Last night (20 October) I was sent a rather mysterious email from a marketing agency called Balance-Live acting on behalf of the NFLUK website, inviting me to a hotel in my home town of Birmingham at 8.15am on 21 October (today).
This is the relevant extract from the email – which of course left me curious….
Date: Tuesday 21 October Holiday Inn Birmingham City Centre, Bar Area, Smallbrook Queensway, B5 4EW Please ask for Ross Noble Time: 0815am – 930am
You need to bring: A bag to conceal a ball You need to wear: Your normal work clothes, or casual clothes – we are aiming to blend in. What’s happening: Playing a game of catch with commemorative balls, and being filmed Questions: Speak to Ross 07793755278.
Of course being curious that the NFL were finally conducting some sort of event outside London (a similar set of instructions for a Manchester event was also included in the email sent yesterday) I rung up Ross yesterday and asked him what was planned.
Now Ross was a polite young man who was very pleased that I had rung him, but he confessed to knowing little to nothing about American football, and that this email was a ploy to get NFL fans in England to participate in an NFL ‘flash mob’ exercise.
To those who are not aware ‘flash mobing’ is an event where you get people to go to a public place and do something stupid like have a pillow fight – see here – and then just disperse before getting arrested.
The intention Ross told me was that we would collect a commemorative NFL Chargers v Saints game ball from the Holiday Inn and then in pairs throw these balls around Birmingham New Street train station, the largest train station in Birmingham.
I got my local train around 7.20am this morning to Birmingham New Street, and as I walked through the train station towards the hotel I noticed the West Midlands Transport police had four uniformed officers patrolling the area where commuters travel trough on their way to offices and shops.
I arrived at the Holiday Inn this morning at around 8.00am and found Ross standing in the hotel lobby (not the upstairs bar) next to a store cupboard blowing up about 30commemorative balls.
Again Ross was a nice young man, but he was woefully unbriefed about the NFL and asked me what day the Chargers v Saints game at Wembley was being played. This made me nervous.
He also confessed that he did not know how to correctly throw an American football, nor could he name more than one NFL team – the Dolphins.
He did not even know the Dolphins played at Wembley in 2007.
By about 8.15am another four people had arrived in the lobby, three aged in their early to mid 20’s and one gent in a suit. I was in my work suit too but I had a coat over it.
We had a short chat about the fact Reggie Bush was not going to be playing on Sunday, and that Pierre Thomas will have to step up for the Saints. One guy even had Deuce Mc Allister in his fantasy team, so he wasn’t too upset to see Bush not making the flight.
With about 30 balls blown up Ross explained he wanted us to take the balls and pass them around Birmingham New Street train station at 9.10am. I explained to all that there were a number of police officers patrolling the station, but Ross did not make much of a comment about it.
At that point it flashed through my mind that I could be arrested for throwing a ball at the train station and my ‘flash mob’ partner missing the catch and it hitting someone in the head. I could also potentially be mocked by local journalists, if they had been tipped off to be at a ‘flah mob’ event taking place this morning.
It was then, at about 8.16am that I pretended to look for a toilet in the Holiday Inn before dashing out of the hotel and unglamourously jogging all the way back to the train station alone, with my commemorative ball in my bag.
By the time I walked back into the train station the police had actually set up a stand to promote travel security, so i dread to think about the four people who were still with Ross and the remainder of the balls.
If this ill thought through idea to promote the NFL to a new English audience is the best the NFL marketing gurus can come up with then please call me.
I have 10 years experience in public relations and can suggest some fun ideas that do not involve risking hitting commuters in the head with a full size American football who are walking through a city train station late for work on a cold Tuesday morning.
I would love to hear from the loyal NFL fans who did stay with Ross this morning.
Did you throw balls around Birmingham New Street train station and get arrested?
PS – Its a sweet looking ball that is now sitting on top of my tv set.