110 Million Brand Fans Can’t Be Wrong: Lessons From The NFL
My ESPN fantasy team, Skyy’s The Limit (named after Kansas City Chiefs’ rookie Skyy Moore), has ended the season with a league victory. Yet my interest in watching the playoffs and Super Bowl LVII remains ‘sky’ high. Let’s face it, the NFL has built the ultimate entertainment brand watched by men and women, both young and old. It’s a cross-generational brand. It’s also one of the few remaining appointment TV programs I keep because I can get most of my quality entertainment from streaming services.
Think about some of the consumer trends we can find inside the NFL brand. According to the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, over 62 million fans participated in fantasy sports in 2022, and the NFL was the number one beneficiary of this trend with the most participation.
For me, fantasy games allow me to stay connected with my adult son who lives in Chicago. On a weekly basis, we confirm bye weeks, check signals to see who we need to juggle to handle the injuries, and bet on anything and everything under the sun.
Like millions of NFL fans this time of year, I’m grading everything, from Kevin Hart for DraftKings doing scripted TV spots, to the possibility that Rob Gronkowski will make a field goal during halftime at State Farm Stadium courtesy of FanDuel. These gaming brands are integrating entertainment into their marketing activation strategy. That’s not shocking given how successful they are at creating engagement.
This is the first year that the Super Bowl will be played in a state with legalized online sports betting. According to Nick Dan-Bergman, a consumer researcher and casino marketing expert with LaneTerralever, ‘Many Gen Z and younger millennial consumers will experience gaming for the first time from the comfort of home on their mobile device. But don’t call it a phone because it’s really a modern-day Swiss Army knife capable of so much more.’ Dan-Bergman continued, ‘Over the past few years, we’ve seen companies competing based on who could offer this biggest promo, but that’s not a recipe for long-term loyalty. This generation of consumers craves a simple and familiar in-app experience, which has become the new competitive battlefield as the games offered and associated odds vary less from platform to platform over time. This year we expect to see many of the players in online sports betting have a major presence at the Super Bowl’.
Ticket prices will likely mirror trends from past seasons for the Big Game. If you expect to experience this brand spectacle in person, the current price starts at $5,100 a seat just to get in the building. The 2020 Super Bowl featuring the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami saw the highest average ticket price of $7,065. According to Dan Rouen, a live events dynamic pricing expert with Tickets For Less, ‘This year’s opponent match up will have a big impact on ticket prices.’ A Chiefs vs. Eagles matchup could drive record pricing, whereas a Bengals repeat appearance will drive the lowest price.
So, what can CMOs near and far learn from the NFL?
First, price elasticity is alive and well. If you are a fan of a specific brand, you will pay more than a modest price premium to display your fandom, even if you aren’t in Phoenix at the live event. Plenty of fans will buy jerseys, host a party for friends to watch TV and have fun.
Second, the notion that loyalty doesn’t exist is clearly a non-starter. Fans will be arguing and having fun talking about everything from their favorite ad to whether Rihanna was the best Halftime performance they’ve ever seen. Ultimately, fans are giving up a big chunk of their weekend to engage and participate.
Finally, as David Ogilvy once said, ‘You can’t bore people into buying your product.’ With 110 million people expected to watch the Super Bowl—which would make the game the 12th largest country in the world just behind Japan with 112,000,000 citizens—the NFL has clearly defined itself as an entertainment juggernaut, and isn’t that part of the goal of most brand marketers?
I’m here in Phoenix and can’t wait to see what brands do next.