Marketing 50

National Football League

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In short order, the National Football League has separated itself from being merely one of the Big 5 sports leagues to a marketing juggernaut that transcends games.

While its popularity has zoomed past that of Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and Nascar, the NFL hasn't rested on that success thanks to aggressive work by VP-Sales and Marketing John Collins.

Mr. Collins, 41, had previously worked on the ad agency side and was able to tap into the minds of both the marketer and consumer.

"Our feeling is that we compete ... with all the entertainment options that are out there," he says. That not only means competing for viewers' attention but with the myriad marketers looking to allocate sponsorship dollars. So far, it's been a blowout for the NFL. The league has signed deals with new sponsors IBM Corp. and Levitra, from GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer. Both deals were for $18 million over three years, but Levitra also promised more than $50 million in ad buys. With the launch of its own NFL Network on cable earlier this month, the league has on board Levitra, IBM, Time Warner and FedEx Corp. But it's not just the deals. "We're selling a product," Mr. Collins says, "and we're selling it on several levels."

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