5 Things the NFL Can Teach You About Marketing

The marketing juggernaut known as the NFL takes to the gridiron for their 98th season tonight and with that in mind, here are five things we can all learn about marketing from the NFL.


  1. There is no offseason when it comes to marketing

After the Super Bowl confetti has been cleared off the stadium turf, all the victory speeches are finished, and the teams are headed for parties or soul-searching, the season is officially over and we won’t hear from the NFL again until kickoff week in September, right? Wrong! The NFL knows that Americans have a never-ending thirst for sports that needs to be quenched, and just because the season is over, there’s no reason to stop serving up events. From the combines to the draft and mini-camps all along the way, the NFL is in the business of producing great content and they keep the frequency up, throughout the year. By comparison, it’s so hard to get a prospects’ attention in today’s digital age with tens of thousands of ads bombarding each of us daily. So once you have someone’s attention, why stop? After your next big industry trade show, don’t go dark – this is the perfect time to sustain the momentum with a road show, and then a campaign, and then more content. It takes 5-7 impressions to get a prospect’s attention – don’t stop once you have that attention.


  1. Engage the heart and mind

We all have a logical side and a softer, more emotional side to our personalities – even the biggest and toughest among us. The NFL knows this about us and they feed both our soul and brain accordingly. You can drink from a firehose of stats, play the role of GM to as many fantasy teams as you want, and even bet money on every aspect of the game. All of which involves data, insights and cold hard statistics to engage your analytical side. Then there’s the heart-warming feel-good stories served up every weekend – the undrafted rookie who beats impossible odds to make the team, or the group of players visiting childrens’ hospitals in their community. Don’t forget the raw, unfiltered emotions shown on the field after a big play. The NFL wears it all on their sleeves and keeps it cold and calculated – all at the same time.


How does this apply to your business? It’s simple…. don’t stereotype your business as analytical or creative. As humans, we all have some of both in us and we thrive when given opportunities to engage both sides of our brain. Of course, some people are more creative, while others are more analytical, but we all still want both. So spice it up with your marketing! Tell a unique story about how your product brightened someone’s day, show an amazing drone fly-over or showcase stories from your best employees. At the same time, dig deep into the analytics surrounding your business and develop an infographic on the benefits of your service, create case studies that demonstrate success, or build an ROI calculator. The possibilities are endless when you engage the heart and mind.


  1. When something goes wrong, answer and move on

It’s not all touchdowns and two-point conversions for the NFL when it comes to PR. Over the last two seasons, the league has become bogged down with the Anthem debate and player rights. Before every game, the fans and media are fixated on who is standing, kneeling and why. Meanwhile, the NFL can’t seem to get out of its own way with confusing new rules about protesting in the locker room, disagreements between owners and poor communication with the players’ association. No matter what you think about this issue, the NFL has mismanaged it. Instead of confronting the problem head-on and cohesively, they are feeding the beast of this issue with mixed messages. Clients sometimes ask, “how should we handle bad news in the marketplace?” Our advice is simple and it applies to the NFL….Give a clear answer, policy, and update, then move on. But don’t underestimate key stakeholders either. If it involves your employees or other vocal parties – make sure you’re on the same page together first.


  1. No brand is invincible

Despite all the NFL’s success over its storied 98-year history, growing into a $14 billion business with the number one rated show every year (the Super Bowl), the league’s TV ratings have declined the last two years and industry experts expect ratings to decline again this season, by 10% or more. For everything the league geniuses in New York City do correctly, they have certainly made some mistakes which are costing viewers. Yes, the anthem controversy is probably part of the reason, but don’t forget confusing “catch” rules, new evidence about concussion/CTE links and “cord cutting” among younger households. The moral of this story is to never rest on your success if you’re the market share leader in your industry. And what if you’re a smaller player, new entrant or a disrupter who is trying to grab share? Keep an eye on emerging trends and opportunities, constantly seek out ways to innovate and always be engaged in brand building. Do these things, and when the “big dog” in your industry slips, you’ll be ready to pounce!


  1. Branding

The NFL is a branding machine. They license the shield onto everything from jerseys to posters, socks to earrings, every form of tail-gaiting equipment, and yes, even women’s underwear. The NFL also has a strict branding policy that requires their logo on every single piece of equipment worn by players. When you attend or watch a game, the logo is omnipresent from digital signage to the soda cup in your hands. So, why not do the same for your business? Those notepads in your conference room. The pens that your guests use while in your lobby. The t-shirts that your factory employees wear and the Nike polo that you wear. Even signage in and around your facility. What do each of these say about your business? All of these are low-cost billboards in and around your business which should have your logo and be helping to build your brand.


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