The National Football League, which once banned elaborate touchdown celebrations, is now making them the centerpiece of a new marketing campaign.
The effort, called "Get Ready to Celebrate" by Grey New York, shows players getting advice from celebrities for their end zone dances. One ad called "Burner Phone" features actor Andy Garcia (known for roles in "Godfather III" and "Ocean's Eleven") advising Los Angeles Rams star running back Todd Gurley. In mobster-inspired scenes he keeps switching phones before suggesting Gurley do the "Hokey Pokey." Another ad called "Catwalk" stars comedian J.B. Smoove ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") counseling Carolina Panther Christian McCaffrey to channel his inner panther.
The campaign debuts on TV Sunday night during the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game on NBC. Future ads will include more celebrities, according to Grey.
The NFL began leaning into touchdown celebrations in its marketing last season. For its Super Bowl ad, the league featured Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. doing a "Dirty Dancing" parody.
The NFL, which has been derided as the "no fun league," relaxed its touchdown celebration rules beginning last season.
The new campaign shows that the NFL will continue with a lighthearted approach for its core marketing campaign, even as more serious issues swirl around the league, such as controversies involving some players who kneel during the national anthem to protest societal racial inequities.
The whimsical marketing approach was pursued by Dawn Hudson, who was the NFL's chief marketing officer until she stepped down earlier this year.
Hudson preferred to use the league's marketing budget to focus on the action between the lines, rather than the controversies outside of the game. "We have to do everything we can to make sure that we fulfill what that broad fan base is looking for, and not inadvertently become politicized one side or another," she told Ad Age last year. That is in stark contrast to league sponsor Nike, whose Colin Kaepernick ad has kept the anthem issue in the headlines, with the brand winning support from young fans.
In late August, the NFL named Tim Ellis, chief marketing officer at Activision, as its new CMO.