During the four-month-plus-long lockout between NFL owners and the decertified NFL Players Association, the NFL made headlines almost every day and was a hot topic around water coolers in offices across the country. Considering that the situation was trending almost daily in the midst of baseball season, the NFL and its marketing partners may have struck gold when they were seeking to determine how to divide the $10 billion golden goose of pro football.
A Harris Poll released in July around the time of the MLB All-Star Game regarding America's favorite athletes showed that Derek Jeter was No. 1, due in large part to his quest to reach 3,000 career hits, which garnered the New York Yankees shortstop national media attention.
But only one other baseball player made the Top Ten: Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Meanwhile, four NFL players made the Top Ten: Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts (No. 2), Tom Brady of the New England Patriots (No. 6), Hines Ward of the Pittsburgh Steelers and "Dancing with the Stars" fame (No. 7) and Aaron Rodgers of the NFL defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers (No. 10).
In addition, a Harris Poll conducted earlier this year found that football was the favorite sport among 31% of those surveyed, nearly double baseball's 17%. College football came in third at 12%, adding another group of football fans into the mix.
The NFL got more buzz during the off-season than at any time in recent memory. Players were shown being barred from training camps, forming their own training camps, wearing business suits during meetings with owners and even participating in marketing efforts (Troy Polamalu and Eric Berry, among others).
Even during a non-lockout year, August is the time when marketing support for the upcoming season begins in earnest, officially with the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony (still scheduled for Aug. 5) and Hall of Fame game, and unofficially with the release of EA Sports' "Madden NFL" videogame (scheduled with marketing support for Aug. 30). So, in effect, the NFL and its marketing partners have not really lost any time in getting fans and consumers hyped for the season.
The $10 billion enterprise continues to grow. The NBA with its lockout should be so lucky.