By Barry Janoff
August 8, 2012: Back to school? Back to the pool?
Fuhgeddaboutit! What the NFL wants fans to clamor about is going back to football.
With the assistance of Nike, Serena Williams, Condoleezza Rice, New York Road Runners and others, the league has moved front and center with a "Back to Football" multi-media effort supporting the countdown to Sept. 5, when the defending Super Bowl XLVI champion New York Giants host the Dallas Cowboys.
The game at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, to air nationally on NBC, will not only be the start of the 2012 NFL season, but also the culmination of a month-long campaign that will encompass teams, players, marketing partners and consumer-driven activation.
Nike, now in its first season as the official uniform supplier for the NFL, is the presenting sponsor of Back to Football. The NFL said that the Back to Football theme would be "prominent across all NFL channels, including broadcast media, digital media, social media, print media and retail, at both league- and club-levels with messaging to schools, league and club partners and the entire NFL fan base."
Among the elements, the NFL and Nike are looking for 32 fans — one for each NFL team — to participate in a photo shoot in New York on Sept. 4. (Full details here.) The activation coincides with a print campaign, "It's My Team," set to break in September for the NFL women's apparel division. Among the participants are Williams, who with sister Venus has a minority investment in the Miami Dolphins, who appears in a high-end Dolphins' T-shirt.
Among the others in the print campaign are Donald Trump's wife Melania, Summer Sanders, former secretary of state Rice and daughters of the owners of the Washington Redskins and Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFL is joining with New York Road Runners, which oversees the ING NYC Marathon and numerous racing events throughout the year, for the inaugural "NFL Back to Football Run." The event, scheduled for the evening of Aug. 30, is a four-mile run through Central Park open to both casual and avid runners. Before and after the run, participants will have the oppoprtunity to win NFL-themed prizes and meet former NFL players.
Among the media elements is a 30-second spot featuring Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Cowboys' linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The spot opens with a couple in their front yard. "Hey, Eli," the guy says to Manning, who it turns out is at the Giants training facility. "I'm taking my son to his first Giants game . . . " At which point his wife, wearing a Dallas Cowboys T-shirt, interrupts by saying, ". . . his first Cowboys game."
"She's trying to turn him into a Cowboys fan," the husband continues talking to Manning. "Can you help me out, score a touchdown to win him over." After Manning agrees, the man's wife begins to talk to Ware, who is in the Cowboys' training facility. "Okay, DeMarcus, I'm going to need a sack."
After Ware agrees to her request, she takes a moment to introduce the two players. "DeMarcus . . . Eli. Eli . . . DeMarcus." To which her husband replies, "I believe they've already met."
Then it's back to the requests. "Two touchdowns?" the husband asks Eli. "Three sacks," is his wife's response to DeMarcus. "Four touchdowns?" "Five sacks?"
The players continue to accept the challenge, although with less and less enthusiasm. Ultimately, when Manning moans at the request to score six touchdowns, the husband/dad goes for sympathy:
"It's just that he's my only son, Eli. He might become a Cowboys fan otherwise." (See the full spot here.)