The Sports PR Passing Plays & Fumbles of Super Bowl 50

The Sports PR Passing Plays & Fumbles of Super Bowl 50

By: Natalie Mikolich

Once again this year Super Bowl 50 saw larger than life television ratings and attention on the big game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.  In a battle of youth vs. experience between their star quarterbacks both looking to make history on the field at #SB50, it was the second-highest rated Super Bowl game on television ever with 111.9 million viewers tuning in and putting it just behind the 114.4 million viewers in 2015 watching the New England Patriots stun the Seattle Seahawks.

Along with some of the big plays and terrible fumbles as Peyton Manning battled it out to win his second NFL Super Bowl Championship against young Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton gunning to get his first Super Bowl win, there were also some big sports PR plays and faux pas that took place throughout Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are a few of the top plays and fumbles many of us in sports business and sports PR witnessed and what we learned from them:

1. Post-Game Press Interviews: Youth vs. Experience Showdown
Not uncommon for the NFL players and coaches to be immediately bombarded by the sideline reporters approaching them for comments and questions following the end of the game, this year the CBS sideline reporter couldn’t seem to ask Peyton Manning fast enough if he was going to ride off in the sunset and finishing his career with a story book ending following the Broncos Super Bowl win last night. No stranger to these types of situations, and after having weeks to prepare his answer on how he would address the big retirement question with the media, Peyton flawlessly delivered his answer by stating that he was going to focus on enjoying the moment and win with his family and teammates along with stating that he was going to drink a lot of beer and wait until the emotion of the moment passed to evaluate things and where he was at.

In more exact words, Peyton said:
“I’ll take some time to reflect. I’ve got a couple of priorities first. I want to go kiss my wife and my kids. I want to go hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that.”

In true champion form both on and off the field, we saw Peyton not only use good judgement for making his retirement decision, but also address the media with class, humility and all the additional great qualities that have made him a leader with his teammates on the field and in the locker room.

On the other hand, this season we have seen young, flashy Carolina Panthers Quarterback Cameron Newton dazzle fans and media reporters throughout the year, but after winning the 2015 NFL MVP of the League just a couple of nights ago, what we saw unfold in his post-game press conference on Super Bowl Sunday was not at all what sports media reporters and many others expected.

Attending the post-game press conference with his hoodie pulled over his head and in a sulking demeanor, it was apparent from the get-go that Cam didn’t want to be there any more than the rest of his teammates did who were getting drilled with questions by the reporters. Answering the media’s question with one word or very short responses, about 2:30 (two minutes and thirty seconds) into his press conference Cam abruptly said “I’m done” and got up and walked out.

Even though videos have surfaced with audio of a Denver Broncos fan heckling Cam in the background of his press conference, many believe that Cam could’ve handled his press conference in a more professional manner than he did.

We understand that athletes addressing the media after a tough loss is one of the hardest parts of their career, but it appeared that Cam let his emotion (and possibly his maturity) get the best of him during his post-game press conference. Now as the new face of the NFL , Cam will be held to a higher standard when it comes to addressing the media like former and current plays do on their toughest days and losses such as other star NFL quarterbacks who have won and loss Super Bowl Championships.

Former NFL player Deion Sanders now with the NFL Network had this to say about Cam’s press conference performance:

"You are the face of our brand right now, you can't do that. I understand the emotions of losing, but you can't do that. A Manning, a Brady ... all these guys who are a prototypical type of quarterback in our game, they're not going to do that ever. Would Drew Brees ever?"

Heading into the off-season, there is a lot of work to be done by Cam on improving how he handles addressing the media as he progresses in career and, not to mention, restoring his image and public perception with fans on why he was named the NFL MVP of the 2015 season.

2. Media Plugs Pay Big for Budweiser
Following #SB50 this year, one of the biggest story headlines from this year’s game was not only if Peyton Manning is going to announce his retirement, but also if he was paid by Budweiser to make two nearly seamless and flawless plugs for the brand in his post-game interviews.

First, on camera with the CBS sideline reporter when explaining how he was going to celebrate the Broncos victory, Peyton said:
“I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, I promise you that.”

Shortly after in another post-game interview, he again ended answering a question one of the media reporters had for him by stating:

“And I’m going to drink a lot of beer tonight. Budweiser.”

Quickly taking to twitter after speculation rose on whether or not Peyton is in fact endorsing the brand and if he was paid by Budweiser to mention them, the Head of Marketing Communications for Budweiser tweeted:

“Hi Internet. For the record, Budweiser did not pay Peyton Manning to mention Budweiser tonight. We were surprised and delighted that he did.” Lisa Weser

With many sports business and NFL experts also noting that active NFL players like Peyton can NOT endorse alcohol brands, these subtle mentions by Peyton quickly stirred conversation and rumors that perhaps he will be retiring and this was his first leak of the information to everyone about it with all eyes watching him.

On the other hand though, Peyton’s Budweiser plugs could’ve simply have been because he owns two Anheuser-Busch distributors in Louisiana and that he was only trying to give the same media love to them as the Papa John’s pizza owners he hugged and kissed on tv and of which he owns 21 franchises of in the Denver area.

At the end of the day, what we learned for a fact is that PR plugs like this PAY BIG TIME for brands with it being reported by Apex MG Analytics that each mention of Budweiser by Peyton on national television was worth $1.6MM for a grand total of $3.2MM worth of free advertising exposure being given to Budweiser last night without the exchange of a single dollar between them and Peyton in an endorsement deal.

3. Marshawn Lynch Takes to twitter to Announce Retirement
In the final quarter of #SB50 in what was turning out to be a fizzling game, Seattle Seahawks Running Back Marshawn Lynch made an appearance on twitter with many seeing a photo he tweeted showing a pair of green cleats hanging from a wire with a peace sign emoji accompanying it. 

Notoriously known from the 2015 Super Bowl Media Day and his statement saying “I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” Marshawn was once again showing his ability to make a statement without really having to say anything by implying that he was announcing his retirement via the photo he tweeted.

In an attempt to either selfishly steal the media spotlight from #SB50 and its players like Peyton and Cam, or in an effort to sweep his announcement under the rug as much as he could so it wouldn’t draw nearly as much media attention as it would if it were a slow news day, we once again saw another example of how top professional athletes are utilizing their social media channels to make their own announcements and statements without the help of the media.

One follower on twitter noted this sly move by Marshawn and said:

“Marshawn Lynch retiring. Love how he goes out, still doesn't need to say a word #BeastMode #legend” -@ReeceKaralus

Shortly followed up by tweets from the official twitter accounts of the Seattle Seahawks and Team Owner, Paul Allen, thanking Marshawn for his career, this left little room for speculation as to whether this was true or not.

Like many other athletes using and maximizing their social media channels to make big announcements and control messages with the media and fans, this perhaps was one of the first official retirement announcements ever made without even needing words to do so. This has also been said to have been done in true Marshawn fashion who did not want a media circus surrounding him for this announcement, or any other that he made throughout his career.


About the Author:
Natalie P. Mikolich is the Founder of npm | pr ( and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Entertainment and Sports Section 2016 Chair. In addition to providing public relation services for top global sportswear and equipment companies like Prince Tennis, Natalie has worked with some of the leading sports and entertainment agencies such as Blue Entertainment Sports Television (BEST) and Lagardere Unlimited Tennis.  Natalie has represented many world class professional and Olympic athletes including Greatest Doubles Team of All-Time Bob & Mike Bryan, Seven-time Grand Slam Champion and former WTA World #1 Justine Henin, 2012 London Olympic Bronze Medalist Marlen Esparza and 2014 CrossFit Games Winner Camille Leblanc-Bazinet along with Major League Soccer Medical Coordinator Dr. John Gallucci. Prior to this, Natalie was former NCAA Division I Team and SEC Conference Champion a part of the 2002-2003 University of Florida Women’s Varsity Tennis Team and a top five nationally ranked USTA junior tennis player. Follow Natalie on Twitter @npmikolich