The 3 Steps for A-Rod’s Reputation Redemption

As I played golf last weekend, I asked my playing partners, both sports business pros, what they would do if they were A- Rod and wanted to redeem his reputation?

Fortunately, neither one of them sliced their ball into the rough’s high fescue grass, after I asked.

They did offer some straightforward and smart ideas:

  1. Accept the ban — use this as the way to start controlling his publicity, and building a recovery foundation.
  2. Optimize his break — use this ban year to consider and possibly began counseling young people on the risks of performance-enhancing drugs to their career and personal health. Selfishly, he could use this time to rebuild his body and show that he can still perform drug-free.

Now mind you, they both strongly advised that the counseling idea would require time for authenticity. Otherwise, it would simply appear to be a feigned attempt at goodwill. God knows, A-Rod needs authenticity.

Their comments reminded me of the advice we were given as kids before we crossed the street – – Stop, Look and Listen. A-Rod and many brands could benefit from that simple advice:

  1. Stop — when faced with issues that may compromise your reputation, simply halt what you’re doing. Negotiation expert William Ury calls this “going to the balcony” where you can get a fresh perspective on your situation. And be mindful of the adage that perception is reality.
  2. Look — evaluate where you are and be harsh on whether you can win or lose by proceeding with your current action such as appealing a ban.  Acceptance of your reality can be the beginning of recovery.
  3. Listen — go outside your inner circle of advisers and be willing to be challenged about your attitudes and behavior. Remember, pride goes before the fall and you need to find honest trusted advisors.

Is A-Rod’s or any brands’ reputation’ recoverable when they face mounting evidence compromising their ability to play baseball or sell in the marketplace?

Some brands still struggle (BP, Jet Blue and NewCorp), as Inc reports. Likewise, many athletes still face reputation issues (Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius, Michael Vick, Tiger Woods and even my hometown Red Pete Rose).

Let’s not even talk about Aaron Hernandez.  But kudos to the Patriots for their decision to exchange his jersey.

So, can stopping, looking and listening be simple first steps to a powerful and successful redemption strategy?

More important, what steps do you think A-Rod can take to redeem his reputation?

User Comments ( 10 )

  • I think I am finally surrendering and throwing up my hands in disgust. If athletes don’t care about their health, let them do whatever performance enhancing they wish. After all, science will keep finding new undetectable drugs and masking agents. So put them on a level playing field and let them do drugs. I am tired of trying to protect nitwit athletes.

    • Hi Tony, I completely get your point of view. I feel naive to hope for a return to some integrity in sports. I feel like the kid asking Shoeless Joe Jackson, “Say it ain’t so…” Well, we do have the Fedex Cup playoffs to distract us. Thanks for sharing your thoughtful comments.

  • Larry Weindruch

    Just a random thought or two…

    If you heard his press conference last week in Chicago, you might agree with me that A-Fraud’s behaving as victim in all of this is doing him no good. Most people realize/assume he’s just trying not to lose any more of his future salary than necessary and save whatever’s left of his reputation. If he did take the suspension and let all that money go, then people might think less unkindly of him.

    Lance Armstrong’s interview with Oprah proved that a “baring the soul” interview is only as good as the truths that are told. During the suspension, A-Rod should just lay low (the Stop) and let the news cycle focus on someone else.

    While out of the spotlight, he should change his inner circle completely, because it doesn’t seem like he’s getting the best advice (the Listen).

    Lastly, when the suspension runs its course, he should retire gracefully and later perhaps begin a post-baseball career by speaking to kids as a good example of what a bad example of a role model is. He should come clean or no one will believe a word he says – ever. He could do all of his speaking engagements free of charge and even make a donation to the kids groups he’s speaking to. That would start a road to redemption.

    • Hi Larry, great thoughts and ideas. A-Rod’s situation seems hopeless and his efforts hapless. I saw a young kid at Cubs this week. He was fixated on the game as he squeezed his stuffed Cub. That young fan cares about honesty and not the money. He could teach A-Rod a thing or two. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  • Sam Stark

    Great piece, Kevin! I still wish A-Rod would just be responsible for his actions and say, “I did it; it was a mistake; I regret it and I’m sorry.” We all know that won’t happen and it will only further tarnish his legacy when more and more facts prove he, in fact, did. Keep up the great posts and hope your golf game is in tip-top shape!!

    • Sam, thanks for the comments. I think my golf game has a better chance of improving. It seems so much that “pride goeth before the fall” with athletes in these scandals. This could be one of the hardest fall of any athlete, although it might be hard to top Lance or OJ. If these troubled athletes approached this the way most smart golfers do (sometimes me), they would take their medicine (no pun intended), clean up their reputation and then start some redemption. I am afraid narcissism is interfering here. Okay, off my soapbox now. Appreciate your best wishes on my golf game. Stay in touch, and thanks for your comments.

  • Mark Bain

    Good post and discussion. For me, a communications professional and lifelong Yankees fan, A-Rod SHOULD take the steps toward redemption that you’ve outlined. But I don’t think he will. Even if he tries to, it will probably be seen as half-hearted and insincere, because with a lawsuit pending, future salary at risk, etc. he’ll be guarded in his words and actions, at best. While our society is quick to give second chances, A-Rod had his a few years ago, and it now appears he has squandered it. Even now, Yankees fans – the group most inclined to support him – seem evenly divided for and against him. In sum, I think his reputation is toast. And the only way he MIGHT be able to restore would be to: a) drop the lawsuit; b) immediately retire, waiving his right to future salary; c) come clean and effectively apologize for all of his wrongs over the years; d) dedicate the rest of his life and huge sums of his money to worthwhile causes. Yeah, that’s never going to happen.

    • Hi Mark, thanks for these thoughtful comments. It all seems hopeless. Read today’s Wall Street Journal story on Penn State football http://on.wsj.com/14jTd3J.It does seem that redemption is possible BUT if you take the principled measures you express here in a transparent and authentic way. I fear A-Rod is too selfish and oblivious to anything other than his image (think Lance Armstrong). He could step out and then step up and help himself and baseball. As you say, that’s never going to happen. I have been to Wrigley Field four times this season, and only once, has there been a genuine sellout. Well, the Cubs stink, but are these scandals finally affecting the business of baseball? I fear so.

  • Stopping, looking and listening sound like the foundation for any poweful and successful strategy, much less a redemption strategy. Whether it’s A-Fraud or any organization, years of hard work building your reputation can vanish quickly if you rush in, assume you have all of the answers and start preaching your “value proposition”.

    Always impressed with the way Kevin manages to connect the dots between
    any event and what it takes to communicate clearly and build great brands and great reputations!

    • Thanks, Ernie. Smart insights and I appreciate the compliments. A-Fraud, I love it. It is so true how a reputation can be lost in a nanosecond. Thanks again for offering this ideas.

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