Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner who led the league’s transformation from a popular sports entertainment franchise into a $6-billion-a-year industry, addressed a crowd at Rackham Auditorium Friday that was a mix of business savvy-students and dedicated football fans, many of whom wore their favorite team’s jersey to the event.
The Ross School’s Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication welcomed Tagliabue for a public lecture titled “Persuasion: Lessons Learned in the NFL.”
Tagliabue, whose tenure as NFL commissioner spanned 17 years, attributed much of his success to effective communication with owners, coaches, players and communities.
Tagliabue’s presentation revolved around clarity of communication, which he argued is the most important component of leading a smooth organization.
He outlined four common characteristics of communications in the NFL – all dealing with clarity in some way – that Tagliabue said were essential in any successful work atmosphere. The four points were credibility in what you say, reality in how you plan to get things done, understanding the audience’s point of view and clearly articulating your own opinions.
“Effective communications are at the heart of everything you do in dealing with your organizations,” Tagliabue said. “If you don’t master those four things, your communications will be ad hoc.”
As an example of negative communication, Tagliabue talked about how NFL audiences received different styles of advertisements during games. He pointed to commercials that depicted football as a violent and savage game as bad communication. While fans enjoy the physical nature of the game, Tagliabue said that they were turned off by these commercials because of the negative stereotypes portrayed in them.
Commercials that were entertaining without using negative stereotypes were received much better by audiences, he said.
Tagliabue also spoke about the future of the communications industry as electronic and technological advances make communication faster and easier than ever before.
Communications has become a more specialized field, so a manager must be able to understand and contribute to all fields as much as possible, including law, life sciences and technology, Tagliabue said.
The advancement of technology has also created hurdles that businesses like the NFL must overcome, especially the rise of electronic media sources, which have stunted print media.
“Traditionally in the NFL, the print media is considered incredibly important to football,” Tagliabue said. “That has changed dramatically. Who knows where print media is going?”
Along with the Internet, sources like the NFL Network, a premium cable channel dedicated to the league, are being developed.