Archives For NFL

An interesting brand marketing battle will unfold later this summer and fall in the cable sports television category. It will feature Fox Sports 1 which launches August 17th, versus ESPN. Both will compete for the attention of serious sports fans.

Fox Sports 1 is a 24-hour network that will feature live sports events, news shows and studio programs. Fox’s goal is to develop a unique brand and personality for Fox Sports 1 that is different from ESPN. Fox has described their positioning as “jockularity”. Their plan is for Fox Sports 1 to be the funny, irreverent, less serious sports channel. Fox’s research has shown that fans are growing tired of ESPN’s stat happy approach. Regis Philbin will host “Crowd Goes Wild” an hour-long interview show that will air daily at 5PM.

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ESPN launched the first 24-hours sports channel in 1979. It has owned the cable sports business free from serious competition for years. Competitive efforts by CNNSI and NBC Sports Network failed to generate large audiences. ESPN is very profitable. It generates $9 billion a year in revenue for its parent company, Walt Disney. This is the first time a serious rival has emerged.

Personally, I have been dissatisfied with ESPN for years. I have grown tired of their antics, emphasis on trying to be clever and reporters who didn’t have their facts straight. For me, Bleacher Report has replaced ESPN.com as my go to site for breaking sports news. The sports news and broadcasting category is ripe for disruptive innovation.

Fox Sports, which was formed in 1994 has accumulated some impressive live programming assets for this battle. These assets include the NFL, Major League Baseball, NASCAR, Soccer, College Football and College Basketball. Fox has aggressively bid for sports programming rights in recent years often driving up the price.

This competition will be interesting to watch. It is always good to see new competition emerge in a category that has been dominated by one player. With the demand for sport programming and information robust, my hope is that it will spur continued innovation that will benefit fans.

Do you think that Fox Sports 1 will be successful as a 24-Hour All Sports Cable Network?

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For NFL Fans, the month of July signals the beginning of a new season. Football is back even though it’s nearly always on fans minds. As usual, their will be a number of great stories and surprises. Most training camps start within a week. The start of the regular season is not far away.

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Last Monday, Forbes announced its 2013 list of the world’s 50 Most Valuable Sports Teams. Thirty NFL teams made the list of the top 50. The Dallas Cowboys (5), New England Patriots (6), Washington Redskins (8) and the New York Football Giants (9) made the top ten list.  Only two NFL teams the St Louis Rams (51) Jacksonville Jaguars (52) failed to make the top 50. This speaks to the power of the NFL Brand and the strength of individual team brands. The NFL is clearly the most valuable sports league in the United States.

The NFL’s success is the result of strong brand management and ongoing communication with their fan base. The NFL has made a six-month season into a 12-month business and branding effort. The draft is a key part of the strategy as it bridges the gap between one season and next. It generates a huge amount of media and fan talk value. The draft has also become a huge revenue generator. Once the draft is over media attention shifts to signing the players, filling out the rosters and mini-camps. Football talk is always in season.

The NFL Brand has its challenges. Player concussions are a serious issue. The Aaron Hernandez case and other player arrests have created negative publicity for the brand. However, the brand is skilled at overcoming short terms challenges and continues to thrive and grow in value. There are many reasons for the success of the NFL Brand. I can’t possibly highlight all of them in one post. Listed below are some the reasons why the NFL has built a strong relationship with their existing fans and expanded to attract new fans.

  • Football is extremely advertising friendly. The game has natural stops and starts, a 60 minute game lasts three hours, leaving plenty of space for television advertising.
  • The league has created a major event with “Super Bowl Sunday” that attracts the largest television audience of the year.
  • The product is limited, there are only 16 regular season games. Your favorite team plays only once a week. Whether your teams wins or loses, most fans can’t wait till next Sunday.
  • The NFL owns Thanksgiving one of our country’s most important holidays.
  • Football is an exciting experience. From watching the games with friends and family, to the NFL’s website, NFL Mobile and the Madden NFL Games, the brand creates an interactive experience.
  • The NFL creates memories that span generations. NFL Films allows fans to re-live past games. Giants fans love to re-live our Four Super Bowl Championships. We never tire of watching David Tyree’s catch in Super Bowl 42.
  • Fan’s love the game, not just their team. Fantasy Football and fast paced highlight shows have helped make the games fun to watch even if your team is struggling.
  • In recent years, the league has seen women grow to become over 44 percent of its fan base, with 60 percent of females over the age of 12 identifying themselves as NFL fans.

I have witnessed the NFL pass Major League Baseball as the most popular sport in the country. In many ways, it has displaced baseball as the sport American’s love. The NFL has a brand that means something deep to many football fans, whether they realize it or not.

Are you excited for football season to start? Who is your favorite team?

 

Another marketing story coming out of the Super Bowl is the ongoing battle between sport brands Nike and Under Armour in the apparel, accessories and footwear category. Nike is the number one sports apparel brand with worldwide sales exceeding $24 billion in 2012. Under Armour’s sales for 2012 are estimated to be just shy of $2 Billion. Under Armour is clearly the challenger brand in this battle. However, they have made strong inroads in this country, but Nike dominates internationally. There is big money at stake in this lucrative market.

Neither brand advertised on the Super Bowl broadcast but both had a strong presence at the game. They used a combination of innovative approaches to make an impact. Nike is the official uniform supplier of all the teams in the National League. They also supply the gloves and cleats worn by NFL Players.This means that their logo was visible throughout the game. They are also able to capitalize on sales of licensed jerseys to fans. They design the uniforms for all 32 NFL Teams. For the big game, both teams wore the NFL Nike Elite 51 uniform. This uniform was designed to maximize players speed. Both teams wore Nike Alpha Pro Cleats and Nike Vapor Fly Gloves.

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A number of the athletes who played on Sunday including Ray Lewis and Anquan Boldin are sponsored by Under Armour. These athletes were able to wear Under Armour products under their Nike uniforms with exposed logos. MVP Quarterback Joe Flacco of the Ravens has a Nike endorsement deal. Some athletes including Tom Brady, who is endorsed by Under Armour, have generated controversy by covering the Nike Swoosh Logo on his practice gear.

Under Armour’s headquarters is in Baltimore. They heavily promoted their allegiance to the Ravens on their website, through email communications and in social media. Nike equally promoted both teams on their website.

Both brands have promoted their partnerships with the NFL, the most powerful sports league in the country.  Since 2009, UA has sponsored the NFL Scouting Combine: an invitation-only event where 300 to 350 of the country’s top draft prospects run the 40-yard dash, lift weights and complete other athletic drills. All players must wear UA shirts, shorts and socks. The exposure of the NFL Combine deal helps UA’s brand in a couple of ways. It enables the brand to show off its base-layer products that are worn underneath the NFL uniforms — but not visible on TV. Also, UA gets to associate itself with future stars in the period between when they leaving college and join the NFL Players Association.

This will continue to be an interesting marketing battle to follow.

Which brand do you prefer Nike or Under Armour?