Anthem Controversy Could Impact Pricing of NFL Spots

All eyes will be on the NFL as a new season kicks off Thursday.

A rare decline in ratings, plus controversy over player protests during the playing of the national anthem could affect the billions in ad revenue NFL games attract annually.

This week, the anthem situation re-emerged as quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who claims he was blackballed by the NFL for kneeling during the Star Spangled Banner before games to call attention to police violence against African Americans--emerged as a key spokesman in a new ad campaign for Nike, an official jersey supplier for the league.

"NFL CPMs 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,” said Jeff Greenfield COO of research company C3 Metrics. “It's yet to be seen what happens to NFL ratings this year before we see major ad dollar shifts to college football."

Last year, according to Kantar Media, the NFL generated $4.64 billion in regular-season in-game advertising revenue, up 10% from 2017. Kantar notes that recent increases in NFL ad sending has been helped by increase inventory due to more games being broadcast nationally.

Kantar says spending on in-game NFL regular season ads rose 11% in 2016, and 10% in 2015 after a 20% increase in 2014--the year Thursday night football games were added to the schedule.

In 2013, NFL game ad revenue rose 8%. Back in 2010, the NFL generated $2.21 billion, which means revenue has more than doubled during the decade.

The top ad spenders in NFL football games during last season were AT&T and Verizon, which tied at $173 million, according to Kantar.

The rest of the top NFL game advertisers were Apple, Ford, General Motors, Berkshire Hathaway, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Samsung Group, Toyota and Southwest Airlines.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.