Quarterback – Effective Storytelling Beyond the Lines

As we eagerly await the kickoff of today’s Detroit Lions game against the Seahawks, I thought it a time apropos to call out, in a positive way, the PR machine that is the National Football League and the new Netflix series “Quarterback.” It is a study in effective story-telling that is worth a closer look.

First of all, this is not a TV show review and I am not a TV critic. Yet, the approach of the multi-part documentary, which focuses on Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota, is the same as what we recommend to our clients, in particular nonprofit organizations looking to promote their work and mission. To effectively tell a story – personify it. Give it a face with real people; in this case focusing on lives on and off the field – from trials and tribulations to star vs. at-home husband and dad (or dad to be).

It is a formula begun and perfected in many ways over the years by HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” the NFL’s answer, when it was first conceptualized and created, to combatting negative player news and stereotypes. It has been a tremendous success. In recent weeks in fact, ‘Knocks’ portrayed the oft-controversial Aaron Rodgers as the consummate teammate and mentor. Truth or fiction? Perhaps somewhere in between yet still ultra-effective in building intrigue and hype heading into an unfortunately ill-fated New York Jets season.

“Quarterback,” in contrast, focuses entirely on the most-watched position in the sport with diversified personalities and stories that add depth and perspective to perception: Mahomes the confident superstar vs. grateful family man; the understated Cousins vs. fierce competitor playing through injury.  It is eye-opening and unexpected and thus, compelling. As I prepare to watch Episode 3, I am also hopeful to see more on community giving and impact, another dimension typically covered by ‘Knocks.’

The series, finally, also demonstrates and reinforces the brand-building power of video, something often overlooked by organizations due to misperceptions related to time and cost. Want to really tell a story and paint a picture? There’s nothing quite like moving pictures as a media platform and tool that is reemerging, post pandemic.

So, go forward down the field today with the Detroit Lions. And if you are ready for some more football after, “Quarterback” may be just the ticket in examining the other side of the coin in new and effective ways.