Avid fans know their NFL sponsors
Editor's note: This story is revised from the print edition.
NFL partners saw a bump this year in the number of fans who were able to correctly identify their status as official sponsors with the league — some of them at record levels — according to the results of the sixth annual NFL sponsor awareness survey conducted by Turnkey Intelligence for SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.
Verizon was identified by 30 percent of all fans, the brand’s highest level ever in the annual NFL study and its highest rate among similar annual studies of the NBA, NHL, MLB, MLS, PGA Tour and NASCAR. The company’s year-over-year increase of 7.6 percentage points was the biggest such jump in the survey.
Papa John’s, a partner since June 2010, saw a
|Papa John’s (top) and Verizon (center) saw big jumps; Bud Light brewer A-B now sees its highest scores in the NFL.|
Anheuser-Busch, which re-joined the league’s portfolio in 2011 following a nine-year absence, saw an overall decline of 1.3 percentage points, but it can now count the NFL as the property whose fans provide it with the highest recognition scores. A-B is also an official sponsor of the NBA, PGA Tour, MLB and MLS, and its 40.2 percent rate among all NFL fans is higher than its marks in surveys of those other properties’ fans.
Psychologically, avid fans seemed to care more about NFL sponsorships than they did last year, when the league was heading into an offseason of uncertainty and, ultimately, a lockout. For example, 43 percent of avid fans answered “Yes” when asked “Is it important to you to be aware of which companies are official sponsors of the NFL?” Similarly, more than one-third of that group said they are more likely to “recommend a product/service to a friend or family member” and “consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services” if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NFL. Each of those levels was significantly higher than in last year’s survey. Nikolay Panchev, vice president of research at Turnkey Intelligence, said he believes the change in attitude regarding sponsorships is indeed linked to the fans’ state of mind toward the league overall.
One of two new questions added to this year’s survey found that fans who correctly identified league sponsors were more likely than general fans to use that knowledge when making their own consumer decisions (see chart, below). “Somewhat surprisingly, consideration among fans aware of the sponsors is highest for product categories that require a notable commitment from consumers, such as wireless, credit card, hotel,” Panchev said. “We typically see higher consideration in categories where brands can be easily substituted, like soda and beer.”
Although Gatorade remains the brand that fans are most likely to associate with the league (with a recognition rate of 56.7 percent among all fans), the beverage did see its awareness marks fall for the fourth straight year. Sister brand Pepsi also saw a drop among avid fans from last year, but the 37.4 percent mark for this group matches the average for avid fans across the previous five surveys. In addition, 31.5 percent of casual fans correctly identified Pepsi’s official status, up nearly nine percentage points from the first NFL survey and a best-ever mark among that group.
|Is it important to you to be aware of which companies are official sponsors of the NFL?|
|Are you more or less likely to recommend a product/service to a friend or family member if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NFL?|
|Unaffected or less likely||63.0%||72.2%||62.6%||77.0%||75.6%||70.4%|
|Are you more or less likely to consciously support a company by purchasing its products/services if the company is an official sponsor of the NFL?|
|Unaffected or less likely||61.0%||69.7%||56.5%||74.0%||76.7%||70.8%|
SPONSORSHIP SIGNIFICANCE AND ASSESSMENT
Subject: How much more likely are fans to consider purchasing/using an NFL sponsor's product/service if they are aware of the relationship?
To read: 27% of NFL fans said they would be more likely to consider staying at the NFL's official hotel if they knew what hotel brand had that designation. The rate increased to 52% when considering only those NFL fans who correctly knew that Marriott is the NFL's official hotel sponsor.
|Category (NFL Sponsor)||Among all NFL fans||Among NFL fans who correctly identified sponsor||Change|
|Wireless service provider (Verizon)||26%||45%||+19|
|Credit card (Visa)||26%||40%||+14|
|Pizza (Papa John's)||32%||43%||+11|
|Shipping services (FedEx)||25%||35%||+10|
|Automotive (General Motors)||25%||33%||+8|
|Sports/energy drink (Gatorade)||34%||42%||+8|
|Soft drink (Pepsi)||32%||34%||+2|
|Beer (Bud Light)||31%||32%||+1|
Subject: What brands do fans think should be NFL sponsors?
To read: 62% of NFL fans said they think Gatorade should be an NFL sponsor, compared with 31% who think rival Powerade should have an NFL deal. Those numbers became 78% and 34%, respectively, when considering only those NFL fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is the NFL's official sports/energy drink.
|Among All NFL Fans||Among NFL Fans Who Correctly Identified Sponsor|
|NFL sponsor / competitor||NFL sponsor / competitor||Difference||NFL sponsor / competitor||Difference|
|Gatorade/Powerade||62% / 31%||+31||78% / 34%||+44|
|A-B (Bud Light)/MillerCoors||51% / 35%||+16||74% / 32%||+42|
|Visa/MasterCard||58% / 39%||+19||79% / 39%||+40|
|Verizon/AT&T||47% / 35%||+12||68% / 35%||+33|
|Papa John's/Domino's||44% / 30%||+14||65% / 34%||+31|
|FedEx/UPS||44% / 39%||+5||61% / 40%||+21|
|Marriott/Hilton||25% / 25%||0||42% / 29%||+13|
|Pepsi/Coca-Cola||50% / 56%||-6||65% / 54%||+11|
|General Motors/Ford||39% / 45%||-6||57% / 54%||+3|
Notes: Fans were asked to select the brands that they felt belonged in the NFL as sponsors. Fans could select both the official sponsor and the competitor, if they chose to do so. The one specific competing company listed was selected by Turnkey for consideration in the survey file.
|I'm not sure||31.0%||28.3%||19.8%||37.6%||31.5%||28.1%|
Gatorade, the league's longest active sponsor (since 1983), had its sponsorship extended in September as part of parent company PepsiCo's 10-year renewal with the NFL. Gatorade's "Everything to Prove" Web series documented 15 NFL rookies from the combine to their first games, with episodes airing via YouTube, Facebook, NFL.com and Gatorade.com.
|I’m not sure||30.5%||28.3%||28.1%||45.2%||35.5%||39.2%|
Despite PepsiCo renewing its league sponsorship in the fall, the company's Pepsi label saw a dip in its recognition number among avid NFL fans, though Pepsi remains the category leader. Pepsi this season presented the NFL Rookie of the Week and NFL Rookie of the Year awards for the 10th year in a row. As part of that program, 10 rookies were featured on their own Pepsi Max cans throughout the season. NFL.com each week during the season presented the Pepsi Max NFL Audible recap videos, featuring rapper Nick Javas, and heading into the Super Bowl, Pepsi promoted on-site activation in Indianapolis that included the Pepsi Super Bowl Fan Jam concert series.
|I’m not sure||16.8%||21.7%||16.7%||34.0%||32.0%||29.2%|
Anheuser-Busch and its Bud Light brand kicked off its first season back as the official beer of the NFL with a promotion around the NFL draft in April. It followed that effort with the interactive Bud Light Fan Camp; national TV commercials; in-store promotions with limited-edition cans in 28 markets featuring team logos and colors; and the Bud Light Huddle, an online community for adult NFL fans. Also, through the Ultimate Fan Experience, fans ages 21 and older had the opportunity to win a trip for four to the 2012 Pro Bowl, Super Bowl XLVI or the 2012 NFL draft; 2012 season tickets for the team of the winner's choice; or a package of all those prizes. Before A-B's new deal, Coors Light had been the league's official beer since 2002. MillerCoors has individual sponsorship deals with 21 teams.
|I’m not sure||32.0%||42.9%||33.5%||47.7%||43.2%||40.7%|
Visa saw a nine percentage point increase among avid NFL fans over the past season, one of the largest increases in the survey. The company ran a seasonlong sweepstakes that culminated in one fan, plus 10 guests, winning a trip to Super Bowl XLVI. The campaign was heavily promoted during the season, with a character named Ned the star of the TV spots and Morgan Freeman on board for the voice-over. Visa also launched the You + Ten Draft Facebook application in support of the campaign. Rival MasterCard has team-level deals with 23 NFL clubs.
|I’m not sure||41.9%||52.0%||36.7%||54.8%||55.8%||48.7%|
General Motors renewed its NFL sponsorship prior to the 2011 season with a four-year deal. Its GMC brand then expanded its sponsorship of "Monday Night Football" with the second annual GMC "Monday Night Football" Tour. The tour featured interactive events for fans along with a chance to win tickets to the Monday night game, NFLshop.com gift cards, autographed items, and opportunities to meet players. During the playoffs, GM brand Chevrolet touted the Chevy Game Time app, which gave fans the chance to win one of 20 new Chevrolet automobiles, among other prizes, while watching the Super Bowl and interacting online.
|I’m not sure||40.4%||49.5%||41.1%||49.8%||48.2%||48.7%|
For the 2011 NFL draft, Verizon added new features to NFL Mobile that offered draft alerts and gave fans a quick link to their favorite team's Web page and fan war rooms. Verizon mobile phone subscribers can also stream prime-time games to their phones, and playoff games, including the Super Bowl, were made available this year via NFL Mobile for the first time.
|I’m not sure||38.4%||49.0%||33.2%||48.7%||46.2%||42.7%|
After experiencing a slight decrease in fan recognition in last year's survey, FedEx saw its score jump nine percentage points among avid fans this year. The shipping giant introduced its "Solutions That Matter" ad campaign during the season's Thursday night opening game on NBC, a campaign it continued throughout the season. The company also sponsored the ninth annual FedEx Air and Ground NFL Players of the Year Awards and donated a total of $50,000 ($25,000 in each player's market) to local Junior Achievement offices. FedEx made weekly donations to local JA offices throughout the season, as well.
|I’m not sure||28.1%||42.9%||NA||43.7%||43.2%||NA|
Papa John's saw the largest increase in awareness among avid fans of any sponsor in this year's survey. The company in October expanded its deal with the league by signing on to be the official pizza sponsor of the NFL in Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. Papa John's also boasts 14 team-level deals. The brand gave Papa Rewards members the chance to receive a free large, one-topping pizza each week during the regular season, it promoted heavily in advance of the Super Bowl, and it teamed with EA Sports for a sweepstakes in which consumers could order any pizza online and get a $5 discount on their purchase of the EA Sports Madden 12 video game. Rival Pizza Hut is an advertiser on NFL Network, sponsor of the NFL play of the week/year on foxsports.com, and featured Miami Dolphins running back Reggie Bush in TV advertising.
|I’m not sure||64.5%||74.2%||68.7%||70.6%||68.0%||66.3%|
In September, Marriott signed a multiyear deal with the NFL for its Courtyard by Marriott brand to become the official hotel sponsor of the NFL. With its "NFL Greatness on the Road" promotion, the hotel chain gave fans a chance to win a grand prize of two tickets to each of the winner's favorite team's away games for the 2012 season. In addition, during the season, Super Bowl XVLI travel packages were auctioned off to Marriott Rewards members.
|I’m not sure||46.3%||47.5%||43.3%||43.7%||54.8%||52.8%|
In a category that has been open since Burger King's departure after the 2007 season, Subway leads other QSRs in recognition among NFL fans. Subway in 2011 continued its recent trend of signing incoming rookies, reaching a deal with New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram. Previous signees include Ndamukong Suh, Michael Crabtree and C.J. Spiller. Subway also was title sponsor of the weekly postgame show for CBS's game coverage.
* Official NFL sponsor
NA: Not available; fans were not asked about their awareness of sponsors in this category in 2010.
For this project, Turnkey Sports & Entertainment, through its Turnkey Intelligence operation, conducted national consumer research surveys among a sample of more than 400 members of the Toluna online panel who were at least 18 years old.
Respondents were screened and analyzed based on their general avidity levels. Fans categorized as “avid” were those who responded “4” or “5” to the question “How big a fan are you of the NFL?”, claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a week or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 10 games per season,” and “have a favorite team.” Fans categorized as “casual” responded “3” to the same initial question, then claimed to “look up news, scores and standings several times a month or more often,” “watch/listen/attend at least 3 games per season,” and “have a favorite team.”
When asked to identify official sponsors, respondents selected from a field of companies and brands that was provided to them for each business sector. Only the top-scoring companies and brands are listed in the results published here.
The percentage responses listed have been rounded. The margin of error for each survey is +/- 4.9 percentage points.
Turnkey Intelligence performs research work for more than 70 North American major league teams, league offices and brands. The NFL and several of its teams are among the company’s clients.