Through a deep analysis of the statements by the top 10 NFL sponsors regarding social justice, mental health, domestic violence, as well as in-depth interviews with professionals in the public relations industry, this thesis aims to identify how the NFL sponsors responded to significant moments regarding various topics that went beyond the playing field in the last decade. Insights from both my research and the professionals in the industry helped further my exploration of this topic and helped spark unique questions moving forward about the relationship between the top 10 sponsorships of the NFL with the NFL itself as well as the athletes. This study argues that sponsors act independently of the league and speak out when the brand's audience or sponsored athlete are at most risk when it comes to the type of scandal itself and that they also see business or financial pressure to respond as the most pressing demand on them, rather than a genuine concern. The economic effect of the statements and action also play a large role in why brands work with the league to resolve moments of crisis around social issues since they are not always sponsors of the athlete, but sponsors of, or within the league itself.
My research helps frame the reasons why the biggest sponsors of America's most popular pro sports league want to engage on controversial social issues. This work also gives readers a clue as to what direction the sponsor-pro sports relationship may take in the future.