Taking Back Sunday

2021 NFL Season Represents Return to Normalcy

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NFL
Sponsorship Valuation
Broadcast
Published 
November 18, 2021
 | 
4
 min read

The theme across all major sports leagues in 2021 has been restoring order and safely welcoming the return of fans to the stands. The NFL played a full season in 2020 but much of the usual excitement elicited by roaring crowds was absent, leaving something to be desired in the stadiums as well as on television broadcasts. Furthermore, fans were mired in a global pandemic that forced their focus elsewhere. These factors among others caused interest in the league to temporarily wane. But this season, the NFL endeavors to reclaim Americans’ attention on Sundays with compelling matchups, full-capacity stadiums for all 32 teams, and an additional week on the regular-season schedule. By accomplishing its goal, the league will create a myriad of opportunities for partners to earn or increase brand value. We examined how well teams and brands fared during the first five weeks of the season by evaluating exposure during game broadcasts. Our study did not account for commercials, graphic integrations, clothing, or studio visibility.

Gridiron Games Generate Value

We tracked every logo that was detected during NFL broadcasts through the first five weeks of the 2021 season and found an average of 16 minutes and 21 seconds of brand partner exposure per game. But with five different primary television rights holders, not all exposure is equal. On Thursdays, FOX and NFL Network share broadcasting duties. Sunday afternoons feature regional and national telecasts on CBS and FOX. Finally, NBC owns the rights to all Sunday night games and ESPN stakes claim to Monday Night Football. The prime-time broadcasts often feature marquee matchups and are always void of conflicting games vying for viewers. As a result, teams competing on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday nights can promise their partners a boost in value. Through Week 5, Monday Night Football telecasts on ESPN offered the longest exposure duration for NFL partners at nearly 24 minutes. However, with larger viewership numbers, NBC’s Sunday night broadcasts offered the most bang for brands’ advertising bucks. Despite the average brand exposure duration being six minutes and 30 seconds shorter on NBC than ESPN, the network generated roughly $300K more in brand value per week for an average of $6M. NFL Network’s Thursday night broadcasts earned an average of $1.8M in brand value, while FOX generated $1.5M and CBS created $965K on average. Another wrinkle was added to the broadcasting mix this year with the introduction of intermittent simulcasts on ESPN2 featuring Peyton and Eli Manning. Although not included in our study because of their inconsistent schedule, the Manningcasts drew an average of 2 million viewers during Weeks 1-3, further increasing brand exposure for league and team partners.

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Prime Partnership Real Estate

Throughout a game broadcast, viewers are bound to see a plethora of company logos on their screen at any given moment. But prominence is critical. Brands are much more likely to make an impression if their emblems are focal points. In addition to exposure duration and viewership totals, factors that contribute to value include size, proximity to other logos, and clarity. Therefore, we isolated five key asset placement locations. The most valuable assets for brands through Week 5 were team headsets. With cameras focused on coaches during so many critical moments, headsets were shown for an average of four minutes and 28 seconds, generating $498K worth of value. In a similar vein, sideline equipment received the second-most exposure during broadcasts. When networks show players celebrating, looking at previous plays on tablets, or conducting meetings during timeouts, their equipment is visible on the screen. These shots accounted for four minutes and 14 seconds worth of airtime per game and created $443K in brand value. Stadium signage is also vital. Despite only being shown for an average of two minutes and 33 seconds, broadcasters often present stadiums with a wide-angle view without competition from other brands. This helps earn $320K worth of brand value per game for stadium sponsors. Other conspicuous assets include ribbon LED signage, which garners $108K worth of value per game, and tunnel signage, which earns $80K in value each contest.

SoFi Loves L.A.

After more than 20 years without an NFL franchise in Los Angeles, the City of Angels has welcomed two teams in the last five years. The Rams led the way when they relocated from St. Louis before the 2016 season, and they were followed a year later by the Chargers’ move from San Diego. While each team found its footing and waited for a state-of-the-art arena to be built, fans in Southern California were setting the foundation for financial success. Television broadcasts helped further that cause at the start of the 2021 NFL season, as each team earned a place in the top four of our brand exposure rankings. After five weeks of the season, the Los Angeles Chargers were averaging six minutes and 25 seconds worth of brand exposure for stadium partner SoFi, securing a place atop our list. Meanwhile, the personal finance company was also receiving three minutes and 56 seconds worth of exposure during the Rams’ home games. But Los Angeles and SoFi shared the spotlight with a host of other familiar brands, notably the Washington Football Team and Bud Light, which combined to earn the second-most brand exposure per game while also each securing a second nod in our top 10 through separate partnerships. The Dallas Cowboys’ partnership with AT&T earned an average of four minutes and 19 seconds worth of exposure to round out the top three.

The Show Goes On

The first five weeks of the 2021 NFL season featured record-setting performances, fantastic finishes, and several hotly contested divisions – and there is seemingly no end to the excitement in sight. As budding stars and future Hall of Famers alike continue to pique fans’ interest, the final 13 weeks are sure to be a boon for teams and partners throughout the league. We will monitor brand exposure and value trends in the coming weeks to maintain a pulse on the timeless impact of broadcast television.

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