SBJ/20090126/Marketing/Sponsorship

NFL Network touts its never-ending season in Super Bowl ad

For some time, it’s been apparent that the NFL is as much about creating and selling media content as it is about staging NFL events. The fact that the annual Super Bowl ad for NFL Network is evolving into a promo for every form of league-controlled media — online, mobile and TV — just serves to underscore that the NFL is a media company, not so different from its rights holders.

Of course, to support its media platforms, the league needs a fan base to tune in all year, so the NFL “media ad” drives home the message that the Super Bowl is not just the conclusion of one season, but it’s the start of another, where all teams are hypothetically equal. The Arizona Cardinals transformation from also-rans to Super Bowl finalist this season helps to drive home that assertion.

“We’re making the point that we’re the direct connection to the NFL all year long, and in every form of media,” said Dena Kaplan, senior vice president of marketing for NFL Network.

Darren McFadden works in front of a blue
screen for the new NFL Network commercial.

To communicate that message on advertising’s biggest stage, the NFL is using Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden, who takes a run across the NFL offseason in the promo. The ad was shot in early January around Universal Studios in Los Angeles by agency MeringCarson. It is set the day after the Super Bowl, when McFadden sets out on a training run that starts in the winter and takes him in and out of red letter days on the NFL calendar: the NFL combine; the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall, training camp, the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction, and, finally, to a stadium tunnel, through which a uniformed McFadden runs onto the field for the opening game of the 2009 NFL season. The logos for NFL Network, NFL Mobile and NFL.com are shown, along with the tag line, “Where Football Season Never Ends.”

As of press time last week, the ad’s position in the game was undetermined.

 ENHANCED EISEN: Speaking of NFL Network, Rich Eisen, the cable network’s resident uber-talent, prepped for the advent of tax day, April 15, by filming nine segments for TurboTax tax preparation software that will be used as ad interstitials during NBC’s Super Bowl pregame shows. In an attempt to make the ads TiVo-proof, they include content relating to the NFL and NBC show “Heroes.”

Eisen, handled by DeBartolo Sports and Entertainment, also has marketing deals with NFL sponsors Sprint, Samsung and Pepsi.

 TIRES TO SPARE: In its second year as Super Bowl halftime sponsor, Bridgestone is adding some retail activation.

Nationally, Bridgestone is supplying its dealers with point-of-sale material teasing its Super Bowl ads, one of which features Hasbro’s Potato Head characters. Dealers will also get football-themed point-of-sale collateral, including giant inflatables to facilitate things like Super Bowl tailgate sales. In the Tampa market, Bridgestone is tying in with a sweepstakes promotion at its Tires Plus stores that offers 100 tickets to the Super Bowl halftime show rehearsal. There will be radio, print ads and point-of-sale support. A contest at Tampa-area Firestone Complete Auto Care Centers offers NFL Experience tickets to those meeting or exceeding sales goals. A cause-related tie-in sees Bridgestone supplying volunteers and a pair of tires for each of the 18 homes being rehabbed as part of  an NFL-sanctioned “Rebuilding Together” program.

In the last 14 months, Bridgestone has bolstered its sponsorship portfolio, with the NFL deal now in its second of three years, and an NHL rights deal through which it was title sponsor of the recent Winter Classic at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

“We have great sports marketing assets now,” said Phil Pacsi, vice president of marketing. “In 2009, we’re about getting more of our dealers to use those assets to drive sales.”

Branded cushions will include freebies.

 CUSHIONING THE BLOW: As the sponsor of the much-publicized halftime show, Bridgestone also gets its name and logo on the approximately 75,000 cushions that will adorn every seat at the Super Bowl. Sponsored goodies inside the seat cushion pockets include a Bridgestone-branded flashlight for use in a halftime illumination stunt during the Bruce Springsteen set; a Pepsi-branded bandana to “tie in” with Springsteen sideman Steve Van Zandt; and a Monster.com coin to commemorate its “Fandemonium” promotion in which the job site, using creative from BBDO, New York, will launch a contest for the job of “Director of Fandemonium.” The winner will be on the field for the coin toss at Super Bowl XLIV, along with calling in a pick at the NFL draft and $100,000. Also in each seat pocket is an iTunes card that allows a free download of Super Bowl highlights and a card with a “Fan Code of Conduct” detailing how to report unruly fan behavior by cell phone or text message.

Meeting Street Promotions, Westport, Conn., is handling the Super Bowl cushions for the 12th consecutive year and 15th time overall.

 COMINGS & GOINGS: Former Pepsi and Heineken marketer Mike McCann goes to Harley-Davidson as  director of core customer marketing. He’ll market to current riders, competitive riders and “intenders,” who, like McCann, are still learning the ins and outs of motorcycling. … Alice Petzold leaves Sponsor Direct, where she was vice president of business development, to join Wasserman Media Group’s New York-based consulting group in a similar role.

Terry Lefton can be reached at tlefton@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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