WELCOME TO #BRANDSCAPE 2014
Even with a paucity of opportunities for ads, by the end of the first quarter I had already acquired four new cars, a set of spare tires, and a choice of insurers. I had enough food to last me a week, plus an Xbox One, a Droid Turbo, and a Bose soundbar to take care of my entertainment needs. My consumptive instincts were already fully sated, but the advertising juggernaut was just getting warmed up.
Pepsi had a one-minute commercial starring Andy Dalton and was also featured as part of promotional bundles from Papa John’s and KFC. The Pepsi and Gatorade brands, both owned by PepsiCo Inc., could also be seen on the scoreboard and elsewhere around Paul Brown Stadium. That’s what being the NFL’s official soft drink gets you: constant brand exposure in the pronounced absence of your most direct competitor (there were zero Coca-Cola ads). Microsoft was similarly the only game console advertised, with nary a peep about Nintendo or Sony.
All of this excludes the NFL’s own promo skits for the NFL Network, NFL Mobile, and NFL Shop. The paid ads and NFL video reels are intentionally designed to overlap rapidly and seamlessly. The commentators casually transition from talking about the history of the Ohio rivalry to the excellence of Mazda cars. It becomes difficult — or, if I’m not paying close attention, impossible — to distinguish between the sporting excitement most people tune in for and the paid messaging that has been laced into the broadcast.
The purpose of this undertaking was to articulate how saturated in advertising every game broadcast has become. Analogous numbers could be drawn from the typical NBA or MLB game, but the NFL is the clear leader both in popularity and ad density. For every three-hour contest that an NFL fan spectates, 50 minutes (or around 25 percent) is spent irradiated in the ember glow of brand messaging. Buy, drive, invest, consume, insure, consume some more, buy again. I can't help but wonder if the real price we pay for this entertainment isn't greater than the fictional bill I have compiled herein.