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Brands Prosper as NFL Hits Stride

Season’s Second Quarter Provides Surge of Exposure

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Sponsorship Valuation
December 22, 2021
June 21, 2022
 min read

The National Football League has long been the most profitable sports league in America, with fans of perennial powers and annual cellar dwellers alike tuning in each week to see how their teams fare. The league’s popularity is evident every October and November as it generates millions of dollars’ worth of value per broadcast while competition across the sporting landscape includes Major League Baseball playoffs, the heart of the college football season, and season openers throughout the NBA and NHL. As a result, sponsors are eager to secure prime branding real estate across stadium signage, equipment, and other assets to ensure they maximize broadcast opportunities and reach their target audiences. In continuing our series on NFL partners, we examined broadcasts from CBS, ESPN, FOX, NBC, and NFL Network to determine which offered the most brand exposure, what assets were most valuable, and which partnerships received the most airtime during the second quarter of the 2021 NFL season.

ESPN, MNF Secure Top Billing

Weeks six through 10 of an NFL season are typically when the league’s best start separating from the pack. The teams that started hot against weaker competition regress to the mean and the true contenders begin positioning themselves for a playoff run. While each network that holds NFL rights is surely a heavyweight in the broadcasting world, the second quarter of the 2021 season showcased how they, too, often jockey for position. All five networks increased their average brand partner exposure duration per game, elevating the overall average from 16 minutes and 21 seconds during the first five weeks of the season to 22 minutes and 24 seconds during the following five weeks. In both sets of data, ESPN’s Monday Night Football led the way in terms of exposure. However, as the Worldwide Leader in Sports increased its brand partner exposure duration by 11 minutes and 16 seconds to an unmatched 35 minutes and nine seconds, its value created jumped to $6.4 million per broadcast, most among rights holders. Meanwhile, though NBC’s Sunday Night Broadcasts increased brand partner exposure duration by more than six minutes, its average value generated dipped from $6 million per game to $4.8 million – still good for second-most. Notably, NFL Network increased its value created per broadcast by $2 million to $3.8 million to remain in third place among networks. FOX and CBS elevated average value created per game to $1.9 million and $1.2 million, respectively.

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Sideline Equipment Worth $500K Per Game

As average exposure per game surged, the value of each asset likewise reached a new level. Maintaining a consistent presence on broadcasts is critical for team and league sponsors aiming to appeal to fans during every stage of a game. Audience trends suggest viewers are not always glued to their televisions for all four quarters, and that does not even account for moments when their attention is diverted. Therefore, repeated exposure is a must for maximizing reach. As was the case at the beginning of the season, headsets and sideline equipment were exceedingly the most frequently shown assets on NFL broadcasts during Weeks 6-10. Headsets set the bar at an average exposure duration of five minutes and 59 seconds, with sideline equipment a mere one second behind, making each worth more than $511K in value per game. Though stadium, ribbon LED, and tunnel signage also had increased broadcast exposure, the gap between them and the top pair widened during the season’s second quarter. Stadium signage was the best of the rest, generating $344K worth of value during two minutes and 38 seconds of airtime per game, while ribbon LEDs earned $149K in value and tunnels created $107K.

Prime Time Games Catapult 49ers

The NFL ensures every market gets to watch its local team each week, but many games are designated to be shown live only regionally. This strategy ensures the week’s marquee matchups can be seen by fans all over the country. In addition to games on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights, the late Sunday afternoon window also often serves as the time slot for de facto nationally televised games. These prominent windows are desirable for teams and their partners because they guarantee a large audience and significant exposure. The San Francisco 49ers were able to capitalize on their prime-time home games to help shine a spotlight on their partners in the second leg of the season, as the team’s games on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in Week 7 and ESPN’s Monday Night Football in Week 10 resulted in an average of nine minutes and 47 seconds worth of exposure for stadium sponsor Levi’s – topping our list of team-brand partnerships during Weeks 6-10. Additionally, the 49ers’ partnership with Bud Light earned three minutes and 32 seconds of airtime per game, placing it sixth in our rankings. The only other team to earn two spots in our top 10 was the Miami Dolphins, whose partnerships with Geico and Hard Rock received the seventh- and eighth-most visibility, respectively. Geico made another appearance in our rankings thanks to its partnership with the Baltimore Ravens, for which it earned seven minutes and 59 seconds worth of exposure per game to finish second. Partnerships finishing third through 10th ranged from averages of three minutes and 49 seconds to three minutes and four seconds per game.

Eyes Shift Toward the Postseason

With national games come significant opportunities for valuable airtime that reaches a nationwide audience. Such prominence is amplified during the postseason, when each contest is broadcast from coast to coast in its own time slot. While players, coaches, and enthusiasts love playoff football because of the emotion it evokes, thrilling theater it offers, and breathtaking moments it creates, partners recognize the potential it provides as viewership expands, broadcasts teem with brand exposure, and fans focus on every second of the action. As attention shifts toward postseason races and playoff games, NFL partners will thrive as parts of the pageantry.

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