Early NFL ad plans from Pepsi and Oikos show how the uncertain season is shaping up for marketers
While plenty of uncertainty surrounds the National Football League season, two of its prominent sponsors are moving full-speed ahead with their marketing plans, albeit with some twists for the pandemic era. Early moves by PepsiCo and Danone-owned Oikos Triple Zero give a glimpse of how brands are adapting their marketing for an NFL season that will be unlike any other.
The league is planning to play a full season—starting with the Sept. 10 opener—but a significant coronavirus outbreak would wreak havoc with the schedule, as it has with Major League Baseball. For brands, the NFL stakes are huge—marketers shelled out nearly $1.5 billion in sponsorships right fees last season, more than any other pro sports league, according to sponsorship consultancy IEG. Brands spent an additional $3.6 billion for ads during games and in pregame and post-game shows, according to Kantar Media.
For PepsiCo—whose spending on the NFL includes a Super Bowl halftime sponsorship—TV is what matters most, even if stadiums are empty or fractionally full. (Teams are taking different approaches so far as to whether they will even let fans in.)
“While everybody is talking about the stadium and the attendance, this is a TV sport, first and foremost,” says Todd Kaplan, VP of marketing for PepsiCo’s flagship soda brand. In a normal year, 95 percent of NFL fans watch games on TV, according to stats supplied by PepsiCo. With that percentage likely being even higher this year, the soda has built its campaign around the at-home viewing experience. The lighthearted effort, called “Made for Football Watching,” portrays watching the sport on TV as an elite skill. Goodby Silverstein & Partners created the spots.
Another ad spotlights an optometrist, whose football playing days are long gone.
The brand’s other plans include a special website, MadeForFootballWatching.com, with content geared at glorifying at-home viewing, including social media filters with designs like “offensive channel changer” and the “first down chip dipper.”
PepsiCo—which is among the biggest NFL ad spenders— kept its media investment on par with previous seasons, according to Kaplan. If the schedule is altered, “we have contingency plans and other things we are working through,” he says. Discussions are also underway regarding the Super Bowl halftime show, which would certainly take on a different look if fans are not at the game. (The league is moving forward with plans that assume people will be at the Feb. 7 game in Tampa, according to media reports.) “I don’t think anybody can predict what is going to happen...the first order of business is, let’s get to kickoff,” Kaplan says.
Oikos is spotlighting New York Giants star Saquon Barkley in its campaign. But instead of dodging tacklers, the ad shows him excelling at household chores, like opening a jar of pickles. “We all know why the big football man needs to be strong,” a voiceover says in one spot, titled “One Trip,” from creative shop Lightning Orchard. “To get from the car to the house with all the groceries in one trip.”
In prior NFL-focused campaigns, the Danone North America brand highlighted players’ prowess in training for the game and on-the-field plays—like its “#YoGlutes” spot from last season that highlighted players’ glutes.
As for this season’s shift, “we certainly factored in the uncertainly of the season and wanted to create something that worked regardless of how the season plays out,” says James Valdes, senior brand manager for Oikos Triple Zero. “We felt it was important in this unprecedented year to bring a little humor and showcase how one of the strongest players in the NFL is just like all of us.”
The two new spots are set to run on the NFL Network and other networks. Details on Oikos’ media spending weren’t immediately available. But the brand seems poised for continued NFL-related marketing. Barkley, in a statement, said he “can’t wait” to partner with the brand in a bigger way this year.
The brand, whose NFL sponsorship dates back to 2015 when the product debuted, is already on track for its biggest year-long investment in the league, including marketing during April’s NFL Draft, which was conducted virtually.