The NFL opened its new season with Thursday night’s kickoff game featuring the defending champion Baltimore Ravens traveling to Denver to face the Broncos.
The league did its usual “in your face” marketing approach to the kickoff game, making it hard to miss promotional ads about the event.
The NFL remains the most popular sports league partly because it is the rare product that can be enjoyed by just about everyone, but also because the NFL’s five key strategies have made it the sports integrated marketing and PR champion:
• Market research drives decisions. In recent years, the league has seen women grow to become more than 44 percent of its fan base, with 60 percent of females over the age of 12 saying they are NFL fans. The NFL moved to reach women by overhauling its women’s apparel strategy from the cliched “pink it and shrink it” approach to featuring Victoria’s Secret and Nike items in team colors made to fit women’s bodies. The collection also includes boots, watches and other accessories. The NFL’s research and subsequent approach have proven to be successful.
• Aggressive market expansion. In addition to increasing the female fan base, the NFL has expanded into other countries with preseason games in Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, where the largest crowd in NFL history (112,376) attended a 1994 game between the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers. Every game played in London’s Wembley Stadium has been a sellout. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said he hopes to eventually put an NFL franchise in London.
• Yearlong content calendar creates a buzz. Promotion of the NFL combine – draft, training camp, preseason, playoffs and the Super Bowl – makes for a never ending marketing season.
• Message discipline. The NFL is committed to a united messaging front. From the United Way partnership to the NFL Network, ESPN, current and former players, owners and coaches, message discipline is consistently strong. When the league makes a decision everyone lives with it and moves on to the next one.
• The art and science of marketing. The NFL understands marketing is both an art and science. Contrast in advertising: Big image of Joe Flacco, small logo in lower right corner. Quick video shots and unique background music. Use of multiple marketing vehicles like social media, broadcast and cable TV, Web, radio and print. The NFL combines strategy and creativity to make it memorable.
You and your company might not have the resources the NFL does. But you can still become an integrated marketing and PR champion by following the league’s key strategies.
David M. Mastovich, MBA, is president of MASSolutions, an integrated marketing firm based in Pittsburgh focused on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions. He's also author of “Get Where You Want To Go: How to Achieve Personal and Professional Growth Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” For more information, go to www.massolutions.biz.