‘No More’ leaves Bobbi Parish saying no more to branded causism and wanting the NFL to do more to address domestic violence.
It has been a disaster of a public relations year for the National Football League, particularly – as exemplified by the Ray Rice debacle – in the area of domestic violence. Many pointed to the launch of the No More public service announcements, starring a host of NFL players saying “no more” to domestic violence, as a turning of the tide.
The NFL’s partnership with No More reached its apex in the Super Bowl when The League chose to use one of those expensive Super Bowl commercial time slots to run an ad produced by No More. The NFL gave No More the use of their internal ad team and also donated the time slot.
The No More project has as its stated purpose is raising awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. The NFL, it seemed, was finally stepping up and leading on the domestic violence issue.
Well, not so fast.
This could have been an incredible opportunity for the NFL to take a strong stand against these horrible crimes. Instead, they presented a comfortable, brand encased message with a complacency-promoting call to action.
Still, was it good enough? Or was it a bad decision representing a missed opportunity? Even worse, was it an ugly spin doctored cop out?
The crux of the answer to those questions lies in the details of No More project. Understanding who they are sheds important light on whether the NFL’s decision to promote them was good, bad or ugly.
Diana Moskovitz of Deadspin wrote an excellent article about who No More is, how they were created, what they do and, especially, what they don’t do. As Moskovitz stated:
[T]o help get America talking about these issues, the brands created a brand, and partnered with other brands to promote this brand. And this is how No More—a more or less imaginary brand made by brands to help domestic violence and sexual assault with their brand problem—came to be.
It’s no wonder Roger Goodell and NFL owners ran to No More with open arms when their $10 billion sports enterprise was faced with a serious public relations crisis, the culmination of years of paying little thought to players accused of domestic violence. No More was the perfect fit for a brand with a problem. So it came to pass that the NFL, as part of its anti-domestic violence initiative, partnered with a branding campaign co-founded by one of its crisis-management consultants and, this past weekend, ran an advertisement for it before the biggest audience in American television history.
Significantly, No More is not a multi-faceted not-for-profit organization with outreach programs to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. It is simply a brand created by a conglomeration of agencies and brands whose sole stated mandate is to raise awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault by providing a universal symbol:
“Like the peace sign, the yellow ‘support our troops’ ribbon, the red AIDS ribbon or the pink breast cancer ribbon, the goal of the NO MORE symbol is to help spark a national dialogue and move the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault higher on the public’s agenda.” (From NoMore.org).
If you go to the No More website you will, for the most part, be standing in front of a funnel that sends you to other “partner” websites. On the site itself you can read some information and statistics about domestic violence. To actually engage with an organization that interacts with survivors you have to slide through the funnel.
But if you want a nifty No More t-shirt you can also pass through the funnel to sites like TVP NYC or Zazzle, where you’ll find all kinds of branded merchandise.
For $26 you can buy coasters with the No More logo and slogan. There’s nothing on the shopping pages to say that any money from the transactions go to No More or any charity.
Simply put, No More is a brand, created by other brands. Ironically, their slogan is a realistic representation of what they are: no more than a brand. They don’t interact with politicians, lobby for money, or make policy. Nor do they work in the trenches with survivors where it’s a day to day battle for their lives.
They challenge nothing, confront nothing, and don’t seek to change any victim’s daily life. It doesn’t get messy at No More. Is that why the NFL chose them, because they are a comfortable brand to endorse? Or was it, perhaps, a comfortable brand to stand behind?
But isn’t even just running an ad produced by a band raising awareness of domestic violence and sexually assault, no matter how flawed it might have been, a good thing? Even if all it did was catch attention and raise awareness in a way that was completely safe and non-controversial, isn’t that amazing?
Maybe. If we set our standards low.
Because what did the No More ad actually do? Did it save another survivor’s life? Did it result in an increase of money donated to agencies that do work within the trenches of domestic violence and sexual assault? Did it make viewers sit up and say, “Hey! I didn’t realize domestic violence was an issue in our society, but now that I’ve watched this ad I’m finally aware?”
If it wasn’t the best effort to support domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, perhaps the NFL meant well and had good intentions. But do we need another cause’s coffee mugs and coasters to clutter our desks? What does that do but salve our consciences that we “contributed” instead of sitting back and doing nothing?
That ad did more damage than good with its support for a complacent, comfortable adoption of a cause rather than support for real people. It sends that message that if you buy a t-shirt or a set of teal headphones branded No More you can declare that you’re supporting victims and domestic violence and sexual assault without having to actually deal with the horrific dirty details of the crime.
We’re in danger of becoming a society of causism, where buying a product lulls us into complacency. We are falling into the easy, comfortable pattern of buying a cause’s branded t-shirt to “support the cause” thinking it is truly helpful.
In reality, wearing it does more to soothe our conscience than it does to provide any kind of assistance to victims and survivors of the disease, tragedy or crime the branded item represents.
On one hand I understand our society’s tendency to slap on a pink baseball cap rather than deliver meals to breast cancer patients too ill from either their disease or its treatment to cook for themselves and their families. It’s also much more comfortable to affix a No More bumper sticker on your car than look at the mental health clinics overflowing with so many victims of sexual abuse that they can’t provide adequate treatment to them all. But does that hat or bumper sticker really help current and future survivors?
Domestic violence and sexual assault are ugly, messy and discomfiting issues. They make us uncomfortable. But I promise you that discussing those issues in real, concrete ways is nowhere near as uncomfortable as it was or is to live through it for those of us who have endured it.
Every day I work with victims whose lives have been so damaged by these kinds of abuse that they are barely functioning. The pain they carry is palpable. The struggles they face on a daily basis to recover and live a life more fulfilling than the one they currently have are huge: self-loathing, depression, addiction, and crushing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to name just a few.
Was the NFL aware that they were endorsing a comfortable, no mess brand? Even worse, did they do so with an attempt to spin their support for domestic violence and sexual assault as meaningful when it was, in fact, simply a public relations maneuver?
One of the founders of No More is one of the NFL’s PR team. Were they just trying to get back into the saving graces of fans disquieted by their response to domestic violence committed by players like Ray Rice? If so, that would be very ugly.
Regardless of whether their actions were good, bad or ugly, you do not have to be guided by the NFL’s intent.
Do you want to do something that will really have an impact in the lives of domestic violence and sexual assault victims?
Contact your local domestic violence shelter and ask what they need. Diapers? Grocery store gift cards so staff can buy birthday cakes for residents who have a birthday while staying there? Public transportation passes so residents can get to appointments they need to get back on their feet? Whatever they need, provide it to the best of your ability.
Are you low on funds to make that kind of donation?
I get it. Volunteer. There are thousands of organizations that are in the trenches every day doing good, meaningful work with victims. Find one. Get involved. Jump down in those trenches and find out what it’s like to be a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault. It will be harder than wearing that branded t-shirt, but I promise you that it will not only be more effective but also more transformative in your own life.
The NFL blew a huge opportunity to promote real, effective help for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. They took the comfortable, easy way out by promoting a brand without any mandate, mission or impact. It looked pretty, but it’s only result was to support the false belief that buying a shirt changes lives. It may soothe consciences. It may net public relations bonus points. But those consciences and bonus points won’t make any ounce of difference this or any day when the thousands of men, women and children who are beaten, raped and assaulted on that day need someone to help them recover their lives.