SBD/September 6, 2012/NFL Season Preview

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  • NBC's Cowboys-Giants Opener Down Slightly From Last Year With DNC Competition

    NBC earned a 16.5 overnight Nielsen rating for last night’s Cowboys-Giants NFL Kickoff game, down 4% from the Saints-Packers game last year, which earned a 17.2 overnight on a Thursday night. The telecast marks the fifth-best primetime NFL game on NBC despite competition last night from the Democratic National Convention. Compared to the Redskins-Giants matchup in ’08, which aired early (7:00pm ET) on a Thursday night to avoid head-to-head competition with John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, the 16.5 rating is up 63% from a 10.1 overnight.

    NFL KICKOFF OVERNIGHT RATINGS TREND
    YEAR
    MATCHUP
    NET
    OVERNIGHT
    '12
    Cowboys-Giants*
    NBC
    16.5
    '11
    Saints-Packers
    NBC
    17.2
    '10
    Vikings-Saints
    NBC
    17.7
    '09
    Titans-Steelers
    NBC
    13.8
    '08
    Redskins-Giants**
    NBC
    10.1
    '07
    Saints-Colts
    NBC
    13.0
    '06
    Dolphins-Steelers
    NBC
    13.5
    '05
    Raiders-Patriots
    ABC
    13.1
    '04
    Colts-Patriots
    ABC
    12.6
    '03
    Jets-Redskins
    ABC
    14.5
    '02
    49ers-Giants
    ESPN
    12.7
         

    NOTES: * = Game aired on a Wednesday night due to DNC. ** = Game aired on a Thursday, but began at 7:00pm ET to accommodate RNC.

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  • Replacement Refs Draw Favorable Reviews In Season Opener; No Talks On Horizon

    Replacement referees receive praise for work in Cowboys-Giants game

    There have been no discussions between the NFL and NFLRA in their ongoing labor stalemate “for the last four days" and "none are scheduled,” according to NBC’s Peter King. NFLRA President Scott Green said he has "never seen our guys more solid and stronger." Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted the NFL “will be using postseason procedures” while replacement referees are utilized, including the use of an “eighth official on the field in direct and constant communication with a league supervisor upstairs who will be looking for any mistakes.” Florio: “They will take whatever time it needs to get it right, even if it makes the games go longer” (“FNIA,” NBC, 9/5).

    GOOD JOB, GOOD EFFORT: FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Pereira, the former NFL VP/Officiating, writes the referees in last night's Cowboys-Giants game "actually did a pretty good job." They "performed well, given the intensity and the pressure of the opening game on national television." Pereira: "There were a few misses here and there, but that's normal. And there was nothing critical that really had an impact on the outcome of the game" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/6). The AP's Tom Canavan wrote, "For the most part, nothing seemed different." Head official Jim Core's seven-man crew "seemingly didn't make any blunders, although there were a couple of calls that both teams questioned." NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, "No problems, just as we've been saying all along." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during an hour-long forum with fans from all 32 teams yesterday said, "I would love to have the best officials on the field, but I have to look at this long-term" (AP, 9/5). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote Core "turned out to be the right choice: He ran the game efficiently and effectively, and communicated the calls well." There were "no lengthy delays as the officials huddled to discuss a call, no long replay reviews, no moments where you threw up your hands and questioned whether the officials knew what they were doing" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/5). On Long Island, Greg Logan writes under the header, "NFL Replacement Officials Do OK In Season Opener." Logan: "There were no obvious problems or miscues by the crew" (NEWSDAY, 9/6). The DALLAS MORNING NEWS writes the replacement officials "barely were a story" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/6). In N.Y., Steve Serby: "Fans exiting MetLife Stadium were more ticked off about the Replacement Giants than the replacement refs" (N.Y. POST, 9/6).

    ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Also in N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes for the Giants there was "much to nitpick when it came to the controversial replacement referees." However, the Giants "did not bellyache about blown calls, although there were plenty of hints about calls that could or should have been made." Coach Tom Coughlin said, "They're trying to do the very best they can" (N.Y. POST, 9/6). The N.Y. POST's Mike Vaccaro writes the replacement refs "didn't help" the Giants. There were "a few spotty spots of the ball" and "at least a half-dozen missed holding calls" (N.Y. POST, 9/6). NBC’s Rodney Harrison at halftime of Cowboys-Giants said the officials “did a solid job in the first half, but they did miss one play and it was a pretty obvious play.” Harrison said there should have been a pass interference call on the Cowboys near the goal line, but no flag was thrown. However, NBC’s Tony Dungy said in that “particular formation that is an easy call to miss." Dungy: "There’s five receivers, there just aren’t enough eyes. Even the regular officials may have had a tough time making that one” ("Cowboys-Giants," NBC, 9/5). 

    HURTING INTEGRITY OF GAMES: SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote by keeping the regular refs locked out, the NFL is "toying with the integrity of the sport, the quality of the product and the safety and well-being of the players" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/5). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “to spend all this off-season talking about the safety of players and to jeopardize the players like this is shameful” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/5). In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino writes it "isn't just the integrity of the game that's endangered by using fill-ins," but the "very safety of the NFL's most precious resource: its athletes." Dolphins C Mike Pouncey said, "It's going to be a big difference. This ain't the preseason. Guys are out there now playing for their families, playing for their organization and playing four quarters." Pouncey "smiled and shook his head at the thought of four glorified scrimmages somehow preparing these fill-ins from the lingerie league and such for what lies ahead." He said, "It's not the jamboree anymore. It's the real deal. Every game counts now, so obviously you want every right call made" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/6). Eagles WR Jason Avant said, "This league, our commissioner, is all about player safety. And, with the deal not being done, there’s a definite compromise, kind of an oxymoron, so to speak, with the refs not being there. A lot of guys are kind of concerned about it. That’s a big deal for us, as far as player safety." He added, "When you go into a game, you know what things you can do to get away with these refs that we have. Guys are going to kind of cheat this week” (CSNPHILLY.com, 9/5).

    LATE-NIGHT LAUGHS: The NFL's referee situation was played for laughs on a couple late-night talk shows last night. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel said, “The NFL referees are on strike right now, so tonight they used replacement refs. I’m sure these guys are trying to do their best, but some of them were calling high school games last year and they just don’t seem to have the same level of professionalism the regular referees have.” The broadcast aired footage of last night’s Cowboys-Giants game and before the snap a penalty flag was thrown. A Kimmel staffer posing as a referee appeared on-screen to announce the penalty and said, “Okay, so uhh, we got the big guy, uhh, hitting the smaller guy real hard. He’s like, uhh, a fullback or a halfback or…doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. It’ll be good, it’ll be good. We’re going to push them back like, uhh, 10, 20 of these white lines, baby steps, and uhh, yeah, do-over. Total do-over. Do-over call!” Kimmel: “You see what I’m saying by professional? A top notch referee wouldn’t do that” (“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ABC, 9/5). Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert said, “This football season I am pumped for one big rivalry: The festering labor dispute between the owners and the referees. The NFL has enforced a lockout of the refs since July with the parties still divided on a variety of issues, including salaries, retirement benefits, work guarantees and vision coverage, because COME ON REF, ARE YOU BLIND!? Now obviously, you can’t have NFL football without the refs. But the owners just called an audible.” Colbert noted that one replacement official previously worked in the Lingerie Football League, which “explains why Eli Manning recently got a 15-yard penalty for sporting a whale tail" (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 9/5).

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  • NFL Provides $30M Grant To Fund National Institutes Of Health Brain-Injury Study

    NFL providing $30M grant to help fund brain-injury study

    The NFL has provided a $30M grant "to study brain injuries and other sports-related health issues," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke Dir Story Landis said that the grant "came with no strings attached” and that the institute "hasn't figured out exactly how to use it.” She added that she has participated in “a series of talks with the NFL about how the money will be used and that funding will be available to study joint diseases and sudden cardiac deaths." The funding was secured last Saturday. Landis said that “the institute's mandate is to think more broadly” than just about how football "affects the brains of the sliver of the population that plays it, suffers concussions and might be at risk for the long-term effects of what the medical community refers to as mild traumatic brain injury.” Futterman reports one question is the "extent to which scientists will be able to study current NFL players, including those who have recently suffered concussions, using state-of-the-art imaging technology.” Landis said that such a study “could prove worthwhile.” But players "may be resistant to allowing extensive studies of their brains for fear that the results might one day be used against them during contract negotiations” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/6). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Our goal is to aggressively partner with the best scientists to understand more about the brain and brain injuries, to make things safer for our athletes and for others.” Goodell said that “discussions with NIH representatives have been taking place for at least six months” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/6). NFL VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman said the $30M donation was the “right thing to do.” Grubman: “This is just another example, and it’s a really important one, that says we’re in a position of leadership. People look to us to lead" (“Mad Money,” CNBC, 9/5).

    OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD: USA TODAY’s Mihoces & Lloyd note a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded former NFL players “are far more likely to die from brain disease than the general public.” The study found that "ex-players were three or four times more likely to die from brain diseases.” The report was “based on new analysis of a 1994 NIOSH study involving 3,439 players who spent at least five seasons in the NFL" from '59-88 (USA TODAY, 9/6). The study is “the most extensive survey of former athletes since concern about the long-term consequences of repeated blows to the head has become a major safety issue among NFL players” (AP, 9/5). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said this study will have a “profound” impact on the sport, as it is the “single greatest health crisis in American sports." Lupica: “This is like a sport that’s taking a cumulative amount of hits to the head and it’s going to suffer over time” (“Today,” NBC, 9/6).

    SHAKE IT OFF: In DC, Maese & Clement in a front-page piece yesterday reported a Washington Post poll “suggests that football remains by far the country’s most popular sport” and that “the game’s inherent violence is as much of an appeal as it is a liability.” In the poll, 44% of fans "say their interest in pro football is on the rise, while 32 percent report a drop-off." More than one in three of Americans polled said that football is “their favorite to watch -- nearly three times as popular as baseball, which finished second.” While nearly six in 10 Americans say that they are “concerned about the number of injuries in professional football," just 20% are "‘very concerned,’ with just as many expressing no concern at all” (WASHINGTON POST, 9/5).

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  • Improving Gameday Experience Remains A Goal Of NFL; League Looks To Grow Attendance

    Goodell discusses ways to raise level of fan experience at NFL games

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday held "an hour-long session with fans from all 32 teams" prior to the Cowboys-Giants season opener, and fans "asked repeatedly about a range of issues tied to their experiences at the game," according to John Affleck of the AP. Among the topics were "cheaper tickets for exhibition games, when starters sit." Goodell said that "preseason is a big issue among fans." Goodell: "I hear that almost No. 1." Regarding the possibility of more cold-weather Super Bowls after MetLife Stadium hosts the game in '14, Goodell said that he "wants to see how the game goes at the end of next season." But he "didn't rule out a cold-weather Super Bowl." A Bengals fan "suggested moving the site of the NFL draft around to various cities." Goodell indicated that the league "is happy with New York as the home of the draft but there had been discussion about moving the second night to a different place." Goodell responded to a question about the NFL's social media plans by saying that it is "a key component of improving the fan experience on game days" (AP, 9/5).

    GET HIM TO THE GATE: In L.A., Walter Hamilton cites a recent report by N.Y.-based CovergEx Group as indicating that NFL attendance "has slipped 4.5% in the last five years, including 3.2% last season." Despite the league's "enormous popularity," the "stolid economy is taking a toll on upper-income men, who make up a large part of the NFL's fan base." Also, ticket prices "remain high for winning teams." But while attendance is "down from a record 67,738 in 2007, attendance at an average NFL game last year was still a very healthy 64,706" (L.A. TIMES, 9/6). SI's Steve Rushin notes NFL attendance has decreased every year for the last four seasons "as TV ratings flourish." But those years "have also seen the nesting home viewer become even more entrenched, entitled, inert." The NFL needs game crowds "to provide the home viewer with ambient sound -- a sitcom-laugh track of roars and boos -- and to serve as human set dressing: 60,000 seat-fillers." There are "amenities that the NFL has introduced, or hopes to have in place soon," to enhance the in-game experience such as free Wi-Fi in every stadium. These efforts are "being done in the vain hope that being at a game can be made to fell as lifelike -- as vivid, nuanced and authentic -- as not being there at all" (SI, 9/10 issue).

    ANGER MANAGEMENT: ESPN’s Darren Rovell noted all 32 teams this season for the first time are "putting their collective foot down with a new rule that says if a fan is ejected for fighting they can never come back, until ... they apologize and complete a four-hour online anger management course.” The program was created by psychotherapist Dr. Ari Novick, who said, “Fans believe that they can behave any way they want as soon as they enter the stadium, as if normal social rules and social etiquette no longer applies.” Rovell said there were approximately 7,000 fans “ejected from NFL games last season alone" and wondered whether a class could "really stop” the violence in the stands. Novick: “Many fans have stated that they’ve learned things that they wish they would have learned years ago. So we’re actually very pleased with the feedback that we’re getting from fans” (“GMA,” ABC, 9/2).

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  • NFL Network Still Not Close To Deal With Time Warner One Week From Thursday Night Debut

    One week before it is scheduled to carry the first of its newly expanded live-game schedule, NFL Network is saying that it still is not close to a deal with Time Warner Cable, the nation's second largest cable operator. "Customers should prepare to make other arrangements to get NFL Network and NFL RedZone," NFL Dir of Corporate Communications Dir Dan Masonson said. NFL Network started putting some pressure on TWC in K.C., having cut a deal with Google Fiber, a start-up that operates a competitive multichannel video service in the market. As part of a multiyear deal that will be announced formally this afternoon, Google Fiber will carry NFL Network in the market as of Monday and make NFL RedZone available via a la carte. The NFL on Aug. 16 signed a similar deal with Cincinnati Bell Fioptics, another market where TWC is the biggest cable distributor.

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  • Networks Look To Integrate More Social Media During NFL Broadcasts

    Tafoya providing video, sideline pics and updates during game on "SNF" Twitter feed

    As more NFL fans every season "engage in social media while watching the game, networks are looking for new ways to program content for that growing second-screen audience," according to Andrea Morabito of BROADCASTING & CABLE. NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya "started filing reports exclusive" to NBC's "SNF" Twitter feed last season. Tafoya this year "is adding video reports, hard-wiring her mic to an iPhone to upload 20-to-30-second video clips directly to the @SNFonNBC feed." Producers plan to have her "do five to 10 reports per game, expanding her insight beyond 140 characters." Fox this year "will have eight full-time employees dedicated to social media during its Sunday game broadcasts." The larger staff "has led to a partnership with GetGlue and tighter integration of Twitter into Fox's studio shows." ESPN this season will "look to experiment with real-time polling on 'Sunday NFL Countdown,' powered by Facebook or other companies" (BROADCASTING & CABLE, 9/3 issue). Tafoya's sideline reports will be posted on Twitter and NBC's "Sunday Night Football Extra" platform. "SNF" Exec Producer Fred Gaudelli said, "We think that's going to make an impact with people who like that second screen experience" (SI.com, 9/5). 

    CHANGES TO BROADCASTS: NBC is adding former NFLer Hines Ward to its "Football Night in America" crew this season, and NBC Sports Exec Producer Sam Flood said, "We'll be moving a few things around for our show, and some of that we'll feel out over the first couple of weeks. But overall we think we have a winning combination." Meanwhile, SI.com's Richard Deitsch noted for the first time in 19 years, Fox will "update its stage setup" on "Fox NFL Sunday." It also plans to introduce during games a "new graphics tracking system that tracks players on the field and follows them in real-time, where you can identify them on wide camera shots." Two banks of "eight unmanned cameras are set up high in-stadium at adjacent 35-yard lines; the cameras track all moving objects and technicians identify and tag players by number." Fox Sports President Eric Shanks: "It's kind of like the pointers for our NASCAR cars. I think it will be one of [the] most helpful innovations that we have come up with since the first-down line" (SI.com, 9/5).

    LACKING SUBSTANCE
    : SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch examined the slate of NFL pregame shows and wrote they are a "smattering of people talking about nothing." ESPN’s "Sunday NFL Countdown" is the "best one, but only because it’s longer and, therefore, some actual football can’t help but sneak in accidentally." It is a "little shocking, when you sit down to watch the pregame shows outside the context of 'Hey, sweet, football’s starting in an hour,' just how empty and vapid they really are." They are the "CliffsNotes of the CliffsNotes of an analysis program." Leitch: "No one expects NFL pregame shows to feature some Socratic debate about the moral equivalency of violence, or even to name an actual football play, but even by the low standards of the genre, they’re shockingly vacuous. ... They are the worst part of sports, the piffle and flat empty air that we’re all constantly trying to wade through to get to the actual sports" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 9/4).

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  • Chunky Soup Bringing Back Popular Mama's Boy Campaign With Giants' Victor Cruz

    Giants' Cruz starring in Campbell's "Mama's Boys" Chunky Soup campaign

    Campbell's Chunky Soup is bringing back its Mama's Boy NFL-themed campaign after dropping it in '08, with Giants WR Victor Cruz starring in the ads, according to Andrew Adam Newman of the N.Y. TIMES. In an ad that debuted yesterday, Cruz is surprised when an actress playing his mother "gains access to the field by dressing as a mascot and pushes a bowl of soup at him." Cruz' mother in a different spot set to debut in November "pops out of a bag of footballs." Cruz joins Donovan McNabb, Jerome Bettis, DeMarcus Ware and the late Reggie White as NFLers to appear in the campaign. Chunky began airing the Mama's Boy spots when it became the NFL's official soup sponsor in '97, and Chunky Senior Brand Manager Mark Materacky said, "Because it was so successful and iconic, we just kept coming back to the Mama's Boy campaign. We thought there was definitely an opportunity to resurrect the campaign and leverage our relationship with the NFL." Newman notes to promote "year-round consumption, Campbell has in recent campaigns for several of its lines, including Chunky, promoted pouring thicker soup varieties over foods like noodles, biscuits and mashed potatoes." Cruz in one ad "suggests pouring the chicken with country vegetables variety over rice" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/6). Meanwhile, Cruz is also appearing in a new ad for Time Warner Cable. The spot, called "Ball Machine," features Cruz delivering the message that with TWC video and Internet, he can enjoy his favorite show and content anywhere and anytime he wants (TWC).

    SEPARATE LIVES
    : In Boston, Greg Bedard noted Cruz in the offseason "signed with a marketing firm to compartmentalize his off-field dealings," which included commercials, magazine shoots and endorsement deals. But "ask anybody around the Giants about the way Cruz has handled his business, and nobody doubts him." Cruz said, "That's one aspect of my life. I try to separate the two. I have to come in and still be a football player and an athlete, and that's what got me to this point marketing-wise. And I understand that once the season comes around, I have to kind of separate the two and put football first, and then once those opportunities come, I can handle them as they come" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/2).

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  • NFL Names & Faces: Jerry Jones Stars In New Era Ads; Cap Maker Targets ESPN, NFL Net

    In this week's SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, Terry Lefton reports Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones stars in a series of New Era commercials that is "debuting this week for the new football season." In one of the spots, Jones "chooses a Cowboys NFL sideline cap over a traditional 10-gallon cowboy hat." Jones "summons an employee who is wearing a cowboy hat, string tie and oversized belt buckle." Jones while wearing a New Era Cowboys cap says, "It's the hat, son. We only wear football caps now." The ads, via Brooklyn Brothers, were scheduled to break on NFL Network before last night's Cowboys-Giants season-opener. Other ads in the "Laboratory of Headwear Science and Capology" campaign feature Bills DT Marcell Dareus, Bears LB Lance Briggs, Giants WR Hakeem Nicks and Broncos WR Eric Decker. The "majority of New Era's TV spending is on NFL Network and ESPN" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/3 issue).

    HALL PASS: WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY's David Lipke noted Japanese apparel company Uniqlo is "kicking off the fall season with the latest installment of its 'People' campaign, featuring Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana." Montana said, "I like casual and comfortable clothes, and the technology they use is pretty interesting. It's the type of place I would shop." Lipke noted Uniqlo "will open a flagship" S.F. on Oct. 5. Montana has a "lengthy resume of commercial endorsements, ranging from Hanes underwear and Skechers shoes to Schick razors and McCormick spices" (WWD.com, 8/31)....Plumbing supplier Ferguson has announced a new partnership with Pro Football HOFer and Fox NFL analyst Terry Bradshaw. Bradshaw will serve as the spokesperson for Ferguson's contractor business which consists of commercial and residential plumbers, HVAC contractors, waterworks contractors, builders and remodelers (Ferguson Enterprises).

    BEGINNER'S LUCK: In Detroit, John Niyo notes Lions QB Matthew Stafford has "a starring role in one of ESPN's new 'Monday Night Football' commercial skits," and his acting debut "has drawn rave reviews." Niyo writes, "I'd argue it's another positive sign for this franchise." Part of the reason the ad "was so well received among his teammates this week is because it's so genuine, and genuinely funny." The spot "went viral online and already has more than 100,000 views on YouTube" (DETROIT NEWS, 9/6).

    NOTES: Jordan Brand announced that it has signed the Giants' Nicks to an endorsement deal. Nicks joins the brand's fellow NFL endorsers Texans WR Andre Johnson, Steelers LB LaMarr Woodley, Colts DE Dwight Freeney, Packers CB Charles Woodson, Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman and 49ers WR Michael Crabtree (Jordan Brand)....MoZeus Worldwide has a deal with Ravens LB Ray Lewis "to create an app where fans will be able to take pictures with Lewis and download them." The app, priced at $0.99, will "raise money for one of Lewis' favorite charities, the United Athletes Foundation" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/5)....Gradient compression sportswear brand Skins Compression announced sponsorships with Giants LB Chase Blackburn, Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis, Eagles LB Brian Rolle and Bills LB Bryan Scott (Skins).

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  • Nicktoons To Debut NFL-Themed Animated Series "Rush Zone" In November

    NFL, Nicktoons have created two dozen 30-minute episodes of "Rush Zone"

    The NFL “knows it needs to get kids hooked on football early it if wants to maintain” its dominance in the American sports landscape, so it has given the go-ahead for Nicktoons to air a new series titled, "Rush Zone: Season of the Guardian," according to Joe Flint of the L.A. TIMES. "Rush Zone" developed from a "series of animated shorts that the NFL and Nicktoons produced and ran" during the '10 season. The shorts proved to be a "hit, averaging 1.2 million boys in the 6-11 demographic and quickly became one of Nicktoons' most popular shows.” Given the success of the shorts, the NFL and Nicktoons “decided to team up on two dozen 30-minute episodes that will run both during and after” this season. The show, which will debut Nov. 30, is “about a boy named Ish and his friends who live in Canton, Ohio,” home of the Pro Football HOF. NFL VP/Fan Strategy & Marketing Peter O'Reilly said, "We've been laser-focused for the last five years trying to connect kids to the NFL.” Several current and former NFLers, including Saints QB Drew Brees, Lions WR Calvin Johnson and Pro Football HOFer Jim Kelly will provide voices for the series (LATIMES.com, 9/5).

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  • Bucs Making Effort To Win Back Fans With Gameday Specials, Stadium Improvements

    Buccaneers offering discounted tickets for children to Sunday's game

    The Buccaneers have “two goals" this season under rookie coach Greg Schiano: make the playoffs and "win back fans,” according to Jay Cridlin of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The team averaged 56,614 fans last year, down from 65,316 in '07. That resulted in having six home games blacked out locally, which was an improvement over "all eight regular-season home games" blacked out in '10. The Bucs "can count on 35,000 diehard fans to come to every game, no matter what." It is those "next 25,000 casual fans they now need to reach.” The team is trying to reach fans by “getting creative with ticket prices, technology and more at Raymond James Stadium.” The club has “gone all-out to try to ensure Sunday's opener against the Carolina Panthers is a sellout.” They will “offer free parking and half-price concessions (excluding alcohol), along with certain tickets discounted to $30 and $15 (for kids).” The team is offering free wireless Internet inside Raymond James Stadium this season and “brought in a Super Bowl-caliber production company to man its new replay system, featuring more cameras installed around the field so fans can get a better view of what just happened.” The franchise also had Portland-based Mutt Industries create a "slick new social network called ‘It's a Bucs Life’" that allows fans to “cluster together in ‘krewes,’ share photos and video on Twitter and Instagram, read stories and blog posts from both fans and the team, and more"  (TAMPABAY.com, 9/5).

    DOWN TO BUSINESS: In Tampa, Stephen Holder noted Schiano, Bucs co-Chair Bryan Glazer and GM Mark Dominik “made good use" of an appearance at Tuesday's "Chalk Talk" event at the Grand Hyatt, an "annual gathering bringing together the Clearwater Regional, St. Petersburg and Greater Tampa Chambers of Commerce.” Glazer made his sales pitch speaking before an “influential audience that included the kind of corporate customers the team needs more of.” Glazer said, “We're going to need you in our corner when we kick off at 4:25 this Sunday so we can re-establish an atmosphere that will fuel our team and frustrate our opponents.” Glazer “reiterated the team's efforts to close the sales gap created by a recessed local economy and apathy about the team,” citing efforts to “maintain or lower ticket prices.” He added that the team “asked for later kickoff times for early-season games to address the heat-related concerns of fans.” Bucs WR Vincent Jackson, RB Doug Martin and S Mark Barron also attended the event (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 9/5).

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  • Lions, Huntington Bank Sign Five-Year, $2.4M Deal That Includes Ford Field Branding

    Fans will be able to obtain a Lions-branded debit card

    The Lions and Huntington Bank have signed a five-year, $2.4M sponsorship deal that gives Huntington the naming rights to the club and suite levels of Ford Field, including signage at their entrances and exits. The deal will mark the first time the Lions have had a corporate sponsor for those levels. The branding will be in place for the team's home opener Sunday. Also, fans can obtain a Lions debit card with a Huntington Bank checking account (Lions). Lions President Tom Lewand said that the team has "spent $5 million going into this season on technology improvements at Ford Field, such as a redone control room for the video boards and sound system, and new point-of-sale equipment for concessions and retail." Money also was "spent on improvements to the club lounges" (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 9/3).

    SOMETHING TO REMEMBER US BY: In Detroit, Steve Schrader noted throughout the season the Lions are "going to collect video contributions from fans -- clips that show their passion, memories, game-day rituals." The club will combine the videos with game highlights, and the "they will be used to make" a documentary called "The Season of Your Life." The videos will be posted at DetroitLions.com and "shown at games in Ford Field during the season." Lions Senior VP/Marketing & Partnerships Elizabeth Parkinson said that the "heavy lifting ... will be done by Bombo Sports & Entertainment." The Lions "hope to preview the eventual 90-minute documentary at next spring's draft party" (FREEP.com, 9/5). Bombo has "produced a similar movie" for the Eagles and "has done video work" for the NBA and EPL club Manchester United (CRAINSDETROIT.com, 9/4).

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  • People & Personalities: All Eyes On Jon Gruden In New Two-Man "MNF" Booth

    Gruden will have more time to showcase talents with two-man "MNF" booth

    On Long Island, Neil Best noted ESPN's "MNF" is going with a two-man booth of Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden after Ron Jaworski was removed from the broadcast. The motivation behind the move “appears in part to have been clearing the inevitable verbal clutter that comes with a three-man booth (fair enough) and better to showcase Gruden, whom the network views as a rising star (we shall see).” Gruden "surely has a dynamic personality -- one that at times dominated at Jaworski's expense -- but he is prone to using too much jargon, and too much gushing praise." There also is the chance Gruden will "return to coaching, forcing yet another booth upheaval” (NEWSDAY, 9/5). Tirico said of Gruden, "Jon, at some point, will go back. I don't know what that point is. I don't know if he knows what that point is. But instead of living in potentially tomorrow land, I live in the present." Tirico: "Do I want him to go back? Hell, no. ... I don't want him to go back but I want him to be happy. I think when this started, very few people thought he would be doing it for this long and here we are in Year Four" (SI.com, 9/5).

    YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOLAK: Scott Zolak this season replaces the retired Gino Cappelletti as the analyst on Patriots radio broadcasts, and in Boston, Chad Finn wrote it takes “a moment of adjustment to get used to hearing" play-by-play announcer Gil Santos' voice "accompanied by someone else's other than Cappelletti's." However, the transition last year was "handled superbly by CBS Radio and 98.5 The Sports Hub, with Zolak easing in as the third voice.” Zolak said, “I’m learning Gil and he’s learning me, stuff like getting in and out quick and things like that, because I like to talk. Sometimes he’ll have to put a hand up to let me know it’s time to get back to the action.” Finn wrote it is a "tribute to both Santos and Zolak that they’ve been in synch on the broadcast pretty much from the opening kickoff of the preseason” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/5).

    IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand noted CBS' NFL coverage this year will include Neal ElAttrache as its "medical analyst." CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus said that the idea is "not for ElAttrache, the Los Angeles Dodgers' team physician, to opine on long-term injury issues.” The net will not restrict ElAttrache from doing so, but he “will talk on an as-needed basis about recovery time.” ElAttrache, an orthopedic surgeon, operated on Patriots QB Tom Brady's knee in '08 (USA TODAY, 9/5).

    SECOND CAREERS: NFL Network hired former QB Donovan McNabb, who will make his broadcasting debut as a studio analyst on “Playbook,” which airs on Friday nights. McNabb will join former NFLers Sterling Sharpe and Brian Baldinger on the shows. The NFC edition airs at 8:00pm ET and the AFC edition airs at 9:00pm. McNabb will provide content on multiple shows (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal)....Former S Brian Dawkins is joining ESPN as an NFL analyst. Dawkins will appear on studio programs throughout the year, with his debut coming on “Audibles” on Sept. 13 (ESPN)….Former Giants OT Shaun O’Hara will be “going to work for the NFL Network” as an analyst after retiring (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/3).

    Print | Tags: Media, NFL Season Preview
  • NFL Marketplace Roundup: Bud Light Unveils New Spots During Kickoff Game

    ADWEEK's Anthony Crupi notes Bud Light yesterday introduced a pair of new 30-second spots on NBC during the NFL Kickoff game “celebrating what Anheuser-Busch InBev has dubbed the ‘Year of the Fan.'" The first spot, called "'Very Superstitious,' tips its cap to the various rituals enacted by football fans in the name of helping spur their team on to victory.” Over a snippet of Stevie Wonder’s song “Superstition,” a 49ers fan “clutches a lucky rabbit’s foot, a Titans fan reverently taps the team’s logo and a Colts backer constructs a horseshoe out of cold cans of Bud Light.” The second spot, entitled “My Bud Light,” encourages viewers to “sign up for the beer brand’s fantasy football league.” Two more spots are “expected to debut" before the end of the season. Bud Light will also buy, on average, “two 30-second spots" during every NFL game broadcast on each of the league's network partners (ADWEEK.com, 9/5). In St. Louis, Tim Logan notes Bud Light has got “other programs to reach out to fans, including a ‘Season Tickets for Life,’ sweepstakes, and lots of in-store promotions.” It also will “roll out team-themed cans in the 28 markets ... where it sponsors the home team,” while the rest of the country "will see cans with the NFL logo" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/6).

    TURNING THE TIDE
    : Procter & Gamble's Tide “Show Us Your Colors” campaign officially launches Sunday at Lambeau Field with the Tide Green and Gold Out. All fans who attend the 49ers-Packers game will find a free, Tide-branded Packers T-shirt on their seat. Throughout the regular season, the campaign will feature a number of activities that allow fans to join Tide in expressing the passion they have for their team and their colors (Tide).

    GEARING UP
    : ESPN.com’s Paul Lukas reviewed each NFL team’s ’12 uniforms. Aside from the Seahawks, who were “put into the Nike centrifuge and emerged with a predictably eccentric costume, the rest of the league still looks like the NFL, at least for now.” There are “three Nike-related visual elements” on jerseys this season: the collar, the neck roll and the stretch/ventilation panels. The NFL Equipment patch, “which has appeared on every jersey collar and pant thigh for years now, has been revised.” It is now a “little plastic chip instead of a cloth patch, and the word ‘Equipment’ has been eliminated” (ESPN.com, 9/5). In Houston, David Barron notes according to Fanatics.com, Houston is the “No. 1-ranked city on its websites for the purchase of NFL-licensed merchandise.” Sales of Texans-branded merchandise are up 145% over last year, "trailing only the Super Bowl champion Giants and the Broncos." The three “top-selling Texans items on the site are a New Era cap bearing the Texans logo and the blue home jerseys” of WR Andre Johnson and QB Matt Schaub. Texas is the “No. 2-ranked state for NFL sales at Fanatics.com” (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 9/6).

    Print | Tags: NFL Season Preview, Nike, Procter and Gamble, Anheuser Busch
  • Study Shows NFL Fans' Attitudes Toward Sports Stronger Than Overall Sports Fans

    NFL fans tend to be more passionate in their attitudes toward sports compared to run-of-the-mill sports fans, according to a study conducted by Team Epic. The “Decoding the Modern Sports Fan” study, which was taken among 2,750 respondents, defined NFL fans as those extremely or very interested in the league. Thirty-one percent of NFL fans said that they are in a bad mood when their favorite team loses, compared to 26% among sports fans. Additionally, 45% of NFL fans said they never turn off a game, regardless of the score, compared to 39% among sports fans. NFL fans also seemed to be less affected by the proliferation of steroid/PED use among athletes. Fifty-seven percent of NFL fans said steroid/PED use has made them lose respect for athletes, compared to 59% among sports fans. The study also found that 59% of NFL fans purchased merchandise in the last year, compared to 54% among sports fans. Twenty-six percent of NFL fans played fantasy sports, compared to 21% among sports fans. Among those who played fantasy sports, 85% had a fantasy NFL team (Team Epic).

    ATTITUDES TOWARD SPORTS AMONG NFL FANS
    COMPARED TO SPORTS FANS (strongly or somewhat disagree)
     STATEMENT
    TOTAL
    NFL FANS
    I plan my social life around my favorite team's schedule
    21%
    25%
    I'm in a bad mood when my favorite team loses
    26%
    31%
    I never turn off the game, regardless of the score
    39%
    45%
    I would pay more for additional content and/or services
    around my favorite team
    20%
    24%
    I have no problem when it comes to spending my money
    to support my team
    21%
    26%
    Whenever I go to games, I always stay until the end
    63%
    68%
    Sports are my life
    16%
    20%
    I feel a great sense of personal pride in the performance
    of my favorite teams
    52%
    59%
    Steroids and other PEDs have made me lose respect for athletes
    59%
    57%
    Having a pro team in your city significantly increases the
    standard of living in that area
    49%
    53%
    When an athlete I identify with (race, religion, etc) performs well,
    I am more likely to have an interest in that athlete's performance
    43%
    45%
    Players don’t play as hard as they used to
    37%
    36%
    Pro players are too friendly with players on the other teams
    11%
    12%
    The ethnicity or gender of my favorite team's
    owner(s) is important to me
    7%
    7%
    I trust the owner of my favorite sports team
    37%
    42%
    I would pay more for additional sports channels on
    my cable or satellite subscription
    23%
    27%
    I feel the sports industry is well regarded and
    heading in the right direction
    30%
    35%
    As a gift, I would rather receive a trip to the Super Bowl
    than receive season tickets for my local sports team
    36%
    41%
         

    METHODOLOGY: In the study, before any sports-related questions were posed, participants were asked to do a self-evaluation of their current personal outlook. These questions aimed to assess the 2,750 respondents on elements such as their “level of happiness” and “state of mind.” Participants also were asked to gauge how they would describe themselves now compared to recent years, considering words such as “anxious,” “hopeful,” “overwhelmed” and “relaxed.” The respondents further rated their level of concern about specific non-sports topics, such as their employment status, health care and fuel costs, and they were asked about their passions and hobbies beyond sports. It is at that point that the survey segued into questions regarding the participants’ attitudes toward sports and the role sports plays in their lives personally as well as in society overall. Questions involving media use, technology and sponsorship considerations followed. Sample statements for assessment included “I have no problem with sponsorship on jerseys or the field of play,” and “I get most of my sports news through social media.”

    Print | Tags: NFL Season Preview
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