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Volume 20 No. 42

Research and Ratings

NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, Archie Manning and Papa John’s founder and CEO John Schnatter host a pizza-making demo at Super Bowl 50.
Photo by: AP IMAGES

For the third year in a row, NFL fans knew who the league’s official partners were across the board.

At least that’s how it played out in every category measured in the NFL’s Sponsor Loyalty study, fielded annually since 2007 for SportsBusiness Journal/Daily by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment. It’s the league’s longest such streak in the 11-year history of our annual study. Only MLS, whose fans are a perfect 40-for-40 over the past four years, has had a longer streak.

The last time that more fans incorrectly thought that a non-sponsor was an official partner of the league was in 2014 when 21 percent of fans incorrectly thought that Ford was the league’s official car. That was 2 percentage points better than Chevrolet, which had been an NFL partner since 2001.

Since then, not only have the league’s partners come out on top in the minds of fans, but every one of those brands earned a higher recognition level this year than they did in 2014, further widening the gap between themselves and their competitors.

In fact, in the 11 NFL studies we’ve fielded, the league sponsor has topped its competitors 90 percent of the time (see chart below).

Among the 400 fans in this year’s study, Papa John’s (a partner since 2010), Visa (1995), Pepsi (2002), McDonald’s (2013) and Marriott (2011) each saw the brand’s highest overall recognition level in the history of the league’s survey. In hitting that high, Papa John’s was the league’s most-recognized partner for the second straight year.

Digging into specific fan bases, the data reveals that two-thirds of the survey’s avid fans knew who the NFL’s pizza maker is. Among that fan segment, that’s the highest level of awareness netted by any brand measured in the 16 surveys we’ve conducted during the past two years — two each for the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL, MLS, NASCAR, PGA Tour and NCAA.

In another comparison, the NFL currently boasts two of the most-recognized partnerships in sports, Papa John’s and Gatorade (see chart below).

Pepsi’s sponsorship of the Super Bowl Halftime Show, this year featuring Lady Gaga, has helped it top our study’s soft-drink category for the last several years.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES


Methodology

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.

The 2017 survey was conducted Jan. 23-31, a period that followed the AFC and NFC championship games. The 2016 and 2015 surveys were conducted Jan. 26-Feb. 2 and Jan. 14-20 of those years, respectively.

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 works with more than 220 professional properties, leagues, brands and events around the world, including the NFL and all of its 32 clubs.

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: 44 percent of NFL fans said they would be more likely to consider using a hotel that is the league's official hotel sponsor if they knew which brand had that designation. The rate increased to 67 percent when considering only those fans who correctly knew that Marriott is the NFL's official hotel.

CATEGORY (NFL SPONSOR) AMONG ALL NFL FANS AMONG NFL FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR DIFFERENCE
Hotel (Marriott) 44% 67% +23 pct. points
Quick-service restaurant (McDonald's) 46% 67% +21 pct. points
Car (Hyundai) 43% 57% +14 pct. points
Truck (Ford) 44% 57% +13 pct. points
Wireless service provider (Verizon) 41% 49% +8 pct. points
Soft drink (Pepsi) 47% 54% +7 pct. points
Credit card (Visa) 42% 47% +5 pct. points
Sports/energy drink (Gatorade) 47% 46% -1 pct. points
Pizza (Papa John's) 50% 46% -4 pct. points
Beer (Bud Light) 46% 38% -8 pct. points

What Brands Do Fans Think Should Be NFL Sponsors?

To read: 47 percent of NFL fans said they think Gatorade should be an NFL sponsor, compared to 11 percent who think Powerade should have a league deal. Those numbers became 66 percent and 13 percent, respectively, when considering only those NFL fans who correctly knew that Gatorade is the league's official sports drink.

AMONG ALL NFL FANS AMONG NFL FANS WHO CORRECTLY IDENTIFIED THE SPONSOR
NFL SPONSOR/COMPETITOR RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE RESPONSE RATES DIFFERENCE
Gatorade/Powerade 47%/11% +36 pct. points 66%/13% +53 pct. points
McDonald's/Subway 47%/30% +17 pct. points 63%/22% +41 pct. points
Verizon/AT&T 42%/36% +6 pct. points 63%/26% +37 pct. points
Visa/MasterCard 50%/31% +19 pct. points 63%/27% +36 pct. points
Ford Trucks/Ram Trucks 28%/16% +12 pct. points 44%/8% +36 pct. points
Bud Light/Coors Light 34%/15% +19 pct. points 48%/21% +27 pct. points
Papa John's/Domino's 35%/21% +14 pct. points 47%/20% +27 pct. points
Pepsi/Coca-Cola 41%/54% -13 pct. points 61%/49% +12 pct. points
Marriott/Hilton 24%/26% -2 pct. points 43%/31% +12 pct. points
Hyundai/Toyota 18%/31% -13 pct. points 39%/31% +8 pct. points

Notes: 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.

 

Impact on Sampling and Support

Are you more or less likely to consider trying a product/service if that product/service is an official sponsor of the NFL?

  Avid Casual
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
More likely 50% 59% 47% 48% 56% 27%
Unaffected/less likely 51% 41% 53% 52% 44% 74%

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?

  Avid Casual
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
More likely 50% 59% 49% 52% 55% 29%
Unaffected/less likely 51% 41% 51% 48% 45% 74%

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?

  Avid Casual
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
More likely 43% 57% 45% 51% 51% 28%
Unaffected/less likely 58% 43% 55% 49% 49% 72%

 

Which of the following is an official sponsor of the NFL?

  Avid Casual
PIZZA
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Papa John's* 66.0% 64.7% 53.5% 46.2% 40.2% 41.5%
Pizza Hut 7.5% 11.9% 12.5% 12.1% 11.1% 9.0%
Domino's 8.0% 7.0% 7.5% 6.0% 13.6% 12.0%
I'm not sure 16.0% 8.5% 18.0% 18.6% 16.6% 32.5%
  Avid Casual
SPORTS/ENERGY DRINK
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Gatorade* 63.5% 58.7% 51.0% 45.7% 43.7% 47.5%
Red Bull 8.5% 5.0% 6.5% 13.1% 10.1% 6.5%
Powerade 2.0% 5.5% 3.5% 5.5% 11.1% 5.0%
I'm not sure 23.5% 23.9% 31.0% 21.6% 22.1% 36.0%
  Avid Casual
BEER
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Budweiser/Bud Light* 47.5% 46.8% 40.0% 44.2% 36.2% 43.5%
Coors Light 5.0% 11.4% 11.5% 13.1% 18.1% 8.0%
Miller Lite 9.5% 14.4% 10.5% 5.0% 7.5% 8.0%
I'm not sure 23.5% 17.9% 27.0% 23.1% 16.6% 30.0%
  Avid Casual
CREDIT CARD
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Visa* 47.0% 45.3% 38.0% 33.2% 22.6% 33.0%
MasterCard 12.5% 11.4% 12.5% 17.1% 13.6% 8.5%
American Express 9.5% 10.0% 6.5% 15.6% 17.6% 5.5%
Discover 4.0% 3.0% 6.5% 6.5% 7.0% 4.5%
I'm not sure 27.0% 28.4% 34.0% 27.6% 29.6% 47.0%
  Avid Casual
SOFT DRINK
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Pepsi* 44.0% 41.8% 38.5% 34.2% 35.7% 28.5%
Coca-Cola 25.5% 25.4% 24.0% 21.6% 19.6% 23.5%
I'm not sure 25.0% 20.9% 27.5% 22.6% 22.1% 36.0%
  Avid Casual
WIRELESS
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Verizon* 32.5% 29.9% 29.5% 26.1% 24.1% 25.5%
AT&T 24.0% 20.4% 21.5% 17.1% 18.1% 14.5%
Sprint 4.0% 5.0% 4.0% 5.5% 8.5% 6.0%
I'm not sure 33.0% 31.8% 39.0% 31.7% 27.6% 46.5%
  Avid Casual
QUICK-SERVICE RESTAURANT
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
McDonald's* 28.0% 26.9% 24.0% 22.6% 14.6% 26.0%
Subway 16.0% 19.9% 18.5% 10.1% 13.6% 10.5%
KFC 7.5% 5.5% 5.5% 7.5% 4.5% 3.0%
Taco Bell 4.0% 4.5% 2.5% 8.0% 8.5% 2.5%
I'm not sure 36.5% 30.3% 41.0% 33.2% 35.2% 51.5%
  Avid Casual
CAR
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Hyundai* 27.0% 18.4% NA 18.1% 13.6% NA
Chevrolet 12.5% 18.4% 16.5% 13.6% 10.1% 20.0%
Ford 12.5% 18.9% 17.0% 13.1% 12.6% 13.0%
Toyota 10.0% 7.5% 12.0% 12.1% 9.5% 9.0%
I'm not sure 33.0% 27.4% 40.5% 29.6% 32.7% 47.5%
  Avid Casual
HOTEL
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Marriott* 21.0% 21.4% 17.5% 21.6% 15.6% 15.5%
Hilton 9.0% 10.0% 7.5% 8.0% 4.5% 5.5%
Holiday Inn 6.0% 7.5% 7.0% 8.0% 5.0% 4.5%
I'm not sure 55.0% 49.8% 59.0% 42.7% 44.7% 65.5%
  Avid Casual
TRUCK
  2017 2016 2015 2017 2016 2015
Ford* 26.0% NA NA 16.6% NA NA
GMC 7.0% NA NA 11.1% NA NA
RAM 12.5% NA NA 17.6% NA NA
Toyota 6.5% NA NA 9.5% NA NA
Chevrolet 12.5% NA NA 11.1% NA NA
Nissan 2.0% NA NA 3.5% NA NA
I'm not sure 33.5% NA NA 30.7% NA NA

* Official sponsor
NA: Not available; this category was not asked about in the annual survey that year.