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5 Lessons from NFL’s Marketing

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The NFL is one of the strongest brands in U.S. consumer marketing. It dominates its sporting competitors, and arguably holds the one last TV show that most people feel compelled to watch live, The Super Bowl. Here are five aspects of the NFL marketing program that all brands and nonprofits can learn from.

September 10, 2013

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1. Choose Great Partners

One of the best aspects of building a strong brand with a captive audience is that it attracts great partners. However, the NFL has built vetting mechanisms and its own licensing company to vet its potential opportunities. Then end result is not only strong monetization of its audience opportunities, but also partners who do much of the work for the NFL. Just watch the commercials on Sunday and see how big dollar corporate partners are inadvertently advertising the NFL for the NFL.

2. Police Use Of The Shield

The NFL is maniacal about policing illegal unlicensed use of its logo and the Super Bowl name. So many businesses and nonprofits have tried to take advantage of the league’s popularity, that it now regularly issues cease and desist letters, and sues entities when necessary. While a bit draconian to some, this protects the value of partnerships and lets the brand carefully select which deals will best suit its needs.

3. Embrace Fantasies

You may have noticed that the NFL recently reformatted its Pro Bowl to take on a fantasy game focus. That’s no accident. The NFL has increased its viewership in the United States by 12 percentage points in the past 10 years enlarge part because it has embraced and supported fantasy football. As a result, individuals are less loyal to individual teams, and have a greater interest in a wider variety of games across the League.

4. Innovation

While the NFL has the fewest games in the sport, it has basically succeeded in making everything it does an event in its own right. It turned a boring draft into a major televised event, and its training camps are must-see football for local fans across the country. The League also embraces new media technology in the game, and in presenting telecasts. The NFL also recognizes its impact on affiliate partners, and is now starting to invest in innovative media technologies. Beyond the fees, they want equity in innovation.

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5. Build Stories

The NFL is not the most social media savvy brand out there, but they get the premise of identifying with personal stories. And market stories they do, from the Brett Favre’s of the world to the RG III saga, we see threads supported by and marketed by the League. Just consider the League’s placement of the 2013 opening day Joe Flacco ad on the Broncos stadium, reinvigorating a rivalry forged by last year’s playoffs.

What do you like about the NFL’s marketing programs?

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