NFL is the Wealthiest Professional Sports League in the world.
National Football League – NFL – is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues and is the highest professional level of American football in the world. It consists of 32 teams divided equally between the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). Each of these conferences is further divided into 4 divisions as depicted below.
Photo Credit : Wikipedia
(For the curious mind : list of 32 teams which played the last season is here.)
Each season comprises of a pre-season, regular season and post-season.
…typically will carry exhibition games where each club manages to play around 4 games. Generally the rationale behind conducting pre-season is for the coaching staff to evaluate the teams and for the players to showcase their performances – to the current team as well as to a potential new employer.
…commences in the 1st week of September and concludes by the last week of December/1st week of January. Each team from a conference plays 13 other teams and not 15 – which of the 13 teams is decided by a pre-determined formula set in stone since 2002. Some say this helps in cutting off the “one-sided affair” games whereas there is another school of thought which opines that this allows for more “star-studded” games which the American companies crave for in order to out-muscle their competitors when it comes to Marketing playing field. (Later on, I will give you a glimpse on the enormous amount of advertising spending done when it comes to NFL).
Postseason aka NFL Playoffs
…is a 14 team knock-out competition. Now, here is where NFL thought of making it more appealing to its fans. Instead of making it a 8 team knock-out tourney – 4 division winners from each conference – they decided to push that number to 14 with 7 teams filling up the slots from each conference.
Wild Card teams are the 3 remaining teams with the best overall record.
Now, from each Conference, top team (Seeded 1) decided by the overall record (% of games won) gets a bye (free pass to the next round) which brings the number down from 14 to 12. These 12 teams (seeded 2-7 in their respective conferences) will battle it out as follows:
SUPER BOWL – A GLOBAL SPECTACLE
A quick read of the key highlights of Super Bowl:
- Since 2004, it is always played on the 1st Sunday of February.
- NFC leads AFC 28-27 in Super Bowl wins (talk about intense competition!).
- New England Patriots (based in the Great Boston Area, Massachusetts) and Pittsburgh Steelers (based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) with 6 Super Bowl wins each are tied at the top. Both belong to AFC as well!
- Only phenomena to win more than 6 Super Bowls is known as Tom Brady who clinched his 7th just about 72 hours back. He has now won more Championships than the great Michael Jordan (6 NBA titles) – small comparison of two great sportsmen in the history of US Sports.
- Brady is still 4 behind the highest championships ever won (Bill Russell won 11 NBA titles between 1957-69). He already has the world in awe at the age of 43 and contemplating to go beyond 45.
- The Super Bowl is the second-largest day for U.S. food consumption, after Thanksgiving Day. A staggering 1.4bn chicken wings are consumed on a Super Bowl weekend.
- THE SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS Are exorbitantly expensive mainly due to the audience the event draws – 94.4 mn viewers watched the Sunday game. (To put into perspective, Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony was watched by 40m viewers). A 30 second ad costs around $5.6mn. Super Bowl commercials have become a cultural phenomenon of their own. Many viewers only watch the game to see these commercials. Here is a look at Reddit’s 5 second ad for Super Bowl which I feel is amazingly impactful for the time it consumed.
- How can we mention Reddit and not talk about RobinHood? They did a 30 second ad too. This commercial, as we speak, is receiving a lot of flak as the American financial services company few weeks ago had publicly announced shortage of cash to execute trades related to a particular stock. Have a look!
- Another ad which hit the right tones with the audience involved Shaggy – Mila Kunis – Ashton Kutcher emanating the vibe of enjoying life at home.
- Having said that, big names including Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Pepsi have all opted to skip as they rethink how best to promote themselves amid the pandemic.
Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch, for example, said it would forego the beer’s in-game TV advertising in favour of using the money to support Covid-19 vaccine awareness. This year will be the first Super Bowl broadcast without a Budweiser commercial since 1983. (Watch Budweiser’s one of the most well-received Super Bowl commercials of all time).
THE SUPER BOWL VIEWERSHIP
- The seven most-watched broadcasts in American television history are Super Bowls. In 2015, Super Bowl XLIX (league decided to use roman numerals over numbers to avoid confusion as a season starts in September and culminates next year in February) became the most-watched American television program in history with an audience of 114.4 million viewers, the fifth time in six years that the game had set a record. The Super Bowl is also among the most-watched sporting events in the world, and is second only to the UEFA Champions League final as the most watched annual sporting event worldwide (UEFA Champions League clocked a figure of $380mn for the 2018 Final).
- UEFA Champions League has however borrowed couple of wise tactics from its American cousin – shifting the final to a weekend from a weekday & incorporating the showbiz element by on-field performance by Dua Lipa before the kick off of 2018 Final.
- The Super Bowl broadcast involves not only a wide audience but a diverse one as well, demographically speaking. Women have accounted for at least 40% of Super Bowl viewers.
THE SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOWS
- Another outcome of visionary marketing was the emergence of Half Time Shows at Super Bowls.
- Starting from the 1st Super Bowl in 1967 where University marching bands were the ones predominantly performing, 1991 witnessed the switch to pop music acts with New Kids on the Block initiating this trend.
- Michael Jackson in 1993, with arguably the most captivating live performances till date, convinced NFL’s think tank that integrating Half Time shows has been one of the most influential decisions in the history of Sport Broadcasting.
Focus On Sport | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
- Other celebrities who have kept the Super Bowl Half Time Show flame burning bright – U2, Bruce Springsteen, Beyonce, Prince, Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Maroon 5, Paul McCartney, Janet Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Shakira, Jennifer Lopez and The Weeknd (latest entrant).
At the end of the performance, lead singer Bono opened his jacket to reveal an American flag. 2002 Super Bowl was the 1st one after the 9/11 attack. KMazur | WireImage | Getty Images
- The NFL does not pay the halftime show performers an appearance fee, though it covers all expenses for the performers and their entourage of band members management, technical crew, security personnel, family, and friends.
- The halftime performers regularly experience significant spikes in weekly album sales and paid digital downloads due to this unrivalled exposure.
- NFL, according to a Wall Street Journal report in 2014, had implored artists under consideration for the high-profile gig “to pay to play”. Half time viewership, for eg in 2014, had 115m viewers – almost double the size of Academy Awards’ audience, thrice the size of Grammy Awards and 11x the size of MTV’s Video Music Awards. Though the league got a chilly reception from the artists, were they really unfair in their behest? Getting access to an audience of that size is GOLD in today’s day and age!
So does SUPER BOWL have it in them to become KING OF GLOBAL SPORTS??
The intentions shown in the last decade or so prove the league is thinking on those lines. To surpass 380mn viewers figure for Champions League Final will take a lot of doing.
The league is the wealthiest across the world by a distance. They clocked a whopping $15.26bn of revenues in 2019. Though it won’t be an exception if we see a slump in the 2020 numbers due to the pandemic.
NFL International Series is a series of NFL regular season games that have been played outside the United States – primarily in London (since 2007) and Mexico (since 2016). Looking at the success of the NFL International Series in London, the league is pondering over starting a franchise in London in the near future.
I anticipate NFL will be agile and nimble-footed like the NBA (National Basketball Association) who had begun international expansion work more than 2 decades ago. NBA has been creative with its scouting programs and strategies which firstly helped them unearth gems from France, Argentina, China, Germany etc and turn them into global stars. Secondly and more importantly, the same grew NBA’s fan base exponentially in these nations through these players.
National Football League doesn’t need to worry about their revenues for years to come as they have been pioneers in myriad ways to market a sport and create a gigantic spectacle out of it. Truly inspirational and stimulating for all other leagues across the world! Hope the sport spreads and touches more fans along the way.
Tom Brady, the G.O.A.T, with his 7th!
*Before you go – We will start incorporating TRIVIA Q&A from the next blog onwards.*