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NFL Opening Weekend: Big Spenders and Ratings

NFL Opening Weekend: Big Spenders and Ratings

Between Andrew Luck’s retirement and the NFL tapping Jay-Z as its “live music entertainment strategist”, football hit the headlines early this year. 

Now with the opening weekend behind us and the rest of the season ahead, we can look at how advertising with one of the largest brands in the United States is shaping up so far. 

Despite the rumors and eye catching headlines from past seasons, the NFL does not seem to have any problem with its TV ratings. IN fact, NBC’s Sunday Night Football was the most-watched program for the 2018-19 season. It’s the eighth year in a row Sunday Night Football has claimed the spot, drawing 19.3 million viewers weekly. Viewership for Monday and Thursday night football were up as well across for Fox, ESPN and the NFL Network. Overall, the NFL accounted for three of the five top spots in network TV. 

Viewership didn’t go anywhere for the first kickoff of the new season, either. The NFL Kickoff game — when the Packers defeated long time rivals the Bears — posted 22 million Nielsen viewers for a 16 percent increase over last year’s opener. Clearly, all this is a boon for advertising. 

NFL Opening Weekend’s Biggest Spenders

MediaRadar took a close look at the shape of advertising for NFL’s big weekend in 2019. 

One of the most striking takeaways was how the lineup of biggest spenders changed from 2018 to 2019. Last year, the top ad buyers for the NFL opening weekend were:

This year, just two of the top spenders remained the same. They were:

The two tech giants replaced two of the biggest automotive brands in the US — a sign of just how important the tech sector is these days. Many other advertisers that just started spending on the NFL opening weekend are centered around tech, as well. Apple, Facebook and DoorDash are all notable examples. 

In fact, retail and tech were the only two industries that saw a significant increase in ad spend for the opening weekend (see the chart below). Outside of the FAANG companies already listed, the tech industry ad spend was boosted by IBM and Samsung, among others. With a clear overlap with eCommerce, retail ad spend was boosted by Amazon, Walmart and Lowe’s

Taking a deeper at the top 50 advertising spenders from the opening weekend in 2018, 88 percent made the list for this year as well. Three brands that didn’t make the cut: Levi’s, Kohls and Mars

Last year, MediaRadar’s report reinforced “the value marketers continue to place behind destination live TV sports viewing.” With advertising bolstered by tech and retail, it seems that notion has been confirmed again in 2019.