SBJ/June 23-29, 2014/Media

‘Football starts here’ as CBS touts Thursday night NFL games

“Sunday night is football night” on NBC. “It all comes down to Monday night” on ESPN.

Now, CBS is marketing its slate of Thursday night games with “Football starts here.” The network launched its campaign last week with a 30-second promo that ran throughout CBS’s highly rated prime-time schedule.

“This is the biggest campaign we’ve ever done in terms of reach,” said George Schweitzer, president of the CBS Marketing Group, which developed the creative. “It underscores our commitment to the Thursday night package.”

The effort will run across CBS properties, including TV, radio, online and outdoor. Officials would not say how much CBS has invested in it. For the beginning of the campaign, the network is not buying time outside of CBS properties — though executives said that may change.

The campaign targets casual fans by drawing upon CBS’s prime-time stars such as Lucy Liu (top) but features broadcast talent as well including Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. 
Photo by: CBS SPORTS

The campaign’s first ad combines CBS’s prime-time stars, like Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife”), LL Cool J (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) and Pauley Perrette (“NCIS”) with NFL highlights of players like Peyton Manning, Jamaal Charles and Calvin Johnson. It opens with a voice-over stating, “Everyone at CBS is excited about Thursday nights this fall.”

“Our campaign is not just about celebrating ‘Thursday Night Football,’ but ‘eventizing it,’” Schweitzer said. “We want to make Thursday night an event on CBS. The whole CBS family is involved.”

CBS has opted initially to focus more on its prime-time stars rather than NFL stars to get the message in front of casual fans.

“The fantasy player, the hard-core fan — they are going to be there,” Schweitzer said. “Our key is to make ‘Thursday Night Football’ an event that people want to watch because people are talking about it and celebrating it together.”

The 30-second ad involves a lot of quick shots with CBS talent walking toward the camera. Some of them, like Perrette and Chris O’Donnell (“NCIS: Los Angeles”), rip off their coats to reveal “Thursday Night Football” T-shirts.

Others, such as Mark Harmon (“NCIS”) and Jon Cryer (“Two and a Half Men”), sport eye black with the words “Thurs Night.”

CBS’s broadcast talent, Jim Nantz and Phil Simms, take a starring turn toward the end of the commercial. When Nantz rips off his suit coat, instead of wearing a “Thursday Night Football” T-shirt, he is wearing another suit coat. Simms says, “Showoff.”

In February, CBS agreed to pay $275 million to win the rights to broadcast an eight-game package. The league holds a one-year option on the deal.

Deal terms have CBS producing the Thursday night package of games for both CBS and NFL Network. In fact, the first commercial ends with a voice-over saying, “‘Thursday Night Football’ comes to NFL Network and CBS.”

At the beginning of September, CBS’s campaign will switch to focus on specific matchups. CBS’s first Thursday night game is Steelers-Ravens on Sept. 11.

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