Inflating the Bottom Line

From Boston-area bakeries to major national brands, businesses see Patriots' "DeflateGate" scandal as an opportunity

At Karin DeNapoli's Cupcake City in Reading, Mass., some of her best sellers Friday came with messages written in blue frosting like "Deflate This" and "Get Over It."

They're a special Deflategate version of her "hostess cupcakes," which normally come with homemade marshmallow filling inside. "What we did for our 'Deflategate Footballs' is, we filled them with a little less filling — but they're still just as delicious," DeNapoli explained.

She had dozens ready for customers to pick up and pastry chefs racing to make more--all for customers who tend to think the New England Patriots' "Deflategate" controversy over how they came to be playing the first half of their AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts with underinflated footballs is a misunderstanding or overblown technical violation, not a national scandal.

"We thought, 'Well, let's turn a sour situation into a sweet one,' " DeNapoli joked.

Also proudly profiting from the Patriots' pigskin-pressurization predicament is Boston Common Coffee Co. Monday morning, on a lark, their pastry chefs made up 40 deflated-football cookies to send to their four downtown Boston cafes.

"We decided, let's make 10 per store, and customers started coming in, they started photographing it, and the next thing you knew, it's on Twitter, and everything just exploded from there," company CEO Peter Femino said in an interview Friday afternoon.

They sold out, and he hasn't been able to keep the stores supplied — and this weekend he and his staff will be racing to bake literally thousands more. "We've got an order for 1,200 that's going down to South Carolina," Femino said, "and then we've been getting orders from all over the country. A lot from Washington state, obviously, but Florida, Texas, New Mexico" also.

Not just local businesses but national brands who pitch their "softness" — like Charmin toilet paper and Downy laundry fabric softener — have latched onto #DeflateGate on Twitter with tweets aimed at linking their brand of soft to the softly-pressurized footballs Patriots quarterback Tom Brady allegedly got for the Colts tilt.

"There's a ton of upside if you can do it right — but there's also a ton of risk if you don't do it right, and it's really hard to do it right," said Eric Fulwiler, director of social media for Boston advertising agency Mullen.

Fulwiler said he had "had this conversation with a bunch of clients" about how, if at all, they should try to get their brands into the unceasing DeflateGate conversation "You know people are talking about it," Fulwiler said. "But do you have a part, do you have a purpose, do you have a right to contribute to it as a brand?"

Fulwiler said for brands that haven't found a way to get themselves talked about in a DeflateGate context, "if you haven't come out today or tomorrow or by Monday to say something about it, it's probably too late ... Overall, probably the opportunity's passed — but the story keeps developing in such a way that if there's something new that develops, who knows how it's going to pan out. There could be an opportunity for a brand to put something out." Of course, predicting just where this story goes next — and how easily if at all you can make light of its denouement — looks impossible right now.

With videographer Mike Bellwin. 

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