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Lowdown: NFL Splits Auto Sponsors as Ford Joins Hyundai in Three-Year Deal

Advertising Age, September 07, 2016

Hyundai's reign as the NFL's only automotive sponsor ended today when Ford announced a three-year deal as the official truck of the NFL. Hyundai's four-year deal began last year when the Korean brand replaced General Motors, which had sponsored the NFL since 2001. Splitting categories into two like this is unique, but not unprecedented in professional sports. For instance, the Los Angeles Rams recently announced a deal to make Corona its official imported beer, while Bud Light is expected to remain as the team's domestic beer sponsor.

Hyundai's fleet is dominated by cars. While it sells crossovers and SUVs, it does not sell trucks, making the NFL's deal with Ford a little less threatening. "There is not a lot of overlap between a Hyundai Santa Fe customer and a Ford F-150 customer. If there was, that is where it might get a little bit problematic," said Jim Andrews, senior VP-marketing for sponsorship consultancy IEG. A Hyundai spokesman said the automaker has known there would be a truck sponsor since day one. "Like Hyundai, Ford recognizes the value in being an NFL sponsor and reaching the millions of passionate fans who are gearing up for the start of the season tomorrow," the spokesman said. "We are extremely pleased with how our sponsorship has unfolded so far and have some exciting plans for year two. As the official car, SUV and luxury car of the NFL, we have exclusivity in the categories where Hyundai sells vehicles."

Ford's deal includes a "Built Ford Tough Offensive Line of the Week award." Ford also plans to run a "Built Ford Tough Tailgate Tour." Stated Ford: "These experiences will give consumers access to their own Built Ford Tough Tailgates on demand on game day, as well as hard-to-get game tickets." Could the deal also mean Ford might advertise in the Super Bowl? The spokeswoman said there is "nothing to share on Super Bowl yet."