The Patriots and their PR team most assuredly want to bench Deflategate, but the crowd is keeping it alive

Usually, the week leading up to the Super Bowl is a great PR week for the two teams playing.  But this year the Patriots are having a rough go.

The “Deflategate” scandal just refuses to… well, deflate.  The question as to who on the Patriots knew that they were using balls that were under-inflated in the AFC Championship game against the Colts has supercharged social and traditional media outlets, giving everyone something fun to talk about in a slow sports news week.

Richard Sherman – who’s always good for a headline – made an effort to newsjack by calling the NFL out for the hypocrisy of them threatening Seahawks player Marshawn Lynch with ejection if he wore his gold cleats in the Super Bowl, but even Sherman couldn’t hold the spotlight for long.

I’ve been doing some social listening throughout the week on both topics and the Super Bowl in general, and Deflategate social volume exceeded the gold cleat chatter by 10X.

It would seem that the term “deflated balls” is just too fun for the madding crowds to ignore: both that term and the male enhancement drug “Cialis” is showing up not only in the Patriots word cloud, but in the overall Super Bowl word cloud.  Here they are:

The Patriots’ word cloud has Deflategate topics far exceeding mentions of their coach or their famous quarterback. The Super Bowl world cloud has “Cialis” mentioned 4 times, with “deflated balls” also making the cut.


Now, part of the reason that social media is having so much fun with this one is the Cialis parody that’s gone viral, “deflated balls” being a term that was begging someone to walk through that door with a clever meme.  And once that happens, it creates its own press.  Another reason, though, is that both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have denied any involvement in the ball deflation, and  – despite having a press conference wherein Tom told the world that his feelings were hurt over the accusations – people just aren’t buying it.

And some of those people are really famous ex-quarterbacks in their own right.  Both Joe Montana and Troy Aikman have spoken out publicly, noting their opinions that Brady would have had to be involved.

Overall, this is a week wherein the Patriots’ PR team is in crisis communications mode, and probably for the first time ever hoping that “Puppy Bowl” or Budweiser commercials will distract people from talking about their team.  Whether or not Deflategate will distract the Patriots to the point that it affects their game is TBD; for now, we can simply note that the fans are, indeed, distracted by it.

As for the brands spending millions and millions of dollars on Super Bowl ad space, the question I have as a marketer is whether Cialis will come out on top without a spend at all.  Here’s the parody ad that’s proving yet again that earned media can come from the most unlikely of places: