NFL In-Game Sponsorship Plans Stymied by Networks

Unclear Offers Frustrate Media Buyers Eager to Buy in

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The NFL is talking to media buyers about in-game "enhancements," anything that would help a marketer connect to the consumer beyond the traditional 30-second spot. But with a raft of new carriage deals with broadcast networks, coming up with a package that works for all the parties is proving difficult.
While other sports carry many 'brought to you by' moments during the game, the NFL has previously steered clear of such clutter, preferring sponsored highlights or replays for after the game.
While other sports carry many 'brought to you by' moments during the game, the NFL has previously steered clear of such clutter, preferring sponsored highlights or replays for after the game. Credit: AP

Lack of detail
While other sports carry many "brought to you by" moments during the game, the NFL has previously steered clear of such clutter, preferring sponsored highlights or replays for after the game. Media buyers have said they're interested in the new opportunities being discussed, but have been frustrated about the lack of detail about what's being offered. Time is of the essence, because the main broadcast network ad sales period, the upfront, is just two weeks away. NBC this season is once again part of the football market for the first time in six years, joining broadcast partners CBS, Fox, ESPN and DirecTV. Also in the mix is the NFL's own cable channel, the NFL Network.

"We are talking to the networks and advertisers and no possible enhancements have been determined, though nothing has been ruled," said a spokesman for the NFL Network, which conducted its first upfront presentation April 26. The spokesman said Ron Furman, the NFL Network's senior VP-ad sales, had just joined the network the same day.

Stumbling block
Sports business executives say the prospect of a new ad offering has hit a stumbling block. One sports industry buyer said CBS wants to continue airing its football as is.

Separately, a senior NBC executive said: "The discussion on enhancements is still ongoing with the league. That will be resolved shortly." CBS was not immediately available for comment.

It is not clear what the stumbling blocks are, though the revenue split is likely to be the sticking point. The NFL would not comment on how the ad deals shake down between the partners.

Diet Pepsi sponsors draft coverage
Mr. Furman, who came from MTV and was previously at Univision, will be working with Peter Murray, head of sponsorship sales. The network recently signed Diet Pepsi to sponsor its coverage of the NFL draft, which kicks off tomorrow.

The NFL Network used its upfront presentation to introduce newly signed talent to media buyers. Joining the cable network, available in around 35 million cable homes, are Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth, who will call the eight late-season, Thursday-to-Saturday prime-time games.

In November 2004, CBS and Fox agreed to extend their NFL packages for six more years at $622 million and $712 million annually, respectively. NBC and ESPN last April secured rights for six and eight years, respectively. NBC is paying $600 million per year for Sunday night games, and ESPN (which had aired the Sunday night games) is paying a whopping $1.1 billion a year to take over the "Monday Night Football" franchise from Walt Disney sibling ABC. DirecTV also extended its contract to five more years for $3.5 billion.
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