- The NFL kicked off advertising around the 2018 season with a new league campaign, "Get Ready to Celebrate," that is centered around helping players put polish on their touchdown celebrations, according to a news release.
- The first spot, which debuted Sunday evening during a game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, features Andy Garcia coaching the Los Angeles Rams player Todd Gurley on his end zone dances via a series of "burner" phones — a nod to the actor's roles in crime dramas like "The Godfather Part III." The second video, which is available online now and will debut in-game later this season, shows J.B. Smoove ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") assisting the Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey in a typically motor-mouthed fashion.
- Created with agency Grey New York, the full campaign features social media, public relations and team activation elements. It continues the NFL's running creative theme around touchdown celebrations, which last season included a "Dirty Dancing" spot during the Super Bowl that starred Odell Beckham, Jr. and Eli Manning. The league claims the commercial was one of the Super Bowl's "most famous" to date.
The NFL is leaning into humor and celebrity appeal with its latest campaign, extending messaging around the showy dances players do after scoring a touchdown. "Get Ready to Celebrate" stands out from other advertisers' efforts to ignite buzz for the start of the 2018 season by sidestepping the controversies that have impacted the league, such as players kneeling during the national anthem as a means to raise awareness about police brutality.
"Celebrations have become something our fans look forward to, something new to savor after a score,” Sam Howard, director of NFL Advertising, said in a statement around the launch.
The strategy here is to put a focus on the more fun aspects of watching football, but the absence of addressing or attempting to mend the league's social strife could feel more glaring given other recent campaigns.
Nike has conversely put these topics front-and-center, and in a way that appears to have bolstered the brand's appeal with consumers. For the 30th anniversary of its "Just Do It" campaign, the athletic apparel marketer tapped Colin Kaepernick, the player who initially helped popularize the national anthem protests and who alleges the league has since colluded to blacklist him, as pitchman. While the "Dream Crazy" ad, which aired on TV during the NFL season kick-off, drew social media protests and threats of boycotts due to Kaepernick's presence, Nike saw a 31% sales spike in the days after its roll out, along with a wave of social media chatter.
Other advertisers have taken a similar approach to Nike. Pizza Hut, stepping up this year as the NFL's official pizza sponsor after Papa John's dropped out, is also honing a message around diversity and inclusion. It recently debuted a commercial called "Lines" that depicts fans of various ethnicities eating pizza and watching football together.
These efforts come as the NFL is dealing with other issues like cord-cutting, though lower TV viewership has yet to put a serious dent in the ad juggernaut. Advertisers collectively spent $4.64 billion on in-game NFL advertising during the regular season last year, a 10% hike over the prior year, according to Kantar Media data shared with Marketing Dive.
"NFL CPMs [cost per impression] will likely drop in the first quarter of Sunday & Monday night football because large advertisers want to avoid controversy on those high-profile nights at all costs as Trump will likely beat his [Twitter] drum on the knee topic...which will free up the inventory surrounding the national anthem, causing CPMs to drop in that limited window,” Jeff Greenfield, COO at C3 Metrics, said in emailed comments around his forecasts for the 2018 season. "It's yet to be seen what happens to NFL ratings this year before we see major ad dollar shifts to college football."