I didn’t watch the Super Bowl this year; the only reason it’s on my DVR is so I can watch the commercials and study them like any other marketing guy. And the story I’m writing about here is on a PR disaster that’s probably going to leave Jerry Jones with a Texas-sized headache–and which may well preclude the Dallas Cowboys franchise from hosting another Super Bowl any time soon.
The New York Times and the New York Daily News reported on a seating snafu caused by the failure to complete some sections of temporary bleachers in time for the game. The story also hints that part of it had to do with Jerry Jones’s desire for a Super Bowl attendance record, which was ultimately unsuccessful (103,219 versus the record set in 1980 at the Rose Bowl of 103,985).
To their credit, the NFL did something to try and make things right, offering the fans who were not able to be relocated to other seats in the stadium free food and merchandise and the chance to watch the game from one of the stadium’s private clubs and/or the standing-room-only rooms, as well as a refund of three times the face value of the tickets.
The refund may well not cover what some scalpers charged for tickets. But I’ve ranted about scalpers before, and my opinion of them has not changed at all. Suffice it to say I have a low opinion of those who would profit at the expense of the NFL and their fans, and I’m disappointed the NFL and its member teams have done almost nothing about Super Bowl ticket scalping. It’s entirely possible the NFL doesn’t care, but that’s kind of a side issue here.
Anyway, this quote from Ashante Green of Pittsburgh (at the end of the NY Times story), who was relocated from an unusable section 240A seat to one in section 448 (in the upper deck), sums it up nicely:
It’s ridiculous… What am I supposed to do? Not go in?
I consider what happened here an embarrassment to all of Texas. Mr. Jones should be ashamed of himself and the bad PR he brought to not only his franchise, but the NFL, his city, and his state. Look, guys, if you’re going to put in temporary seating to try and break the attendance record, make sure it’s ready to use by game time. Otherwise, you just look like a bunch of idiots. And let’s be honest here, there are enough people that have this mistaken stereotype in their heads about Texas being full of “dumb cowboys” or worse. Mr. Jones, and his greedy, selfish quest for a Super Bowl attendance record, didn’t exactly help.
The least that could have been done, was to acknowledge that there were tickets out there for unusable seats prior to game time, and have the contingency plan ready to go and announced. It’s much better from a PR standpoint to admit a goof like this before you have hundreds of disgruntled fans rather than after.