser-Busch three weeks ago, looks like the best we’re going to get:

“We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.”