SBJ/Aug. 18-24, 2014/Media

CBS sells Thursday presenting positions

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CBS Sports still has ad inventory available for its inaugural “Thursday Night Football” schedule, but it has sold presenting sponsorship positions around its pregame, halftime and postgame shows.

The most recent sponsor to sign on is Lowe’s, which picked up the presenting sponsorship for the first part of the pregame show, from 7:30-8 p.m. ET. CBS also has an agreement in principle on a deal for the second half of the show, which would run from 8-8:25 p.m., but it was not ready to reveal the company late last week.

The Lowe’s sponsorship applies only to CBS’s eight games, not to the eight Thursday games that will be carried exclusively on NFL Network. 

Lowe’s and Lexus have signed on with CBS’s new NFL package.

Lexus will be the halftime sponsor for the CBS games after signing a deal with the network three months ago. Lexus sponsored NFL Network’s halftime show last season. 

CBS also has a postgame sponsorship deal in place, but the identity of that sponsor was not available.

Neither Lowe’s nor CBS would discuss terms of their pregame deal. Typically, these types of sponsorships include multiple ads during each game and cost in the neighborhood of $10 million, sources said.

Sources also said CBS is guaranteeing a 12 rating for its Thursday schedule across both CBS and NFL Network, which will simulcast the games. That rating is comparable to NBC’s top-rated prime-time package. Last season NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” averaged a 12.8 rating, the second-highest mark in that series’ history. ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” averaged an 8.6 rating.

The deal continues Lowe’s involvement in NFL programming. For the past several years, Lowe’s had sponsored Fox’s Sunday afternoon postgame show, “The OT,” the highly rated wrap-up show that aired after Fox’s late Sunday games. Lowe’s executives said they were still in discussions with Fox about positions for the upcoming season.

CBS’s sales pitch positions “Thursday Night Football” as the start of the football weekend — a pitch designed to attract retailers, like Lowe’s, that rely on weekend sales.

“Thursday is much more important to us coming into the weekend than Sunday, where big ratings are also important to us, but that is coming out of the weekend,” said Tom Lamb, Lowe’s chief marketing officer. “The idea of being out in front of it made great sense.”

Lowe’s has worked with CBS Sports on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and it also has bought sponsorships with several NFL teams individually, including the Carolina Panthers.

In addition to on-set signage, Lamb said he expects to integrate Lowe’s products into the pregame show. He pointed to last December, when Lowe’s decorated Fox’s “The OT” studio with Christmas decorations, an area that represented a big business segment for the company.

“CBS has a willingness to partner with sponsors and create a more permeable barrier between the sales and the programming area where we can actually sit and talk to them about what our priorities are and what that looks like in the context of programming,” Lamb said.

Overall, CBS’s Thursday night schedule is about 80 percent sold, sources said. John Bogusz, CBS Sports executive vice president of sports sales and marketing, said a lot of the inventory moved early around the upfront selling season. “Right now, the market’s moving slowly,” Bogusz said, “but we’re still pacing ahead of last year.”

Most of last year’s advertisers will return to CBS’s Sunday afternoon slate, including presenting sponsors Southwest for the network’s pregame show and Verizon for halftime. CBS’s Sunday slate is seeing percentage increases in the high single digits. Many advertisers bought packages that include both Thursday and Sunday afternoon, Bogusz said.

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