Apple’s deal gives the NFL another deep-pocketed tech partner. It follows the league’s 11-year, $1 billion a year pact with Amazon, which began streaming “Thursday Night Football” games this season. Apple and Amazon are reportedly among the companies vying to replace DirecTV as the carrier of the NFL’s “Sunday Ticket” package, the premium service that allows subscribers to watch every game on football Sundays, rather than just those delivered on local CBS or Fox stations.
After Pepsi exited the halftime deal, it seemed inevitable that the drinks giant would be replaced by a tech-focused entertainment brand, given the changing nature of sports sponsorships and the unique opportunities the show brings. It is routinely among the most-watched part of the game; the 2022 show, starring Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar, averaged 103.4 million viewers.
While those massive viewing numbers bring huge awareness opportunities, sports sponsors are looking for more than awareness; they want content that can be leveraged across multiple platforms for long periods of time.
Pepsi over the years tried to get more value from the show by hyping it early with various initiatives. Last season, for instance, it launched a special Super Bowl halftime show app that housed content related to the show, including behind-the-scenes footage, as well as information on sweepstakes like the chance to win sideline passes to the show.
But Pepsi moved away from the pricey deal, confirming its exit last May, saying it was part of a “much larger strategic shift” in how it would present music and entertainment experiences to fans.
Brad Jakeman, a former president of PepsiCo global beverages who was involved in negotiating Pepsi’s original deal, called the Apple deal “genius.”
“Just like the Pepsi deal, it’s an authentic partnership between two brands synonymous with music,” said Jakeman, now a senior advisor at Boston Consulting Group.
But Apple Music seems better suited to integrate the show into its existing services, given that music streaming is its core business. Apple will presumably try to use the show, and the content around it, to boost its subscriber count. It ranks second in music streaming subscriber share at 15% but is way behind leader Spotify, which has a 31% share, according to figures published last year by entertainment intelligence firm Midia Research.
Jim Andrews, a sponsorship expert and founder and CEO of A-Mark Partnership Strategies, said Apple can take advantage of the deal in ways that brands in other categories, such as consumer packaged goods or insurance, could not.
“As a content distributor, they can really package this into something much bigger than just the concert during the Super Bowl. They can really build a whole mini-platform within Apple Music,” he said, including interviews with the performing artists and other behind-the-scenes content and extended cuts. “It would be easy for Apple to do that versus another brand having to build out the platform.”
In the press release announcing the deal, Apple and the NFL stated that “over the coming months, fans can expect to see exclusive details and sneak peeks leading up to the Apple Music Super Bowl Halftime Show by following @AppleMusic on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter.”
Late Thursday night, Apple Music simply tweeted, "See you in February.”