A Poorly Krafted PR Strategy

A Poorly Krafted PR Strategy

Robert Kraft chose to walk a fine line this past week when he blamed the agents of wide receiver Wes Welker for their failure to sign a deal. Robert Kraft is the owner of the very successful New England Patriots of the National Football League. The Patriots have developed an edge that came with winning three Super Bowls in the first half of the 2000s. Since then, they have contended every season and made two Super Bowls (losing both as favorites). Now, however, the edge seems to be dulling and Robert Kraft is having trouble coping with that.

Wes Welker had been superstar quarterback Tom Brady’s top target in recent years, serving as a vital cog in their high-scoring offensive machine. Since Welker and the Patriots were unwilling to agree to a contract extension, Welker became a free agent this offseason and accepted a two-year, $12 million contract by the Denver Broncos. It was reported that the Patriots offered a two-year, $10 million contract with incentives that would increase the value to $16 million. These appear to be the known facts.

Losing a popular and valuable player like Wes Welker resulted in a huge backlash from Patriots fans. The Patriots immediately pulled the trigger on a five-year, $31 million deal with Danny Amendola, a younger but injury-prone replacement. But rather than letting the storm pass, Robert Kraft sought to control the damage by blaming Welker’s agents for steering their client away from the Patriots. Kraft claims that the Patriots offer guaranteed more money for Welker and that he accepted an inferior deal with Denver.

While Kraft was trying to save face with fans and his current players, the agents he attacked have their own business to protect. Athletes First, the company that represents Welker, did not want to risk losing existing or future clients because of Kraft’s accusations. In turn, they spoke out and refuted Kraft’s claims and said that the Patriots made a take-it-or-leave-it offer. The claim of a non-negotiable approach portrayed an arrogant and confrontational attitude.

Kraft and the Patriots missed the point when they went on the attack. Simply put, their fans lost one of their favourite players. Any damage control the Patriots attempted would not change that fact. Any attempt at damage control in this case would seem to be a recognition of failure and responsibility for losing him. Their is no likely circumstance where they would be able to convince fans and skeptics that they were the scorned party. They were clear to not attack the beloved Welker, but his agents were seen as acceptable targets as they were part of a fraternity that tends to be unpopular. Since agents are often perceived as representing the dirty underbelly of sports, driving the greed of professional athletes, an attack on them would be more likely stick. Kraft chose to take the low road and whined about Welker’s agents, underestimating them in the process. Welker’s agents responded swiftly, thoughtfully, and thoroughly (see “Agents: Pat’s offer was take it or leave it”) with a well-crafted and more mature PR approach.

While there is no one approach to damage control, there is a lesson in this case. Sometimes it is best to suffer through the storm and move forward without defending yourself. When a beloved player leaves and it is not clear that you did everything to keep him, and you immediately sign a replacement for greater money, fans will blame you for the outcome. In this case, there is no final word that can change the outcome so it is better to just shut up and move forward.


Author Description

JB Hacking

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Comments (1)

  1. mph Wednesday - 12 / 06 / 2013 Reply
    No one cares anymore. NE got Tebow.

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