The 100th season of the National Football League occurs this year, with celebrations across the weekly games, through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl next February 2. It is a marketer’s dream, but an expensive one. League sponsorship income is estimated at $1.3 billion a year.
The advantages of NFL sponsorship vary from company to company, as do the costs. The larger sponsors like Visa, which has been with the league since 1995, use the NFL logo on a number of its promotions. It also participates in a number of NFL events and is a major advertiser on NFL televised games, although sponsorship does not cover that cost. Companies must buy their advertising independently of their relationship with the league. The 100th anniversary will offer particularly wide opportunities for visibility. According to Sports Business Daily, Courtyard by Marriott and Verizon also are set to activate around the 100th season platform. AB InBev, one of the league’s most active sponsors, is expanding its NFL portfolio with its Bon & Viv brand (now the league’s official hard seltzer).
Most NFL sponsorships are exclusive by category. Gatorade, which has a number of competitors in the sports drink industry, has been the sole sports nutrition drink sponsor since 1983. FedEx has been the exclusive package delivery system and office supplier since 2000.
More recently, the benefits of NFL sponsorship have added exposure on the field during games. Microsoft is the sole sponsor for laptops, PC operating systems and tablets. When television networks that cover games pan the sidelines, there are coaches and players using Microsoft Surface tablets to track and analyze the action. Oakley, the sunglass maker, has become the league’s most recent sponsor, with exclusivity for player visors. Players who want protection for their eyes and faces must use visors supplied by Oakley. Players used to wear dark visors, but the league eventually banned them. They can now wear clear ones from Oakley.
There are several benefits of NFL league-wide sponsorship. Some of the NFL’s 35 sponsors have been with the league for decades. Due to the NFL’s popularity, it remains the most financially successful sports league. Its TV ratings are also the highest for any sport in America. After a dip last year, the ratings are growing again during the 2019 season. Some teams are sold out of season tickets. The Super Bowl is among the most-watched television events of the year — 98 million Americans watched it last year. Millions more watch it overseas, and it is easily the biggest day in advertising of the year. These are the 50 biggest Super Bowl advertisers of all time.
With the new NFL season barely weeks old, the lineup for the 10th anniversary has been set.
|News America||Super Bowl FSI||1979|
|Gatorade (PepsiCo)||Sports nutrition||1983|
|Visa||Payment systems services||1995|
|FedEx||Package delivery services, office supply retailer||2000|
|Frito-Lay (PepsiCo)||Salted snacks/popcorn/peanuts/dips/salsa||2000|
|Mars Snackfoods (Snickers/Skittles/M&M’s)||Chocolate/non-chocolate confectionery||2002|
|Dairy Management Inc.||Dairy products (milk/yogurt/cheese)||2003|
|Procter & Gamble (Febreze, Secret, Vicks, Head & Shoulders, Gillette, Secret, Old Spice, Tide)||OTC grooming, fabric/air care, household needs, OTC||2009|
|Verizon*||Wireless, local long distance telecom services||2010|
|Barclays||Affinity card/rewards program||2010|
|Anheuser-Busch||Alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, hard seltzer)||2011|
|USAA**||Auto, home, life insurance; military appreciation||2011|
|Bose||Home theater system, headsets, headphones||2011|
|Courtyard by Marriott||Hotel||2011|
|Quaker Oats (PepsiCo)||Hot cereal, granola bars||2012|
|Microsoft (Surface, Windows)||Tablets, laptops, operating systems||2011|
|Zebra Technologies||Real time location solutions, on-field player tracking||2014|
|Extreme Networks||Wi-Fi analytics, network solutions||2013|
|Nationwide**||Auto, home, life insurance||2014|
|Intel||Volumetric image/video capture||2017|
|Amazon Web Services||Cloud infrastructure/platform, machine learning, AI||2017|
|Aramark||B2B marketing rights||2017|
|Pizza Hut||Pizza carry-out, delivery, frozen||2018|
|Sleep Number||Mattresses, sleep tracking, bedding, sleep/wellness||2018|
Courtesy of Sports Business Daily.
Notes: *Verizon’s deal for smart communities services and digital media video services is nonexclusive. **Nationwide and USAA have co-exclusivity in the auto/home/life insurance category. Amazon Web Services deal is nonexclusive. The list does not include the following licensees/partners: SiriusXM, Ticketmaster, Under Armour, New Era and Nike.