NFL's Reach Keeps Sponsors from Fleeing

By Li, Shan | Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque), September 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

NFL's Reach Keeps Sponsors from Fleeing


Li, Shan, Telegraph - Herald (Dubuque)


Corporate sponsors headed for the stadium exits after the racist rant by former Los Angeles Clippers basketball owner Donald Sterling. Five months later, domestic violence scandals have rocked the National Football League, but major advertisers have opted merely to scold the organization for not doing more to curb bad player behavior.

Although the issues and sports are different, the main distinctions are scale and need, experts say. The NFL represents a gigantic marketing opportunity that corporations would be loath to give up.

"I don't foresee any real defections or loss of sponsors," said Robert Boland, a professor of sports business at New York University. "The NFL has such a giant viewership. If you are already there, you are paying the extreme top dollar and you are a product that needs that platform."

The NFL rakes in nearly $10 billion in annual revenue. Last year, 205 million viewers watched league games on television, according to Nielsen.

And that viewership hasn't declined despite the heavy attention focused in recent weeks on several domestic abuse cases involving NFL players. Those include former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was caught on camera in February knocking his then- fiancee unconscious in an elevator, and Adrian Peterson, of the Minnesota Vikings, who has been indicted on charges of child abuse because he allegedly hit his 4-year-old son with a tree branch or switch.

"The cynic in me says the brands will wait to see what the ratings say," said Chris Cakebread, who teaches sports marketing at Boston University. "There has been no noticeable decline from week two to week three. They'll wait to see if this passes over."

So far, major sponsors have yet to break with the NFL, although Procter & Gamble did back away from a promotional effort with the league for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Instead, companies have denounced the alleged misconduct of players and admonished the NFL for how it handled the cases.

Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch said recently that it was "increasingly concerned by the recent incidents which have overshadowed this NFL season." McDonald's said it was "closely monitoring" the situation. Marriott Hotels said it would review its sponsorship of the league after the investigation was concluded. …

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