Sometimes, trying to do the right thing can cause a PR challenge. Just ask standout Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. In an effort to be a good community leader and help out victims of the coronavirus, Lawrence initially ran afoul of NCAA regulations when his COVID-19 Family Relief and Support fund came under scrutiny from league officials.
Trevor Lawrence and Girlfriend Fundraiser
Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa Mowry, set up a
GoFundMe page intended to directly assist families that had been hurt by the
impact of the coronavirus on communities in South Carolina. Almost immediately,
the page received serious attention. Then, in an abundance of caution,
officials at Clemson University shut the site down, in the mistaken belief that
Lawrence and Mowry were violating NCAA rules and regulations.
This left Lawrence and Mowry offering apologies to anyone
interested in supporting their charitable efforts. Mowry posted a video offering
this: “Our intentions were to try and help everyone… That’s changed a bit, but
we’re still going to do our best to love on y’all and support one another
during this time…”
But, as it turned out, Clemson officials might have jumped the gun. Soon after the site was taken down, NCAA officials overruled Clemson, saying the site violated no Association Regulations. In a statement, NCAA officials congratulated Lawrence and Mowry for their work, saying, “We applaud Trevor for his efforts…”
Clemson University Steps In
Clemson’s athletics department replied with appreciation of their own, “We appreciate their swift action in permitting this…” adding that Clemson’s initial decision had been made while considering the NCAA’s regulations against athletes using their names, images, and likenesses for crowdfunding… though they made the decision prior to the NCAA contacting the school.
Clearly, this was a situation in which no organization wanted to be the one looking like it was stopping people from helping those in need during a global pandemic. Some have said Clemson overreacted, while others in sports media have argued that Clemson was right to take the proactive action they did to protect one of their student-athletes. The NCAA, they argue, is notoriously inscrutable in some of its decisions related to student-athlete behavioral guidelines, especially where branding and cash are concerned.
Future Fundraising Efforts
In the end, the incident offers a lesson for everyone involved. When a person or entity represents a brand which also represents a significant brand value for another entity, it can be smart PR to touch base and make sure any public messaging is done in a way that doesn’t violate any related agreements or transgress any established lines.
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Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR
Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals.
Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions.
Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR.
Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller.
A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities