Back to Explore

Is the NFL Still the Place to Be for Advertisers?

September 10, 2019

Make room on the couch and pass the remote, football season is upon us, and advertisers need to be ready. While the NFL continues to be hugely popular among a wide range of Americans, there have been several recent concerns about the game that are likely making some advertisers uneasy. Heightened political controversies, disputes over the game rules, and the link between football and neurological problems have contributed to volatile ratings over the last few years. This lack of consistency has many brands wondering, is the NFL is still a worthwhile space to advertise in?

We’re Glad You Asked

Despite recent controversies, football is still the most-watched sport in America. Further, according to Phoenix Brand Effect, in-game NFL advertising continues to produce stronger Brand Memorability compared to all other sports environments. To the delight of the league, the average viewership for NFL games in 2018 was actually up 5% from last year, topping out at 15.8 million.

Additionally, the audience for NFL games has evolved over the years to include almost equal amounts of men and women, according to recent statistics released by the league. This provides advertisers with a more diverse, engaged audience that is less likely to be produced by other programs. However, with this more universal audience, it can be difficult for brands to put out an ad that can take full advantage of this wide and diverse reach.

What is a Brand to Do?

When it comes to advertising, always remember the golden rule: creative is king. Creative quality remains the pillar of success for advertising within the NFL. Ads with simple, linear, humorous, and unique stories tend to be highly successful during the NFL season. A great example is Bud Light, who created a unique and attention-grabbing narrative with their Dilly Dilly/Bud Knight campaign. The comical period piece (with the addition of the Game of Thrones reference) was able to leverage similar characters across creatives and create a powerhouse advertising campaign that is hard to beat.

Bonus points granted if the advertiser also incorporates relevant, football-themed elements, which can contribute to the strength of an ad. It is also essential to keep in mind that while significant, contextual relevance without the compelling creative to back it up will not guarantee an ad’s success. In other words, merely inserting a football reference into your ad without the storyline to back it up won’t carry it into the end zone.

What About Sponsorship?

Leveraging sponsorship of the NFL or an NFL segment is a great way to set your brand apart. Remember Bud Light? While their strong creative did much of the heavy lifting in bringing the ad to success, they also participated as a major sponsor in the NFL. Bud Light has been the “Official Beer of the NFL” since 2011 and sponsored various segments within NFL programming (such as Thursday Night Football, Bud Bowl and Fan Zone), all of which appeared to bolster their ads’ branding.

However, you cannot rely on sponsorship alone to drive ad performance. While GMC was a sponsor of Monday Night Football, their football-related ad featured few visual references to their brand. This caused the ad to score low on Brand Linkage (meaning not many people remembered the ad was GMC’s) and ultimately underperform in the program, despite having the advantage of being a sponsor. To be successful, a brand must play a key, clear role in its advertising efforts.

The Holy Trinity

Not many brands can pull it off, but a sure-fire way to achieve maximum Breakthrough in an advertising arena is to combine strong creative, contextually relevant themes and a compatible sponsorship. Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ ads were widely successful on Brand Memorability in the NFL and were among the brand’s most influential ads in its rotation. This success can be attributed to its contextual relevance and light-hearted character dynamic. Additionally, the fact that nearly all of Microsoft’s weight within the 2018-19 NFL season was adjacent to In-Program-Placements gave the brand additional lift.

Also, Microsoft ‘Surface’ has been a sponsor of the NFL since 2013, with the tablet being the “Official Tablet of the NFL.” Given the heightened focus on the ‘Surface’ within the NFL, it was no surprise that the ads featuring this product had great success.

One More Time for the People in the Back

Despite the evolving audience and political controversies nipping at its ankles, the NFL is still the best environment to capture a broad, engaged audience. But when it comes to grabbing this audience, the main point that brands should keep in mind when creating advertising for the NFL (or any programming for that matter) is to focus on strong creative. Without powerful creative, even an ad with serious media weight or backup sponsorship can fall flat. Make sure your creative is on point, and your ad could be the one viewers remember long after the confetti drops at the Super Bowl.

Back to Explore
Our retention rates and lengths of engagement reflect our unwavering focus on surprising and delighting each and every customer, each and every time.