Captain Morgan 1, NFL 0

This morning, the NFL announced a ban on players striking a pose similar to the pirate on the Captain Morgan rum label. The issue came up Sunday after Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles “Did a Captain” after catching a TD pass on a nationally televised game against the Cowboys. Despite Celek’s post-game denials, league officials smelled something fishy…and soon found out that a wider guerilla campaign had indeed been planned, which would have paid $10,000 to the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund for every time a player was caught on camera doing the pose. As predictable as the league’s ban was the mainstream media’s reporting of it — most of which took a chuckling, “too bad, nice try” attitude toward Captain Morgan.

But I’m beginning to think it’s the Captain who’s having the last laugh.

A quick Google search turned up coverage everywhere from AP and Yahoo to USA Today and virtually every major newspaper in the country — and that’s just on the first day! While the campaign certainly might have gained some steam and generated buzz if left to run its course, it’s highly doubtful the exposure would have been more than what Captain Morgan has already gotten due to the ban announcement. Plus, the brand’s financial exposure just became tremendously less — the $10,000 donations were slated to increase to $25,000 during playoff games and eventually to $100,000 during the Super Bowl. Now they’re not on the line for any of that. However, Captain Morgan will still get public acclaim for being willing to donate to such a worthy cause. As most (rum-drinking) football fans know, the NFL’s treatment of its retired players is nothing short of scandalous, and the Gridiron Greats charity was created to help raise money for those players. Who wouldn’t support that?

Clearly, this was a no-lose scenario for Captain Morgan. If the guerilla campaign had played out, they’d have gotten millions of dollars of brand-consistent exposure (NFL stars mimicking the muy macho Captain’s swashbuckling pose — perfect!) as well as great feel-good PR for financially supporting aging, and in many cases disabled, ex-NFL players. On the other hand, if the campaign got squashed (as they must have anticipated) they still got millions of dollars of brand-consistent exposure and feel-good PR props related to the Gridiron Greats charity — all without the potentially huge charitable contribution. It’s genius.

What do you think? Personally, I’m applauding. And while I much prefer Myers or Mount Gay, I think there’s a Captain ‘n Coke sailing toward me on tonight’s horizon…