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Volume 21 No. 2
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Sponsors kicking off activation

NFL business partners are prepping for this week’s opening kickoff in Seattle.

Eleven league sponsors will activate at the Thursday night opener, where a concert with Pharrell Williams and Soundgarden precedes the game between defending champion Seattle and Green Bay to start the season. A Game Day Village outside CenturyLink Field will include nine partners.

Pepsi's Tostitos brand's "Party Challenge"
Photo by: NFL
Pepsi’s Tostitos brand, now activating behind the NFL after dropping its 18-year title sponsorship of college football’s Fiesta Bowl, is launching a seasonlong campaign called “Party Challenge.”

Anheuser-Busch will sponsor both a VIP beer garden at the concert and a post-concert party. The brewer is expected to continue its “Up For Whatever” reality campaign from the last Super Bowl as well.

Pepsi will push out an “All For Football” campaign via digital, at points-of-sale and with restaurant partners Buffalo Wild Wings and Papa John’s. Its “Get Hyped for Halftime” Super Bowl campaign has been moved to a November launch.

Tracie Rodburg, group managing director of sponsorship and media sales for the NFL, said she expects as many as 15 football-themed spots from league sponsors to break during the season’s first few weeks.

The most apparent change among league sponsors this season will come on the sidelines, where branded headsets (from Bose) will return after a two-year absence. In addition, Microsoft will have its Surface tablets on sidelines for the first time.

League marketers have long dreamed about the amount of support they are getting this season from McDonald’s, which is holding three season-opening promotions, including one tied to the recent launch of the latest “Madden” video game. All of that is before McDonald’s gets behind Pro Bowl balloting for the season.

Microsoft, Bridgestone in the mix for Kickoff; NFL's continuing style push
Photos by: NFL (2)
Also new to the sponsorship ranks this year is Nationwide Insurance, which will debut TV ads with Peyton Manning this week.

After advertising during the 2012 and 2014 Super Bowls, Dannon is now a league sponsor in the heretofore-unexploited yogurt category, but its activation won’t begin until the playoffs.

Mars is now leveraging against its Skittles brand, while Procter & Gamble will extend its NFL rights to its Braun electric razor brand, with an assist from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

“It’s going to be very obvious this season which are the NFL sponsors,” said Renie Anderson, NFL senior vice president of sponsorship and partnership management. “They’re the ones exercising their rights more than ever with integrations, along with player [and] team relationships.”

As for potential new sponsors, Anderson said the league is continuing to look at financial services, especially banking/wealth management; timing/timepiece; and within the travel category, especially rental cars and airlines.

In the licensing business, Seattle’s Super Bowl victory last season has propelled the Seahawks in leaguewide sales, with three Seattle players (Wilson, Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch) along with a 12th Man jersey among the NFL’s top-25 sellers. Also on that list are rookies Johnny Manziel (ranking first) and Michael Sam (No. 7).

NFL consumer products chief Leo Kane said he’s looking for solid single-digit growth this season, with the most growth expected among “home gating” and other hard goods, as well as women’s and “tween” apparel, now starting to make a mark in retailers such as Target and Kohl’s.

There’s also a sideline change worth noting in apparel. Players and coaches will have a choice of New Era’s 39Thirty flexfit cap on the sidelines, along with the traditional fitted 59Fifty.

New marketing initiatives include an NFL Fan Style truck tour that will carry a 2,000-square-foot consumer products display to 26 cities.