During the NFL Draft late last month in New York, sales executives from FedEx Corp. brought a few of their core b2b clients to get a little closer to the action.
As part of FedEx's longtime partnership with the NFL, select business customers were able to go backstage at the draft and mingle with NFL executives and some of the top picks.
The meet-and-greet at the NFL Draft “is a way to target key customers, and we can measure uplift following the event for accounting tracking and anecdotal feedback from sales executives,” said Nancy Altenburg, manager of sponsorship marketing for FedEx, whose “Air to Ground” commercials run throughout the NFL season. The spots direct viewers to a landing page on nfl.com, where they can vote on the NFL's “Air” and “Ground” players of the week.
Phone: (212) 450-2549
Audience: Average of 14.6 million viewers for each game during the regular season, including networks, ESPN and the NFL Network+
Ad revenue: N/A
Ad rate: N/A
Comment: No longer a media vehicle just for marketers of beer and other consumer products, the NFL is attracting a growing number of b2b advertisers interested in targeting a mass audience. Sponsors include IBM, Sprint and Visa USA.
“We have such a diverse number of accounts that we find the NFL a perfect partner for targeting customers because just about everybody is an NFL fan,” Altenburg said.
Other partners include Motorola, which has taken advantage of associating with the NFL through its Coach of the Year contest, and Monster.com, which recently debuted Department of Fandemonium, a national contest to identify one of football's biggest fans.
Such partnerships are what Ron Furman, senior VP-custom marketing and sales for the NFL, calls the “gold standard” for marketing via the league. “It gives [companies] a higher level of exposure in the league,” he said.
In addition to partnerships, there are traditional ad buys for NFL games that are telecast on CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and the NFL Network. Sponsors run the b2b gamut, including IBM Corp., Sprint and Visa USA.
The average number of viewers during the regular season has held steady for the last two years at 14.6 million, according to Nielsen. During the 2008 regular season, 225 million Americans watched NFL games, according to the league.
“We've maintained our ability to attract large audiences for games wherever they are telecast, and [the audiences] have C-level executives or people controlling an important account,” Furman said.
Despite increasing fragmentation in media markets, the NFL hasn't suffered much erosion in audience compared with other broadcast and cable programming. B2b buyers are “easier to reach with an NFL buy compared to other venues,” said Brad Agate, senior VP-research at Horizon Media, a media-buying company. “The [ads on the NFL] are not just beer and Nike anymore but a lot of product categories that go after b2b buyers—whether automotive, insurance or office equipment—because you're reaching C-level execs and they're paying attention.”