Sports PR 101: Play Nice with the Fans

The Chargers have under-performed this season, and fans are getting impacient.

Writing about sports can be a tricky thing these days. Fans, media, and even team employees all become captivated with the success of their teams.

When a team isn’t performing as well as many people feel they should be, fans and the media can be very critical and overreact. However, other fans become very defensive of their team and can be outspoken in doing so.

This is all normal in the hyper-competitive and pseudo-addictive world of sports. However, a team employee taking action to defend the team and instruct fans to change their attitudes about the underperforming team is a little out of the ordinary.

It’s especially peculiar when that employee is the director of public relations for the team. Not to mention the message wasn’t communicated on a comment board or a random blog; it was on the team’s website!

But that is exactly what happened a few weeks ago when Bill Johnson, Director of Public Relations for the San Diego Chargers, used the team website as a personal vent and lashed out at the media and fans that have been critical of the team’s performance this season.

Johnson, in an article titled “Take a Chill Pill”, told fans that the Chargers need more support and less criticism from fans. The article can be found here:

Well, the article has seemed to accomplish the exact opposite, and the use of a lame 90’s catch phrase in the title didn’t seem to help.

I don’t know everything about effective sports public relations, but I’m almost positive that insulting the fans and media that keep your team afloat isn’t the best strategy.

Johnson wrote the article in response to heavy fan criticism following an embarrassing loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, when the Chargers blew a 24-point lead. Guess what, Mr. Johnson. The fans and media have every right to jump all over the Chargers if they perform like that, especially if they stink on national television!

If the Chargers don’t play well and want more support from fans, the last thing they should do is post articles that basically say “hate less, love more”. Leave that sentiment to bumper stickers that belong on a Prius.

This is professional sports public relations. Your job is not to criticize fans or ask for sympathetic hugs from the media following a tough loss.

You need to send the message that the loss was embarrassing and unacceptable for a proud franchise such as the San Diego Chargers. The team feels like they let the fans down and they apologize for that. But the team knows that they have the best fans in the league and with their support the Chargers will improve and make a run at the playoffs once again.

Tell fans why they should keep the faith in their team, not why they are wrong for being harsh. Fans and media hate being told they are wrong, so if you want to keep them in your corner (and trust me, you do) then the message to them needs to be clear that the issue lies with the team, not the fans or media.


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