- The NFL's opening weekend of Sept. 6-10 brought in more than $280 million in advertising spend, according to an analysis by MediaRadar provided to Marketing Dive.
- The number of companies advertising increased by 22% compared to 2017. The top three advertisers by spend were Toyota, General Motors and Verizon Wireless. All but three of the top 50 advertisers from last year returned for the 2018 opening weekend.
- Fedex, Kohl's and Visa were new to the opening weekend lineup this year. YouTube, Netflix, Southwest Airlines, Spectrum and Wells Fargo were among the advertisers that had not run TV ads in more than five months, since the end of the NFL season in February.
After weathering a hit to ratings and revenue last year, the NFL has so far shown stronger performance for the 2018 season, with the MediaRadar report helping to reinforce the value marketers continue to place behind destination live TV sports viewing. The analysis also underpins how, despite ongoing political controversies surrounding the league, the NFL remains a resilient brand with strong consumer appeal. NFL TV ad revenue dropped 1.2% year-over-year to $2.4 billion for the 2017 regular season, according to Standard Media Index data cited in Business Insider, but could return to form due to a few different factors this year.
For one thing, analysts speculate that there could be renewed interest in live TV viewing during sports broadcasts following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to strike down the federal ban on legalized sports betting. A potential surge in audience interest from sports betters could, in turn, translate to bigger ad buys. Daily fantasy sports companies such as Draft Kings and FanDuel, which had previously scaled back their operations after facing legal scrutiny that they violated gambling laws, are also ramping up their advertising efforts again.
Additionally, the NFL last year loosened long-standing restrictions on liquor advertising. Spirits brands that jumped at the opportunity for the 2017 football season, such as Crown Royal, have returned to advertising with the league this year, with the Canadian whisky maker spending even more on its current campaign.
This season, the NFL has expanded access on digital platforms as well, allowing all primetime and Sunday afternoon local games to be viewed for free on mobile devices using the NFL app or Verizon media properties, including Yahoo Sports, through any wireless carrier. As of week four of the current season, viewership of NFL games on digital platforms had increased 65% from 2017, the league reported last week, with the average minute audience at 326,000 viewers per game window across different platforms.