I watched a sloppy Dallas Cowboys / New York Giants game with lots of penalties this Sunday. I remarked that I was looking forward to watching the proven excellence of two marquee teams on Sunday Night Football: the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots. What I got was a game featuring 14 penalties and 7 turnovers in frigid, windy conditions. The Broncos built up a 24-pt halftime lead – mostly from Patriots mistakes. However, the Broncos lost two defensive starters and three turnovers in the 2nd half – and the Patriots got the win! Even with the turnovers, dropped passes, and poor showing by a cobbled together secondary, this loss came down to two crucial plays on special teams. I’m going to narrow our scope to 2 Brand Protection Lessons from 2 Denver Broncos Punt Returns.
1. Lack of ball security leads to injuries
The Denver Broncos had every opportunity go their way in the first half. When the Patriots faltered again going against a stiff wind, the Broncos started to use timeouts to hopefully put more points on the board after a short punt into the wind. Trindon Holliday, the exciting yet fumble-prone Broncos punt returner, chose not to field the punt…but he did NOT get out of the way. The ball touched him, and New England got one more shot at the end zone before halftime.
That extra play led to a severely under-thrown pass to the end zone by Tom Brady, but the Broncos “shutdown cornerback” injured his shoulder while going after the interception. Cromartie did not return in the second half, and the Patriots had a field day against an already under-manned Broncos secondary.
Brand Protection Lesson
In this case, the injury happened on a play that never should have taken place. In other cases, mad scrambles for fumbles can lead to freak injuries. In business, fumbling with your brand’s reputation – with poor product quality or customer service – can permanently injure your brand’s reputation. Make sure you have a solid social media monitoring strategy that tracks brand mentions on social channels, blogs, and review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and CNet (when applicable). Monitoring is great for finding those hidden conversations, but it is NOT enough. You also need to engage in those conversations and address the negative comments and reviews. Consumers will give responsive brands another shot – they just might flame an unresponsive brand using social channels as amplifiers.
2. Turnovers lead to chip shot wins
The Broncos had already seen one Holliday fumble, and they watched him bobble a kickoff in the second half. As a result, they put the normally sure-handed Wes Welker in to field punts (I say “normally” because Welker dropped at least two big passes in this game). Welker went back to field a punt to give the Broncos one last shot to win the game in overtime. Rather than field the punt, he tried to “wave off” all of his teammates. It was too late for one teammate to react, and the ball hit him. The Patriots recovered, and they were already in field goal range to win the game.
Game over – Patriots win.
Brand Protection Lesson
The Broncos chose the reliable Welker, but Welker had not been returning punts – and had just come back from a concussion! He was out of practice. Welker also waited until it was too late to warn his teammates to get out of harm’s way. In business, make sure you have the RIGHT resources monitoring and protecting your brand. Give them the right tools and training – your brand’s reputation depends upon it! Then give them guidance regarding acceptable response times to your customers and acceptable “early warning times” to internal organizations that need to mobilize to address customer issues.
Dropping the ball at these junctures can lead to customer turnover to your competitors, and we do NOT want to give our competitors chip shot wins!
What was your one takeaway from watching the Broncos/Patriots game? Peyton Manning definitely did nothing to change his reputation regarding his struggles in cold weather. However, the Broncos probably win this game with just two “fair catches” on two game-changing, failed punt returns.
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