In an Advertising World with (Potentially) No Football

Much of America associates three things with fall: bowls of chili, crunchy leaves, and the National Football League. But right now, if you’re an NFL fan, player or team owner, you could be doing a bit of nail biting. If owners and players don’t reach an arrangement soon, there will be a big question mark hanging over the season.

But there’s another big player in all of this that’s sweating bullets right now: yes, the advertisers. Beyond just being arguably the most popular sport in America, football and the NFL are a huge source of revenue for big names like Snickers, Pepsi and Gatorade. These companies are counting on a 12-year-old fan to beg their parents for Gatorade because “Mom, it’s what Peyton Manning drinks!”

Millions have already been spent in advance on in-store promotions; a shorter season (or no season at all) could throw a serious wrench in these plans. AdvertisingAge recently did a story on just this. If there is no NFL season, but NFL in-store promotions are already in the plans, how will retailers and brands fill this gap in their calendar? Imagine February with no Super Bowl and, just as important, no Super Bowl commercials.

A cardboard cutout of Peyton Manning in front of the isle of Gatorade is only worth so much if Peyton Manning is sitting at home on his couch. But, if you’re DIRECTV, suddenly Peyton Manning has a lot of time to sit on the couch and, surprise, watch DIRECTV if there is no football season. Similarly, the Snickers campaign of “Not going anywhere for awhile?” could take on a whole new meaning for out-of-season football players.

The advertising world is known for their creativity; it’s their job. Football season or no, it will be interesting to see how brands and advertisers play their hand in future seasons. Will they shell out the money for in-store promotions in advance, or play it safe?