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Media Power 50: Strong ratings, multiscreen strategy enable NFL to offer robust sponsorships

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For sheer volume, the National Football League's brand is hard to beat. It accounted for 31 of the 32 most-watched shows on all of television last fall. And even though viewership for the 2012-13 NFL season, including playoffs and the Super Bowl, was down 5% from 2011-12, it still averaged 19.2 million for nationally televised cable and network games. Cablevision and Time Warner Cable signed on to carry the NFL Network and NFL RedZone last year, making both channels fully distributed on all the major television providers. NFL Network now has a reach of more than 72 million homes. Dave Pattillo, VP-media sales and sponsorships for the NFL, noted that the season now extends from training camps through the regular season, playoffs, Super Bowl and the NFL Draft in April. “Any network would love to get the audience delivery that the NFL gets on broadcast and cable television,” said Brad Adgate, senior VP-research at Horizon Media, adding that the NFL “is one of the more savvy marketing companies out there.” The NFL audience is 60% male; almost 40% of its viewers earn more than $75,000 a year. Many of those viewers are b-to-b decision-makers, which helps to attracts sponsors such as FedEx, Verizon and Visa. FedEx just capped its 10th year of sponsoring the “FedEx Air & Ground Players of the Week.” Not only are people tuning in via television, they're also simultaneously consuming NFL content on mobile devices, tablets and desktops, Pattillo said. The NFL has 4.6 million followers on Twitter, not counting team followings. Co-viewing is something the NFL will be promoting in 2013, Pattillo said. “We're serving all of those constituents with great content.” For example, Verizon is the overarching sponsor of NFL Mobile by Verizon, one of several NFL apps that offer everything from stats and team information to live streaming of games. Verizon was also a major sponsor of this year's draft coverage on NFL.com and NFL Mobile by Verizon, as well as live televised coverage from Radio City Music Hall in New York. This year the NFL will also be producing 22 episodes, up from 13, of “A Football Life,” a documentary series about players. Each episode is followed by a reaction show and Twitter and Facebook content. “What I love about the NFL property is that people are really engaged,” said Liz Ross, president-North America of Interpublic's BPN, Chicago. However, she added, “Do I want to be thinking about my server stack” while drinking beer and watching a game? “It requires a lot of thinking creatively.”
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