While this post is being keyed, the news is still breaking that the Carolina Panthers will reportedly lose veteran wide receiver Steve Smith. Despite the grumblings from some columnists and fans about how the front office may have handled the situation, the Panthers have more than won the battle for off-season headlines here in what is arguably a “who cares” portion of the pro football calendar … save for the most die-hard of fans.
Whether by design or by dumb luck, the Panthers managed to wrest a week’s worth of headlines here in basketball country from the ACC Tournament – and most other associated March Madness goings-on. And that’s a pretty tall order. Granted, it’s been a perfect PR storm; what with Smith getting up in years by league standards, and the University of North Carolina’s less-than-spectacular season, as measured by most Tarheel fans’ standards. Stories about Smith were among the most read in the Charlotte Observer all week. And just yesterday #SteveSmith was tweeted about to the tune of 15,000 times – the same number of mentions in the last 30 days combined.
Should the Panthers get credit for capitalizing on a golden opportunity? Was it the media folks looking to latch on to something bigger and better in a season where the ACC isn’t all but guaranteed a shot at the NCAA basketball title? Do we believe we’re any better at deciding the Panthers’ roster than the guys getting paid big bucks to do it? We’ll likely never know the answer.
Method or sheer madness, the view from 10,000 feet makes the Panthers’ PR moves look textbook, in our opinion. At the end of the day, it’s a business. Perhaps the Panthers’ weren’t willing to gamble that Smith still had some big games ahead of him. And that salary cap thing? Even the Panthers have a budget. There’s a lesson here for most any brand to consider how to make the most of a business-as-usual situation. And how timing plays such an important role in how – and when – we do that business. If your PR strategy isn’t taking these things into consideration, then you best make like #89 suggested and ice up, son.
Lastly, the other winner here is Steve Smith. His reaction thus far has been no less then classy; not a bad way to exit town, particularly for a guy who’ll be looking for a very high-paying job in an incredibly competitive field. Well played, Mr. Smith. Well played.