How Much Do Marketers Really Need The NFL?

A lot has been made of the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice travesty -- with a hint that the NFL might have been covering up the vivid crimes many have seen on their TVs and other screens thanks to TMZ Sports. Some wonder if marketers might be itchy to step away as a result of the NFL’s activities -- or lack thereof.

Not so fast: Many football team executives -- and big marketing executives who have partnered with the NFL --  have come out in support of the NFL and Roger Goodell, commissioner of the league.

Still, as we all know, business is business. Should even one TV marketing partner believe that the NFL erred in any way, and decide to bolt, that might mean a crack in the seemingly ever bigger and more powerful NFL media wall -- from a marketing perspective.

Marketers have increasingly depended on NFL content, due to its consistent delivery of viewers, as opposed to the steeper fractionalization of other traditional TV content. So the NFL has been able to consistently raise its sports licensing fees to TV networks; and TV networks in turn can charge more to TV advertisers. NFL’s own goal is to raise its current $10 billion a year business to a $25 billion one by 2027.

But shouldn’t marketers be able to find alternatives that target male TV viewers in the new digital media marketplace? Broad-based media vehicles reaching a large numbers of male viewers -- young and old -- in one big media buying act is hard to come by.  Looking to buy action-adventure/horror/mystery/edgy shows? AMC’s “Walking Dead”?  CW’s “Arrow”? TV programming on cable channels such as Spike, MTV, ESPN, or Esquire? Sure, some of that makes sense. But all this comes without the impact of the NFL.  

Where are you going to get 20 million to 25 million viewers in just one prime-time three-hour TV program? Or perhaps 15 million or so for weekend afternoon TV programming? And all this coming a couple of times a week for around 20 fall/winter weeks (including post-season activity)?

The answer is: You can’t. Want to buy “audience,” not TV “programming”? Go ahead. You have your work cut out for you.

In the meantime, you might want to take the easy way out, cross your fingers, and hope everyone (especially the NFL and its players) does the right thing.

5 comments about "How Much Do Marketers Really Need The NFL? ".
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  1. Brad Stewart from Molecule Inc., September 15, 2014 at 2:49 p.m.

    I think it's time everyone take a hard look, particularly from the advertising world. Thanks for putting this out there, Wayne. Maybe it's time to take a harder look at YouTube and some of the other programmatic options out there? Lacking scale, maybe? But, highly accountable, often with lean-in viewership only.

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, September 15, 2014 at 3:47 p.m.

    Dear Wayne,
    I hope the Pew Research Center conducts first-rate polling on this complex issue. Not that ehtics, morality, justice and humanity are matters that should be based "on the numbers." Rather, it is important to understand how the American Public comprehends the crucial elements at the center of this national issue, even the commercial and business matters. Further, considering the attention this country pays to the game as it played at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels, it is vital to get a handle on the issues in an intelligent, nuanced and representative way.
    Nicholas P. Schiavone

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, September 15, 2014 at 8:09 p.m.

    1. How many would be willing to take a punch in the face the way Rice's wife did for their team ? 2. Poor little non-profit NFL. How many people know that and are willing to pay their share ? 3. How many who make the team and never make their fortunes due to injury or not that good. Have their educations prepared them ?

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics, September 16, 2014 at 9:56 a.m.

    There are plenty of ways to reach any male demo on TV, aside from the NFL. The main reason advertisers sign on as NFL sponsors, despite its high CPMs, is not the audience----though that is welcome-----it's the "environment" and "association" which provides many image and mindset benefits, to say nothing of more promotable ploys like inviting your major customers to attend the games you "sponsor", then wining and dining the heck out of them. Of course, if the NFL is stupid enough not to deal with its current bad guy player problems and lets things get out of hand to the point where its image really gets tarnished, that's another matter. Then, advertisers may start to bail. I assume that the NFL bigwigs, who aren't idiots, realize this and will move aggressively to avoid such an outcome.

  5. Kate Boonstra from InStadium, September 18, 2014 at 10:35 a.m.

    At the risk of sounding salesy, there is still a way to reach the coveted male demographic in mass with the largest digital assets in the world. Live sports audiences (and not only the NFL's), when aggregated with other professional and college sports audiences, can reach up to 20MM A18+ in a 4-week span. That said, this audience can be accessed without laborious or expensive multi-year sponsorships through the InStadium network -- a flighted, national, live sports video network, where NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS, MLB, MiLB, NCAAB and NCAAF audiences are collectively garnering powerful ROI and record-breaking impact results for InStadium's roster of clients every day.

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