By Barry Janoff
September 9, 2013: The 2013 NFL season is underway, with the prize of league champion to be determined in Super Bowl XLVIII. But marketers are not waiting until February to unleash a bevy of new commercials on fans and TV viewers and have turned Kickoff Weekend — Sept. 5-9 — into a mini-version of the Super Bowl's advertising avalanche.
Among the NFL marketing partners with new creative are PepsiCo's Diet Pepsi, Visa, Papa John's, Budweiser, Nike, General Electric, Verizon and Procter & Gamble siblings Tide and Gillette, as well as league properties such as NFL Network and NFL Red Zone.
Others that purchased real estate during high-profile events such as Thursday Night Football and Sunday Night Football (both on NBC) and Monday Night Football (ESPN) include State Farm, Go Daddy, Toyota, Southwest and AT&T.
PepsiCo also revealed that Grammy winner Bruno Mars would be the headliner for the Pepsi Halftime Show during Super Bowl XLVIII, to be played Feb. 2 in MetLife Stadium, home field for the New York Giants and Jets.
The positioning is a virtual no-brainer. Ratings for the Thursday Night Football season opener on Sept. 5, which pitted the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens against the Denver Broncos, were up 6% over 2012 and the third-best result since Thursday Night Football premiered in 2002, according to NBC.
During the 2012 NFL season, Sunday Night Football games had 11 of the top 30 viewers among all TV shows. led by the 27.6 million who watched the Broncos versus the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 9, according to the NFL.
Monday Night Football averaged about 12.8 million viewers and was No. 1 among all cable shows for the season among adults 18-34 and men ages 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54, per ESPN.
Finances also are a major factor, with companies paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 30-second spot rather than the millions that networks charge for Super Bowl ad placement.
Among the new spots:
Tide’s “Clean Start” commercial, featuring Marcus, a San Francisco 49ers fan, and Carmen, his wife, who roots for the Baltimore Ravens, is a follow-up to the brand's "Miracle Stain" Super Bowl XLVII spot. Here, Marcus gets back at his wife for the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the Niners, which included her putting his Joe Montana San Francisco jersey into the wash, erasing a ketchup stain that formed the image of Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback.
In the new spot, Marcus still roots for the Niners as well as every team playing against the Ravens, which entails turning every jersey into Montana's No. 16. Tide is supporting with social media including Twitter and Facebook.
State Farm's "State of Turbulence" brings back Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who ends up sitting on a plane between two die-hard fans of "Da Bears." "Don't think we don't know who you are," they say to him. "You're the Discount 'Daaa-Ble' Check guy." The money they saved thanks to State Farm has enabled them to upgrade their seats to 'Grill Class," which allows them to grill meat on their seat-back mini-BBQs. (See the full spot here.)
Visa is supporting its new integrated marketing campaign, "My Football Fantasy," with a heavy dose of social media, including Twitter and Instagram, urging fans to select fantasies that could be fulfilled. A supporting TV spot, "Coach," sees San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh in a return Visa engagement. Here, he motivates pee-wee football players with the same tough-love tactics he uses on his 49ers players, much to the dismay of the kids' parents. (See the full spot here.)
Visa said that Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees would appear in upcoming spots.
Pepsi said that a season-long campaign, "Are You Fan Enough," would culminate with the Bruno Mars halftime performance. Spots will include Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (pictured at top), New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. (See the anthem spot here.)
Support is anchored by social media, a national bus tour and fan voting for the NFL Rookie of the Week at NFL.com, sponsored by Pepsi Next.
"Pepsi and the NFL have a rich history of delivering the ultimate fan experiences, and that journey begins at kickoff and carries on through the season, all the way to the Super Bowl and the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show," Angelique Krembs, vp-Pepsi marketing, said in a statement, "Through our unrivaled network of sports and music relationships, we are thrilled to unlock even more excitement and passion that fans have for the game. The 'Are You Fan Enough?' campaign seeks to illustrate how Pepsi brings fans together while delivering unforgettable experiences throughout the season."
Bud Light said it would support its new "Dilemmas" campaign with five TV spots during the season. The fan-centric effort, a follow-up to last season's "Superstitions," again shows the lengths that fans will go to support their team.
The first new spot, "All Time," debuted during the pre-season. The second, "Quinoa," broke over the weekend. In it. a man in a Philadelphia Eagles jersey at a pre-game tailgate party finds that his wife has packed him Quinoa veggie burgers to put on his grill.
"I accidentally ate this last time, and we won," he recallas. So even though it "tastes like a dirty old tree branch," he throws it on the grill because "this is for first place." (See the full spot here.)
The tag line remains, "It's only weird if it doesn't work."
“Our goal is to do everything we can to enhance the NFL fan’s experience,” Rob McCarthy, vp-Bud Light, said in a statement. “We know how fans think, and we understand that football becomes front and center in their lives from Kickoff weekend until the Super Bowl. Whether fans are watching at the stadium, at home or in a bar, and we’re proud to celebrate football fans’ passions for the game.”