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Volume 22 No. 31
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Sponsors go deep with NFL plans

Incoming partners Pizza Hut, Sleep Number top list of sponsors activating heavily around the league this season
Taking over for Papa John’s, Pizza Hut is quickly tapping into its NFL relationship.

New NFL corporate patrons Pizza Hut and Sleep Number lead a parade of league sponsors kicking off their activation this week as the season begins.

Thirty-two sponsors and licensees are activating, according to Tracie Rodburg, NFL vice president of sponsorships and partnership management.

First-year league sponsor Sleep Number, based in Minneapolis, will use new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins as the lead for its national campaign, scheduled to break in mid-September. The idea is to use NFL equity and the importance of conditioning for pro athletes to generate trials of the company’s premium “smart beds.”

Kevin Brown, Sleep Number senior vice president and chief marketing officer, likened his brand’s embrace of NFL marketing assets to Gatorade, easily the league’s longest-tenured corporate sponsor at 35 years. “Our message to consumers is that this is not a bed, it’s a center for quality sleep, health and wellness,” Brown said.

Including Cousins, Sleep Number has 10 NFL players under contract, along with ad buys on NFL-controlled media and Fox.

Pizza Hut, brought in early this year as a sponsor after the NFL jettisoned the nettlesome Papa John’s deal, has four national TV ads and four team sponsorships supporting along with Pittsburgh star Antonio Brown.

Marriott, using NFL rights to promote its Courtyard brand since 2011, has a promotion offering the right to be its paid “NFL Global Correspondent” as top prize and travel to all the league’s jewel events, culminating in a Super Bowl trip.

Anheuser-Busch InBev will add NFL-themed spots to its popular “Dilly-Dilly” campaign for Bud Light. New extensions include a stadium tour by the Bud Knight and other characters from the ad, and an in-stadium “Dilly-Dilly Cam” feature. Branded bars near NFL sidelines have been installed at seven stadiums. ABI hopes to double that before the end of the year.

Pepsi is doing additional NFL versions of its “This is Pepsi” campaign. PepsiCo-owned Lipton RTD iced tea has a text-to-win game, and Pepsi again sees activation from its Aquafina water brand (“Hut, hut, hydrate”).

Intel is increasing its 360-degree “True View” highlights package from 11 to 15 NFL venues and will support with a dedicated TV ad.

Procter & Gamble’s Gillette brand will use creative based on a father experiencing his son’s first NFL game. Other P&G brands leveraging the league are Head & Shoulders and the new Old Spice foam body wash with Von Miller in ads. Tide is using Rob Gronkowski in ads.

Mars’ Skittles and Snickers brands are offering free products via social media, tied to in-game events.

Verizon is using the NFL to push its “Verizon Up” loyalty program with a “This is How You Football” thematic. Later this season, it will leverage the NFL’s speed and athleticism to help introduce its 5G service. Thirteen team and 31 player deals support, along with increasing digital and social media.