The Public Relations Papers

Because sometimes you just don't have a choice.

28 September, 2006

T.O. and PR: Why the Football Star and Media Facet go Hand in Hand


Even though the flashy wide receiver calls himself an entertainer as well as an NFL player, Terrell Owens has created a persona and image that is almost unparalleled in the sports world. During the span of only a few years, Owens has gone from loved, to hated, to everywhere in between. So what, you ask, does this have to do with public relations? In my opinion, everything.

In the wake of a reported suicide attempt by Owens on Sept. 28, we have once again seen a media feeding frenzy over the Dallas Cowboys receiver. In a rush to get the story out about the high-profile athlete, media outlets reported on information from an internal police report that turned out to be largely untrue (but that is another topic for another time.) As the misinformation spread like wildfire, Owens’ publicist Kim Etheredge was called in to shoot down the rumors.

Wait, a publicist? For a football player?

Though it is probably not as uncommon as it was 20 years ago, there is something about an athlete needing a publicist that seems a bit strange. But from high-profile contract disputes, to book deals, to staged media events in his driveway (featuring Owens doing sit-ups while answering questions,) a publicist might not be such a bad thing for a spotlight-loving person like himself after all.

As much as athletes are getting paid these days, or at least having the potential to be paid, every bit of publicity and camera time helps their cause. Having name-recognition among fans and even non-fans helps players like Owens land bigger contracts, shoe deals, etc.

Terrell Owens, just like more and more athletes in our society, is more than a player or entertainer; he’s a brand. A brand that is being gobbled up by football fans everywhere. He has had the NFL’s top-selling football jersey for most of this year, and has recently come out with a fairly successful book. With so many things happening off the field in the lives of athletes, maybe publicists aren’t such a bad thing after all. Publicists essentially create storylines and super-personas that keep audiences entertained, and sports news exciting.

Oh yeah, football players, actually still DO play football. I think.

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