Vehicle: The New York Times
By: Ken Belson
Headline: Studio Altered Film to Deter N.F.L. Protests
Company/business involved: Sony Pictures Entertainment, N.F.L.
Your client: N.F.L.
Will Smith stars in the disputed film, “Concussion”.
After e-mails were hacked, it was discovered that the N.F.L. played a powerful influence in the making of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s movie “Concussion”- a film based around the death and dementia professional football players suffer from the aggressive nature of football. After the screenplay was hacked via e-mail, further hacked e-mails revealed that the N.F.L. directly intervened to ensure that the movie presented the game in a “richer and fairer” light, insinuating legal action would be taken if the film took any creative leniencies to make football injuries appear more dramatic than necessary.
This news coverage depicts the N.F.L. in a negative light because it shows the influence organizations have over freedom of speech and the ability to freely utilize creative licenses. It depicts the N.F.L. to be a powerful presence over everything that discusses football and insinuates that they do it in an overprotective, bullying manner. It also shows Sony in a slightly negative light, since they cowered to the N.F.L.’s presence despite their initial task to reveal the dangerous nature of football.
This story shows that Sony worked closely with N.F.L. representatives to ensure that their movie would not depict football injuries in a too dramatic light. Sony took every precaution to not provoke the powerful league so the N.F.L. would not attack the enterprise, putting them at risk for an annihilating lawsuit.
N.F.L. fans and players are made aware of the fear the N.F.L. has in exposing any unrealistic nature about football, making them wonder why the N.F.L. is so concerned about the image. The public most likely gained the perception that the N.F.L. has a powerful influence on movie and television outlets and how they project the image of football and the league.
PR folks should be researching other films or television shows that depicted negative aspects about the game or league and what actions the N.F.L. took against them. Also, they should be thinking about how the N.F.L. has such a powerful influence over creative media. Does the N.F.L. have the right to be able to influence them?
PR folks can try to change the negative connotation towards the N.F.L. by positioning the story so that Sony approached the N.F.L. to clarify that what they were putting in the film was entirely accurate, as opposed to the N.F.L. viewing hacked e-mails of the screenplay and discussions about how Will Smith should angle his role in the film. They should emphasize that the N.F.L. was concerned about the validity of the information and being considerate of players and their families, instead of just the industry.
A news release most likely generated this story. The trailer for the film was released on Monday and Sony Pictures Entertainment discussed that their e-mails were hacked, allowing the N.F.L. to gain Intel on the film and ultimately begin a conversation between the two. That most likely prompted further research to be done on the film and the N.F.L.’s role in its creation. Sony most likely wanted to attract attention to their film, and to encourage readers to wonder about the validity of the content and to ultimately watch the movie to draw their own conclusions. While I’m sure Sony did not attract the N.F.L.’s attention intentionally, I believe that by them bringing attention to the fact that they did is for publicity for the movie.