Make us your home page

NFL's wildest week is PR chief's time to shine

For a PR chief charged with making sure the biggest TV event on the globe goes off without a hitch, Brian McCarthy acts like it's just another Monday.

He's at Tampa's Westin Hotel on Harbour Island, where he's about to chat with a local gathering of the Public Relations Society of America. So it's a high-profile PR guy talking to local PR people eager to hear tips from a pro — but who are keen to hear some behind-the-scenes tales of pulling off Super Bowls year after year after year.

So whether it was the anecdote of prepping tirelessly for a function with NFL Hall of Famer and Green Bay Packers linebacker Ray Nitschke (only to be caught speechless when Nitschke asks, "Where's the bathroom?"), or politely telling halftime entertainer "Sir" Paul McCartney that his fly is down just before stepping out for a press conference, McCarthy delivers.

McCarthy is 40 but looks closer to 26, his age when he joined the National Football League in public relations. He reminds me of actor Michael Fox in the TV sitcom Spin City, in which Fox as deputy mayor spends his time trying to make his boss, the mayor of New York, look good. Like Fox's character, McCarthy, as NFL vice president of corporate communications, is good at his job.

There are 633 media organizations and nearly 4,400 journalists accredited to cover Sunday's Super Bowl of the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Arizona Cardinals.

Once a sports reporter himself, McCarthy heads a PR group of 20 at NFL headquarters on Park Avenue in Manhattan. Their expertise is split among walking football statisticians and those specializing in entertainment, business and community relations. It's all about the game, McCarthy insists, but it's really about selling football as a major American (and increasingly global) entertainment venue.

In some ways, McCarthy suggests, the Super Bowl is more important in such a down economy. "It's a great escape," he says.

As a corporation, the NFL has 1,000-plus employees and annual revenue of $7-billion. But not all is first and 10, despite Forbes magazine last fall calling football the "strongest sport in the world."

Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent an internal memo telling employees the staff would be cut 10-15 percent in the next 60 days, and that a plan to expand into China would be halted.

"The current recession has presented severe financial challenges for our fans, business partners and clubs," Goodell's memo began. "I would like to be able to report that we are immune to the troubles around us. But we are not."

Last week, a PricewaterhouseCoopers report said reduced corporate and household spending, including fewer visitors and shorter stays, will mean Super Bowl XLIII will generate about $150 million in direct spending primarily in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. That's less than Super Bowls in 2008 or 2007, but more than those in 2006, 2005 or 2004.

So enjoy the game and parties. Just remember that even the NFL is not invulnerable to an all-out economic blitz.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at

NFL's wildest week is PR chief's time to shine 01/26/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 12:25am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]