September 05, 2013

Brands are Gearing Up for NFL Kickoff

Today the calendar reads September 5, 2013, but that’s nothing more than a technicality. We all know what today really is, the start of the NFL football season. After its annual eight month hiatus from our TV screens and branded products on our grocery store shelves, it’sback. And, the only ones more ready than the players, fans, and coaches are the brands who each year enter into lucrative partnerships with the most profitable and recognizable sporting organization out there, the NFL.


Exclusive and official partnerships with the NFL are a big business, and often times the pinnacle of the participating brand’s strategy each year. According to Turnkey Sports & Entertainment in its annual NFL sponsorship awareness survey, more than one-third of the group surveyed said they are more likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member and consciously support a company because their products/services are an official sponsor of the NFL.


Starting today and continuing through the weekend, more than 105 million viewers are expected to tune into an NFL game. A lot of brands invest in campaigns and strategies to capture the attention of the viewers, but today we’ll look at three of the most heavily invested brands and what their partnerships with the NFL have meant for their businesses.


As the largest food and beverage company, it’s no wonder Pepsi is an exclusive partner of the NFL. Pepsi has been developing fresh creative that will start to be unveiled during tonight’s kickoff game.


New this year for Pepsi: the brand will feature all 32 teams on point-of-sale materials and include each Pepsi variety in NFL advertising (Pepsi Max, Diet Pepsi, etc.)Pepsi’s contract has long allowed it to use all 32 teams and logos in promotional materials, but it has never taken advantage of the benefit until now.


This year’s Pepsi campaign will tell a season-long story led by the call to action, “Are you fan enough?” Angelique Krembs, VP-marketing for trademark Pepsi, said Pepsi worked closely with the NFL and asked consumers how they felt about different periods of the season, which led to this campaign idea.


As an NFL fan, I understand that our feelings about the season change as the weeks go on, so I am excited to see how Pepsi wraps these common fan feelings into a campaign. NFL fans tend to connect to the advertisements that capture what it’s like to be a fan, good or bad, so I suspect these ads will be a big hit among viewers.


Bud Light
Perhaps no brands are more synonymous with the NFL than Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch has held exclusive alcohol advertising rights for the Super Bowl for 22 years. But, it’s interesting to point out Bud Light has only had an exclusive partnership with the NFL since 2011. Stretching from 2001-2010, MillerCoors enjoyed the exclusive partnership, and prior to that, the two shared advertising rights.


Bud Light’s exclusive partnership with the NFL certainly seems to be paying off. The NFL sponsorship survey mentioned above found that NFL fans provide Bud Light with its highest recognition scores out of all of Bud Light’s official partnerships. In 2012, the high recognition scores can be attributed to the fact that in addition to its blanket deal with the NFL, Bud Light has local sponsorship agreements in place with 28 of the league’s 32 franchises. Along with the TV spots, the brewer rolled out specially marked 12-packs packaged in a material that looked and felt like pebbled pigskin. The cans also featured the NFL shield and the local team’s logo.


For 2013, Bud Light will launch a series of new spots called “Dilemmas” that highlight the lengths fans go to help their team win. To me, this feels very similar to their highly successful “Superstitious” series that ran last year with the now famous tagline “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work.” But, if executed well, this could be a fun extension of the “Superstitious” series, and could help build on the emotional attachments and equity that last year’s campaign built.


Papa John’s
Last up is Papa John’s. After the 2012 NFL season, more than 62 percent of avid NFL fans correctly identified Papa John’s as the official pizza of the NFL, a 13 percent increase from the year before. The increase in Turnkey’s report was the largest change among all 68 brands measured in the survey and seems to be the most perplexing to me. Compared to the other brands mentioned (or not mentioned) in this post, Papa John’s advertising and sponsorship seems to be the least memorable. But perhaps the recognition is partly due to the fact that pizza is a less competitive and crowded space on the advertising scene compared to others. Nonetheless, Papa John’s exclusive partnership with the NFL and its Peyton Manning TV spots are working. Before the start of the 2013-14 season, Papa John’s entered into a new, long-term brand partnership with the NFL.




With tonight’s NFL kickoff, it will be fun to watch how each brand approaches its season-long campaign. At the end of the 2013-14 season, we’ll revisit this post and discuss what brands made the biggest impact on the season through its advertising and promotions.


NFL Prods Partners Into Kicking Off Season with Fresh Creative
Avid fans know their NFL sponsors
Pepsi’s NFL Sponsorship To Star All 32 Teams
Bud Light to be official beer sponsor
Bud Light Suits Up for 2012 NFL Season Heavy TV spend marks second year of official sponsorship

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