SBJ/November 5-11, 2012/Marketing and Sponsorship

Sponsor USAA suits up NFL in camouflage

Camouflage is replacing pink on NFL fields over the next few weeks, as a military appreciation effort and a Veterans Day salute take center stage.

Insurer USAA, the NFL’s official military appreciation sponsor, is activating heavily around the Salute to Service initiative, with sponsored tie-ins at 16 NFL stadiums, up from six last year. Activation includes eight card stunts where fans will flip cards thanking vets; distribution of thousands of branded wrist bands; a “million fan salute” digital campaign; team events involving local military members; and the continuation of the Salute to Service award, which honors outstanding efforts in supporting the military community.

“Our first conversations on the NFL sponsorship began with a shared interest in honoring the military and obviously it has grown,” said Don Clark, USAA executive director of marketing. “It comes back to our mission of serving the financial needs of the military community.”

USAA became a league sponsor in August 2011. Since then, Clark said, “Awareness and opinion [of the brand] are both certainly up, and we saw some of our largest increases in those measures around the time last year when we did our first Veterans Day activities, so….”

IMG is USAA’s sports marketing agency.

Camo is being integrated into on-field elements, and events will salute military members.
The NFL is donating $100 for every point scored during 32 designated Military Appreciation games to either the Pat Tillman Foundation, the USO or the Wounded Warrior Project. In addition to USAA’s activation, events under the league’s aegis are being held at every NFL venue over the first three weekends in November, including on Veterans Day on Sunday.

As was the case with the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign in October, the NFL is integrating on-field elements, beginning with last Thursday’s scheduled game between Kansas City and San Diego. End zones will be branded with “Salute to Service” stenciled in the back, and players will wear helmet stickers supporting various military units. Wilson footballs will have a special NFL shield with a  “camo” ribbon, as will end-zone pylons, goal posts and the Gatorade-emblazoned sideline towels. There also will be Nike and Under Armour camo gloves. Those items will be auctioned off for the involved causes after they are “game used,” but unlike the many pink Breast Cancer Awareness items, they will not be taken to retail as licensed products — at least, not this season. However, the league is looking to develop the military salute as an annual initiative, similar to its pink effort in October.

“The focus this year was establishing this as a major platform for us surrounding Veterans Day,” said Peter O’Reilly, NFL vice president of fan strategy and marketing. “As far as moving forward, we are tracking awareness of the initiative and the partners involved, and looking for feedback for our rights holders and our clubs, which have all done some version of this in the past.’’

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