Getting Ready for Sports' Biggest Day

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Says Super Bowl Is 'Culmination of the Ultimate Reality Show'

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NEW YORK ( -- Roger Goodell is getting ready for his first Super Bowl as commissioner of the National Football League. The league is running ads during the big game this year to promote its NFL Network. But despite owning the cable network, Mr. Goodell told Advertising Age that the league isn't abandoning its broadcast TV partners: "We have a unique commitment to broadcast television with all of our games televised on free over-the-air TV. We are the only sports league that does that."
Roger Goodell
Roger Goodell Credit: Jonathan Daniel

Ad Age: By any measure, football is the most popular sport in the country. How do you sustain it and what role does marketing play?

Mr. Goodell: Our focus is on three simple points. One is ensuring the game on the field continues to be great and healthy on all levels, including college, high school and youth -- an area in which we are investing a lot of resources. Secondly, we need a league of 32 strong teams operating at the highest level. We have spent the past year working with all clubs to develop best practices that include finding ways to develop better sponsorship partnerships on the local level. Thirdly, we must continue to challenge assumptions, embrace technology and our business models.

Ad Age: Football commands the largest TV-rights fees. But do you envision a day when the scenario changes, a day when the league becomes the sole content provider?

Mr. Goodell: We have a unique commitment to broadcast television with all of our games televised on free over-the-air TV. We are the only sports league that does that. NFL Sunday Ticket and NFL Network supplement these packages.

We are building a long-term asset in NFL Network for the long-term as a great service for our fans looking for more information and coverage of football and the NFL. It also has delivered great value to our cable and satellite providers.

In the first year of our restructured television contracts our ratings and audiences were up on all four networks this season, which is an extraordinary accomplishment in television today. We're pleased about that. Our television policies are working and our audiences are growing. That said, we will continue to stay at the forefront of technology and explore ways to deliver the NFL to our fans with partners such as Sprint, Yahoo and Apple with highlight packages that they can access whenever and wherever they want. We had great fan reaction to our test of streaming games internationally over the internet this season and we will be even more aggressive promoting it next year.

Ad Age: How does the NFL view its marketing internationally? Is it difficult to market overseas where other sports have more inherent fans?

Mr. Goodell: NFL football is the most world's compelling sports and entertainment property and it is our responsibility to deliver that experience to fans outside the United States. We've been doing that for the past 20 years with international preseason games and the last 15 years with NFL Europe. We're looking forward to two new initiatives this season -- our first game in China in August and the first in a series of international regular-season games beginning in October.

We are committed to building our game in these international markets. There is interest there. And there are kids there playing football. The goal is to continue to build awareness, understanding and resonance in our game through fan and player development. The ultimate goal is to engage these fans everywhere in a relationship with the NFL over the long term.

Ad Age: We're just days away from Super Bowl Sunday. How do you view the hoopla of the commercials? Does it take away from the game?

Mr. Goodell: The most important part of the Super Bowl will always be the competition on the field. It's the culmination of the ultimate reality show -- the NFL season -- and that's why people are tuning in. But the ads, along with the pageantry of the pre-game and halftime shows, are part of the overall Super Bowl experience. It's another aspect of what has become an unofficial national holiday.

Advertisers understand the value of the Super Bowl and continue to develop memorable creative to showcase during the Super Bowl on the world's biggest stage. We're also seeing an unprecedented level of marketing activity from our sponsors which are using this incredible platform to reach their customers.

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