Sunday’s 50th Super Bowl game is being talked about as a historic defensive battle and possibly the last game of Peyton Manning’s illustrious, record-setting career.
The game is also being talked about for Cam Newton’s postgame interview, which saw the Panthers flamboyant QB incapable of hiding his disdain for the questions, pouting, slouching and surly. The interview went so poorly that as much one quarter of the post-game coverage centered on Cam’s meltdown.
The unfortunate thing is that Cam’s performance overshadows what was otherwise a stellar season for which he won the NFL’s coveted MVP award. Indeed, his behavior at the last interview of the season stands in such contrast to the Cam Newton brand — endzone theatrics, contagious smiles, handing footballs to kids on the end zone — that it now calls into question the person behind the brand and whether he is mature enough to be the face of the Panthers and step into the celebrity QB vacuum soon to be created when greats like Peyton and Tom Brady retire.
What then are some of the lessons we can draw from Cam’s performance to apply to our own customers? What could we advise Cam to do differently, in our own version of the Monday morning quarterback, if he could hit the reset button?
Posture: instead of slouching at the interview table with his eyes never deigning to acknowledge the reporters in the audience, Cam should have sat straight in his chair and took the questions with some degree of respect. After all, it’s the very same reporters he shunned who heaped praise on his performance all season long and helped make a case for him being the next great QB in the NFL.
Demeanor: rather than look like a 12 year-old angry at not getting his way, Cam should have counted to ten before ascending to the interview table. He should have asked his coach, Ron Rivera, who gave perhaps one of the better post-game interviews from a losing coach I’ve ever seen, for some advice on how to channel the emotions instead of letting them control him.
Dress: Cam showed up in a Panthers’ sweatshirt with the hoodie pulled way down, almost over his eyes, which made him look unapproachable and withdrawn. If the interview timing precluded a shower and the normal straight-laced NFL attire, better that he show up with the hoodie off and meet the press head-on.
Personal accountability: Cam never once owned up to any shortcoming of his own. As shallow as it may sound coming from a losing QB, it’s expected that you at least shoulder some of the blame for the loss given the QB has the greatest impact of any player on the team. What’s more, Cam throughout the season celebrated his TDs and wins, indeed some would say over-celebrated, yet when the truest test of his character came with a tough Super Bowl loss his humility was notably absent.
Team spokesperson: whether he likes it or not, Cam is the face of the team. He is what makes the Panthers a fun, exciting team to watch. But as the spokesperson, he has to learn how to handle the wins and losses with an eye toward the team’s reputation and his. The pouting and impatient demeanor on display in the interview only served to hurt the brand of his team and himself.
Long-term reputation: Cam focused only in the moment and forgot to keep his eyes on his legacy and brand. Whether you are a popular NFL QB or a Fortune 500 CEO, the actions taken during a crisis can have a long-term impact. Cam is certainly wildly popular in the Panther Nation, and his performance may not impact those stakeholders in any lasting way. But what about his ability to appeal to and win over more fans and converts to the Panthers? His interview and the subsequent media analysis will undoubtedly deal a blow to his image that will take time and more humility to overcome.
About the author: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.