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Understanding the Future of Football Advertising

TV football broadcasts have long been a fan favorite, both for consumers and advertisers alike. MediaPost reports that this year NFL broadcasters had a strong October, pulling 3% more national ad dollars than the same period a year prior. Still, the big audiences that once flocked to NFL TV broadcasts have been declining in recent months. One recent examination of NFL viewership during Week Six of the 2017 season found an 8% decline in audience compared to the same period a year ago. While this audience trend may seem like bad news for NFL broadcasters and advertisers, there may be a silver lining. In fact, despite recent challenges, today’s football advertisers are rapidly evolving their approach to address the changing habits of today’s football viewers. Here are three examples:

New ad formats
There are few categories of TV content more closely linked to the 30-second TV ad than football. After all, this now universal creative format has helped earn NFL broadcasters billions of dollars over the years. However, in the face of evolving TV audiences, advertisers and broadcasters seem to be willing to get more creative. One great example is FOX’s recent development of 6-second ad units designed to be played during slow-downs during the live NFL broadcast. Given the shorter attention spans of today’s viewers and shifting viewing habits, which increasingly include second-screen devices, this move seems like a smart bet.

New streaming partners
It’s not just the broadcasters that are getting creative about how to integrate new ad formats and partnerships into the football viewing experience. Even the NFL is experimenting with new ways to distribute its games in more viewing environments. Perhaps the best example is the league’s partnership with Twitter last year to broadcast Thursday Night games, a move that was followed by a similar partnership with Amazon this year. Even more telling is the fact that both Facebook and YouTube have also expressed interest in broadcasting future games. The NFL’s willingness to strike these digital deals is likely to create new audience targeting and integration opportunities for advertisers in the future.

New target audiences
The NFL TV audience has long been understood to be overwhelmingly male. But that’s not necessarily true. According to the league, women actually make up more than 40% of football fans, comprising a group of more than 82 million potential viewers. Some advertisers seem to be waking up to this possibility as well. P&G’s campaign for Secret Deodorant is a great example of a brand targeting female football fans.

America’s most popular sport is changing and advertisers and broadcasters are changing along with it. Traditional football-watching TV audiences may be shifting their viewing habits, but that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of exciting new opportunities for brands to reach them. Innovative ad formats, opportunities to align with streaming broadcasts and new target audiences like female football fans are key for marketers looking to connect with fans. Any one of these strategies could prove to be the perfect strategy for NFL advertisers to “score a touchdown” with today’s changing TV audience.