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The NFL’s Impact on Marketing: Overview


When I was seven years old, I wanted to play football (American) for Notre Dame (a desire that likely developed after seeing “Rudy” for the first time), and then eventually play pro in the NFL. These days, though, I have little desire to play football. I don’t relish the idea of a concussion or severe spinal damage.

Indeed, NFL players incur some serious physical damage via massive-force impacts. Interestingly, these impacts also help translate into sales, and assist in sustaining and growing the NFL audience. (An individual doesn’t watch football expecting no physical contact; actually, it is to the contrary.) All of this leads me to the topic: Where there is an NFL audience and there are NFL sales, marketing – just like the players – is impacted.

Let’s talk audience and NFL facts:

  • Television rights to the NFL are the most lucrative and expensive sports broadcasting commodity in the United States.
  • “Through 17 weeks of the 2010 regular season (September 9, 2010-January 2, 2011), THE NFL ON CBS regular-season games were seen by an estimated 164.2 million viewers.”
  • Sunday night football game viewership was roughly 20.8 million viewers in 2010
  • There are 32 teams in the NFL – every team has its own radio network and announcers.
  • The culmination of a NFL season, The Super Bowl, often tops the charts of most-watched show of the year: Nielsen reported that an estimated 111 million people watched the 2011 Super Bowl, topping the 106.5 million who watched in 2010.
  • Annual Revenue for the NFL in 2009 was $8.88 billion.

The list can go on, but we need to talk about what this means for marketing. To begin, we have a large audience across multiple platforms: TV, Radio, and Internet, to name a few. This established audience also brings in a plethora for the NFL – to the tune of $8+ billion. Thus, we have a lot of people willing to spend a lot of money. This established audience immediately establishes their value! And companies/marketers have been going after this valued audience for years.

For instance, in the 2008 NFL season, companies spent a total of $2.618B on TV advertising alone. And in 2011, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl cost $3 million – a sum of which numerous companies paid for. TV advertising is just a portion of the equation, however.

Consider merchandise, events, and specifically, endorsement deals: It has been reported that Cam Newton, an incoming player for April’s NFL draft, received an endorsement contract from Under Armour that surpassed Reggie Bush’s $1 million-per-year Adidas contract in 2006.

Marketers are reaching companies on a variety of levels, and have begun to see the value of using tactics that are easy to integrate. For instance, “in the 3 days after the Super Bowl was broadcast, the top 10 ads have earned a total of over $1 million in impressions via online video, according to a new report from Kantar Video.” While this solely discusses online traction for Super Bowl ads, it still makes the case for increased value in marketing during the Super Bowl, but more importantly, with the NFL.

In sum, the NFL, with its substantial, loyal audience, is a great target for marketers. By evaluating some of the data, we can further state that this audience is willing to pay a lot of money on behalf of their favorite team, and for items or services associated with that team. The NFL, then, in being a prime target by thousands of different companies and marketers, has seen a variety of tactics deployed in order to extend reach and effectiveness of campaigns. Some of these tactics were previously mentioned: merchandise, events, endorsements, and TV and radio advertising.

To be sure, over time, the value of integrating tactics has been recognized. And this recognition – along with the findings pertaining to the audience’s habits – continues to shape NFL-related marketing efforts.

Big hits. Big marketing. It’s almost that simple.



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