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The NFL Kick-off and Brand Sponsorships

Sponsorships with sports teams or athletes offer amazing awareness opportunities for brands – and this doesn’t only apply to those offering athletic gear or sports drinks. How can your brand make the most of this NFL season, or any sports season, for that matter? We have ideas . . .

The NFL kickoff is today, of course, with Packers vs the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Hometown advantage for the Bears? Perhaps.

The NFL kickoff is today, of course, with Packers vs the Bears at Chicago’s Soldier Field

The season’s first matchup promises to be an exciting one, as the first game of the season it can go either way. Pundits have lots of predictions, but what does online think?

There’s lots of buzz about the Bears, but the Packers are capturing more love right now. All of that can change as the night progresses though – we’ll see!

There’s lots of buzz about the Bears, but the Packers are capturing more love right now

As we can see on the NFL’s “We Ready” video supporting the kickoff to its season, today’s football audience are as intense as the players:

we can see on the NFL’s “We Ready” video supporting the kickoff to its season

But that really isn’t a surprise to any fans of that sport. And if it is (or if you’re not a fan and starting from scratch to understand this audience), a quick exploration of conversations resonating in the category make that intensity pretty clear.

a quick exploration of conversations resonating in the category make that intensity pretty clear

There’s backlash around JayZ’s NFL partnership, the stunning retirement of 29 year old Andrew Luck, and Kaepernick’s ongoing kneeling protest and desire to return to the game. And there’s also lots of serious talk about the game and around adversity players overcome:

there’s also lots of serious talk about the game and around adversity players overcome

Such intensity! Where do brands start?

Partnership opportunities on the individual athlete level should focus on who the athlete is off the field/court, as hinted to in that last image above. Some social media sleuthing should reveal if they have interests your brand could work with, like:

  • Families with small children
  • Specific causes that mean a lot to them
  • A love for animals or wildlife
  • Maybe a soft spot for a particular underserved community
  • Wherever they grew up (if you’re local, you could have an edge)

You get the idea.

Athlete Collaboration Ideas

Let’s see what we could learn about the quarterbacks on our two kickoff teams – Aaron Rodgers for the Green Bay Packers and Mitch Trubisky for the Chicago Bears.

Looking at star Rodgers, we see sentiment is only 19%. His negative mentions are really weighing down the positive, as this scale runs from -100 to 100:

Looking at star Rodgers, we see sentiment is only 19%

And then we see Trubisky’s sentiment is a bit kinder. But fans are also a bit less enthusiastic about his performance. They refer to him as a “good quarterback” to Rodgers “impressive” and “GOAT” descriptors:

Trubisky’s sentiment is a bit kinder. But fans are also a bit less enthusiastic about his performance

Most of the in-depth conversation about each isn’t appropriate to share here (fans are intense, remember?), but we can tell you this:

  • Rodgers has personality – and fans find most things he does hilarious. He really does appear to be quite a comedian and suited for a partnership that plays to that. But it’s important to note: many detractors are sent aggressively sideways by anything funny he does. A litmus test here would be best. And also paying attention to regional norms.
  • And Trubisky, in contrast to a small group calling Rodgers “the ugliest man” we see “beautiful powerful gyarados” (a pokemon) said about him – so something playing up to each (possibly both) in an ad campaign could be an icebreaker these intense fans would appreciate. It’s just a thought and there are so many once you start exploring possibilities.
  • Neither suggestion needs to be limited to sports brands. A cookie company could do equally well here.

Don’t have the budget to contract with one of these fellas regardless? No problem. There are any number of sports teams out there, with a variety of  players who would love some additional sponsorship love. Or look to the top dogs’ deeply held loves. If you’re a non-profit for abused animals, you’ll likely find a soft-hearted friend on one of the better-loved teams.

And there are always college athletes and local athletes to keep in mind too. Having everyday micro-influential athletes on your payroll can endear folks to your offerings, if you choose the right athlete. So much potential, so little time (as football season is already upon us). Good thing you have a social listening product that can reveal this insight in a matter of seconds! Whew!

Though – before jumping in, take note: controversy of some sort often follows star athletes. So be sure to have a complete understanding of who they are before partnering.

Taking the Offense

Learn from Converse’s lesson: “After it signed Latrell Sprewell, the basketball star, he tried to choke his coach in practice. Converse dropped him.” And while this wasn’t the only factor that lead to the shoe giant’s financial struggles back then (by any stretch), it certainly didn’t help their situation.

And then there’s Colin Kaepernick to consider of course. Though Nike has parlayed its partnership with the banned football player into something magical for the brand, that wasn’t always a guarantee. Nike took a measured risk after carefully considering brand implications. And that should always be required when contracting with any influencer, athlete or no.

Creating a SWOT (evaluating a potential partner’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) should be part of your process. And social listening offers all the insight you need to flesh that plan out!

Your brand has to be ready. Like the NFL and its amazingly invested players and fans.

Are you charging in to this season with sponsorship ideas? There’s something for every brand in some sport – it’s not restricted to football. Reach out and we’ll make sure you don’t miss the next big event that offers your brand promotional potential. Or connect with us at NetBase LIVE  If you haven’t registered yet, be sure to before it’s too late!

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