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Volume 21 No. 6
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Sponsors get their game on with activation plans

NFL league sponsors are out of training camp and into the regular season this week.

A robust marketing campaign will see 24 league sponsors activating their NFL rights across 37 brands, with more than 40 television and 55 digital spots, using 55 current or legendary players, according to Tracie Rodburg, NFL vice president of sponsorship and partnership management. Social media star Odell Beckham Jr. (8.8 million Instagram followers) will get more face time than most players, with at least four national TV ads.

Some activation highlights:

In its first full year as a new league sponsor, Intel is looking to push its “FreeD” 360-degree replay technology, expanding the installation of the system from three to 11 NFL venues, including Gillette Stadium, where the season begins. Sixty-four pieces of content generated from those systems will be aggregated and distributed digitally and on team-controlled media.

Microsoft’s Surface tablets get additional branding this year during replay reviews. A new TV campaign, “Limitless,” also employs five NFL players: Greg Olsen, Martellus Bennett, Richard Sherman, Von Miller and Russell Wilson.

Nationwide Insurance is producing a national TV ad to support its sponsorship of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

First Look podcast — arrival of the NFL and plenty to discuss:

Anheuser-Busch InBev will use the NFL to market its Bud Light Lime-A-Rita brand for the first time. Other than football-themed point-of-sale (“Flavor That Never Fumbles,” etc.) activation plans are incomplete, but it will be interesting to see if the NFL can be used successfully to market a female-skewing beverage brand. Bud Light’s NFL team-branded cans and aluminum bottles are back again, along with a sweepstakes offering Super Bowl tickets for life. At Foxborough and other NFL venues, Bud Light cups will be given away that, when synced to an app, light up when the home team scores a touchdown.

Among sponsors with campaigns: P&G’s Oil of Olay, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Frito-Lay’s Tostitos, Oikos yogurt.
A beverage first sees Pepsi’s Aquafina water brand with an NFL-themed campaign (“Hut-hut-Hydrate”) in store and using NFL team and player assets, with a sweeps overlay. Frito-Lay’s Tostitos lucky bag promotion offers fans team-branded packaging and exclusive content via a product code. Pepsi will have four NFL-themed TV ads featuring Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.

Looking to push its “dip, swipe and tap” technology message, Visa has a sweepstakes overlay for card users and a TV ad with Beckham and Eli Manning.

Looking to push its unlimited data offerings, Verizon is another brand using Beckham in national TV advertising; it will use him in two spots.

Mars is activating behind both its Snickers and Skittles brands with a seasonlong “Candy Bowl” promo; retail displays, a sine qua non in the candy business, supports. Snickers also will have two national TV spots centered on NFL fantasy.

Dannon’s Danimals kids yogurt is repeating its SuperKid contest, in which the winner gets to deliver the football to the field at the start of the Super Bowl. The Oikos yogurt brand will again employ Cam Newton in its “Be Unstoppably You” campaign, along with a sweeps.

Papa John’s pizza supports its sponsorship with three national spots comparing the makers of the game to the makers of its pizza.

Ford is reprising its “OL of the Week” promotion. Two football-themed TV spots will tout its F-150 truck.

In the third of a four-year NFL hookup, Hyundai is pushing its Sonata mid-sized sedan as presenting sponsor of the Foxborough kickoff and will continue its fan-loyalty TV campaign.

Procter & Gamble has eight retailer-specific programs, including with Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Publix and Rite Aid, featuring NFL-themed displays and sweepstakes for its Olay, Head & Shoulders, Febreze, Bounce and other brands.

Beckham stars in a new iteration of Head & Shoulders’ “Shoulders of Greatness” campaign; Von Miller returns in new ads for Old Spice; and Tide is using Rob Gronkowski in TV ads and point-of-sale standees in a “Spike the Stink” campaign.

A league sponsor since 1998, Campbell’s Soup will use its NFL IP to push its new Chunky Maxx bowls. TV ads with Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Prescott and Brown support. In a first, the soup maker is selling team-logoed soup cans in the Charlotte, Chicago, Green Bay and Philadelphia markets.

Courtyard by Marriott is reprising its “Super Bowl Sleepover,” a sweeps in which winners get to sleep the night before the big game in a suite at the host stadium. NFL Network talent Rich Eisen has done no less than seven TV ads in support.

In its 11th year as an NFL sponsor, Bridgestone will run a national TV spot with ESPN’s Jon Gruden and social media videos with 13 NFL rookies.