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NFL 2015: Sponsors, Marketing Partners Prepare For Season, September 10, 2015

By Jeff Glauser

The players and coaches aren’t the only ones gearing up for the NFL regular season to start.

In fact, if you reflexively know what follows the phrase “Better ingredients,” or find yourself humming a jingle to the lyrics “Chicken Parm, You Taste So Good,” a lot more than usual this fall, you clearly have pro football to thank.

As the most lucrative brand in all of professional sports, the National Football League (along with Commissioner Roger Goodell and his colossal salary) can credit record profit margins in no small measure to the advertising partnerships it has in place.

Ultimately, it’s a win-win-win: For the league, the advertiser and the spokesperson.

“You can’t always rely on your product or service alone to deliver an impactful message,” said sports advertising expert Peter Kahn, president of Hardwired Marketing Group, which has worked with major franchises and athletes. “For example, Papa John’s and Nationwide Insurance both use Peyton Manning in the delivery mechanism for their marketing campaign. Once you attach the high-profile professional athlete to the execution of the message, you have effectively created a sports marketing platform upon which you can build an advertising campaign.”

Another current example of this concept in efforts to increase buyer awareness and interest is the inclusion of Tony Romo and Peyton’s brother Eli into the DirecTV campaigns, which will surely spur its share of “Don’t be like this Eli/Tony” memes from rival fans.

“I think marketing your clients to the league is about being in teams’ faces as much as possible,” said 19-year sports agent David Canter. “I use devices that allow me to communicate with them at all times during the year [through] text, email and fax so three times a week, they are being bombarded by my client roster.”

But what’s made it work so well for one particular sport? For one, the NFL can boast that 35 percent of sports fans point to the league as their favorite, giving it that title for its 30th consecutive year.

“It’s a great social event and a camaraderie sport. Every Sunday is a national holiday for everyone who loves football,” Canter said. “All the NFL has to do is stay out of its own the way, which they’ve done a terrible job of doing lately.”

According to IEG research as featured on, the NFL sponsorship revenue totals exceeded $1.15 billion for the 2014 season. This is in addition to the $1 billion per season partnership the league has with DirecTV that allows viewers to watch every football broadcast.

Another example that is not as widely publicized is Microsoft’s $400 million investment in the exclusive use of surface tablets and other Microsoft technologies on the sideline. “Once these companies commit, they need to squeeze every ounce of juice out of the NFL affiliation and partnership,” Kahn said.

In addition, Kahn noted, companies are creating specific campaigns and investing millions of dollars for the Super Bowl long before the first game of the regular season kicks off. This culminates in commercials during the Super Bowl in front of hundreds of millions of people.

Making sure that ancillary sponsors get a piece of that massive pie is essential as well. “For years, Budweiser was the official beer of the NFL,” Kahn said. “Hardwired had the task of making sure Coors Brewing Company was able to have a presence during Super Bowl week for its employees, distributors and special guests, all without an official NFL affiliation.”

Most importantly, Kahn indicated that the advertising partners need to have a big picture strategy once the NFL-assisted spotlight is thrust upon them.

“They need to do their homework, including research on their target audience” he said. “How is this going to grow my brand? What image do we want to portray? How to create differentiation within [their vertical]? Engaging and involving their fan base.

“It has to cast a positive light at every turn.”