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The Slowing Of A Juggernaut

By now, students of marketing should know that the National Football League has suffered a significant drop in viewership over the past few seasons. And there are a number of reasons for this, ranging from too many broadcasts saturating the market, to low quality games, to fan protests against the player National Anthem protests. Add in the drop in youth participation, the dangers of CTE, and the overall consumer shift away from pay-TV packages, and one would think that the NFL is in some real trouble. 

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This could be true, but bear in mind that the over 80% of the top 100 most viewed television events always involve live sports, and the Top 10 is all NFL. The Super Bowl leads the way with about 110 million viewers, and this explains the $5 million advertisers are forking over this year for the average 30-second spot. And so despite the damage that the NFL brand has absorbed, the league is still a very desirable place to put your marketing dollars. And the teams make lots of money too.

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But if the past few years are any indication, NFL marketers have plenty to worry about. Younger consumers aren't as interested in many of the things that their forbearers have enjoyed, and so there is no reason to think that interest in football will endure just because it has endured for generations. All products peak. But hopefully, the league will lose a bit of its swagger and begin to make efforts to improve the product. Customer satisfaction is not exactly at a high point, and there is even another upstart league (the re-purposed XFL, which failed after only one season almost two decades ago) poised to challenge the NFL's monopoly on traditional American professional football. The XFL will almost certainly flop as have all of the other leagues that did not adequately differentiate their product from that of the NFL, but the simple fact of its proposed existence should be a wake up call for NFL marketers. It's been a good run. But in the future, Commissioner Goodell and his marketing team will have to try harder.


Discussion: Have you reduced your consumption of NFL football for any reason in the past few years? Should marketers be concerned about an over 20% drop over the past two seasons? What can the NFL do to attract more customers?