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How is the NFL Changing the Advertising Game?

How NFL Advertising is Changing the Game

The NFL’s regular-season games in 2022 averaged 16.7mm viewers, while Super Bowl LVII attracted 113mm people.

Even more telling of the NFL’s golden status: Sports accounted for 94 of the 100 most-watched telecasts in 2022; the NFL accounted for 82 of those.

Shocker: The NFL’s audience is attractive to brands across industry lines.

In 2017, we started a series examining advertising across professional sports leagues, including the MLBNBA, and NHL.

Our latest installment dives into the NFL and how its advertising has shifted.

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Some advertisers have historically been kept at arm’s length from the NFL.

For example, advertisers promoting whiskey, vodka, rum and other spirits got the red tape until 2018.

While some liquor brands partnered with individual NFL teams and have advertised in other major professional sports leagues before, this was still a major milestone—and a wakeup call to beer brands that have historically walked on the unencumbered ground.

The beer industry may oppose this change; however, networks and leagues, even popular ones like the NFL, need more revenue opportunities. The NFL can no longer turn away those like liquor brands that feed it ad dollars.

On a similar note, beer advertisers not named Anheuser-Busch (AB InBev) got their first taste of Super Bowl advertising in 2022 as AB InBev’s exclusive rights to beer advertising during the Big Game ended.

Finally, gambling advertisers have grown fond of the NFL, especially of late given the pandemic-induced boom in sportsbook apps; casinos and mobile gaming apps recorded a record $54.93b in revenue during the first 11 months of 2022.

The NFL is fully aware of the gambling boom, signing deals with DraftKings, FanDuel, and Caesars Entertainment that could be worth roughly $1b in revenue for the league in the next five years.

NFL Sponsorships Grow

The average NFL crowd increased by 3.25% per game in 2022, the second-largest figure in almost two decades.

Brands are taking notice, evident by the fact that NFL sponsorship revenue increased by 4% in 2022 to $1.88b. For comparison, that’s 15% more revenue than the NBA generates from sponsorships.

Jessica Gelman, CEO of KAGR, a key data analysis vendor to the league, said, “What has impressed me is how the NFL is reaching down [for younger fans] while maintaining the older fan base, and it’s been successful doing that.”

The NFL’s widespread appeal has attracted brands like Gatorade, Visa, and Verizon. The sponsorships didn’t come without some shakeups, though.

Most notably, Pizza Hut lost its status as the NFL’s official sponsor to Little Caesars.

Super Bowl LVII Advertising Recap

The 113mm people who tuned in for Super Bowl LVII were once again greeted by ads from household names like Mars, Rémy Martin, and RAM (despite a 30-second TV spot costing up to $7mm).

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Advertisers from five categories were responsible for 75% of the ads: media & entertainment, technology, food, alcohol, and automotive. Media and entertainment advertisers dominated the night with 23 commercials from 13 companies.
  • The number of automotive advertisers, including Toyota, BMW, and RAM, dropped to six. Inflation was the primary deterring factor for these advertisers.
  • There were 3.5 minutes of beer ads, with whiskey and cognac each getting 60 seconds of screen time. Despite AB InBev relinquishing its exclusive rights to alcohol advertising, the company still accounted for 5% of the run time.

While Super Bowl ads came with a steep price tag, the return is there for advertisers willing to dig deep into their wallets. According to Kantar, Super Bowl ads in 2022 drove an average ROI of $4.60 per dollar spent.

Thursday Night Football Attracts Big Brands

Amazon’s Thursday Night Football package kicked off in 2022 after the company purchased the exclusive rights to stream the games outside local broadcast networks for $1 billion annually.

The investment seems to have initially paid off for Amazon, with the company seeing record signups for the first broadcast.

“By every measure, Thursday Night Football on Prime Video was a resounding success,” said Jay Marine, global head of Amazon’s sports division.

But is there a return for advertisers?

Maybe not. Thursday Night Football audiences missed estimates by up to 25%, forcing Amazon to compensate advertisers.

Despite the growing pains, it’s impossible to deny the unique opportunity afforded to advertisers.

For example, DraftKings ran TV-style commercials during the game and is the title sponsor of the pre-game show.

According to DraftKings CMO Stephanie Sherman, the real differentiator comes with the second-screen viewing experience.

The on-air talent can take out their phones and direct viewers to specific bets or combinations of bets in the DraftKings app.

Sherman continued, “We’re really excited about all the different ways in which activating this partnership provides ample opportunity for us to leverage different metrics and methodologies.”

The NFL Offers a Prime Opportunity for Advertisers 

Although the league has shown it can still draw large TV audiences, it’s aware of the cord-cutting trend.

The league is working to combat this via its own channels or through various partners, such as Amazon Prime.

The NFL also has more sponsorships and is opening the door for advertisers it’s historically kept out.

At the same time, the NFL offers brands increasingly appealing ways to get in front of an incredibly engaged and niche audience. Despite the price tag often tied to these ads, brands will continue investing in America’s most popular sport.

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