Back in the day, sports fans could follow their favorite sport(s) based on the months of the year: Baseball ran from April to October. The NFL played from September to December, with playoffs in January and the Super Bowl in February. The NBA and NHL went from October to May, followed by the playoffs and championship.
Although the seasons of each respective league have remained relatively intact, the calendar restrictions have been shredded in a concerted effort to attract more fans, consumers, marketing partners and marketing activation.
The NFL is being especially aggressive in expanding its schedule, in large part next year because Super Bowl XLVII will be played in February across the Hudson River from New York in MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J. And marketing partners are eager to get activation for the game underway.
"I love that the buzz for this Super Bowl has already started," said Zach Harris, marketing director, Pepsi Sports - NFL. "I am based in New York. PepsiCo is based in [Purchase] New York. We are a global organization with roots in New York. I love the fact that MetLife Stadium is one of our premiere partnerships. There is a lot of anticipation for this Super Bowl and so many opportunities for us to shine."
The NFL's push beyond its traditional calendar months is evident. In 2013, the Super Bowl was played Feb. 3; the NFL Scouting Combine, with presenting sponsor Under Armour, was held Feb. 20-26; the NFL Draft was held April 25-27; and the Spring League Meeting ran May 20-22, which generated major attention because the NFL selected sites for Super Bowl L (the San Francisco 49ers' Levi Stadium) and Super Bowl LI (Reliant Stadium in Houston).
OTA (organized team activity) Camps were held in early May, and mini-camps in early June.
Pre-season begins with the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 4, followed by the start of training camps. The season itself starts Sept. 5, (the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens visiting Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, on NBC) with NFL Kickoff Weekend Sept. 8-9.
The NBA Finals just concluded as a cap to the 2012-13 season. But the 2013-14 season begins this week when the NBA Draft will be conducted on June 27 in Barclays Center, Brooklyn. Soon thereafter, the NBA Orlando Summer League will run July 7-12, followed by the Las Vegas Summer League, July-12-22, the latter with 22 teams and many of the first-year players selected in the Draft expected to participate.
In August, companies such as Nike and adidas send their top players on international junkets, which has included the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
In the beginning of October, several NBA teams — including the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors, will be part of international pre-season games in such locations as China, Spain, Turkey and Brazil.
All of this cuts into time previously owned by MLB. And other leagues realize how valuable that time is. Just as they realize how readily fans whose teams are not involved in pennant races are ready, willing and able to put down their baseballs for basketball and footballs.
"The NFL is no longer about starting in September and ending in February," said Harris. "We want to activate fully, year-round, behind our partnership with the NFL, so we welcome the opportunity to work with the league in their year-round efforts. We continually look for ways to enhance our presence in certain areas and to build up our presence in all our NFL activations."