Hometown NFL Team Drives Local Market Revenues
Thursday, September 10th represents the official start of the NFL and – as far as I’m concerned – it can’t come soon enough!
Professional football (like the collegiate game) is a fall sport, but the NFL has become a year-round sporting “spectacle” that encompasses owners’ meetings; college scouting; free agency; the draft; rookie mini-camps; organized training activities (OTAs); summer training camps; exhibition games… you get the idea.
But in just a couple of weeks we finally get the real McCoy: games that count! And when they count, you can count on ESPN (Monday evenings) and the NFL Network (Thursday evenings) to televise some of the most exciting games of the week – 33 in all stretching from mid-September to the end of December. And based on the growth that we’ve seen over the past two seasons, advertisers are sure to be rewarded with large, captivated audiences; indeed, last season, ESPN and the NFL network (combined) delivered their highest levels, averaging nearly 13 U.S. household GRPs:
A typical pattern we see year in and year out is the lift in local market ratings when that market’s hometown team is on national cable television.
For example, ESPN delivered a robust 8.4 U.S. Household rating for the December 1st, 2014 game between the visiting Miami Dolphins versus the New York Jets. That was the #1 rated program in its timeslot. In the Miami DMA, however, the rating was over twice that level – 17.1.
In the chart below, we took a look at all 17 games on ESPN last season, and out of 34 local DMA ratings (i.e., 17 games * 2 teams), all but 4 DMAs surpassed the national rating level:
Adjacent (& Nearby) DMA Ratings Soar
While NFL team markets typically draw higher game ratings than at the national level, we often find adjacent (or near-by) DMA ratings far surpassing those of NFL markets! Below is a heat map of DMA ratings for the Pittsburgh Steelers / Tennessee Titans game (which aired on November 17th, 2014.) Four adjacent DMAs to Pittsburg (i.e., Wheeling, Johnstown, Youngstown and Erie) far surpassed the 11.2 household DMA in the Steelers’ home market of Pittsburg:
In the chart below, we listed several ESPN games from 2014 in which the adjacent (or nearby) DMA ratings far surpassed that of the NFL team market. A dramatic example: the December 8th game between the visiting Atlanta Falcons and the home team Green Bay Packers. The Green Bay DMA rating was almost 30% higher than the national rating. But that pales in comparison with the performance of the surrounding DMA markets of Wausau, La Crosse and Madison, all of which surpassed the 30 household rating mark – that’s two-and-one-half times the Green Bay market rating:
Source: Viamedia analysis of Rentrak TV Essentials Data (National Telecast Detail / Local Market) for multiple NFL games that aired on ESPN during the 2014 regular season. Ratings are Live-only. (Excludes all DVR activity.)
Local Cable Advertising Demand
Local cable advertising support for NFL games has been nothing short of spectacular!
During the 2014 season, over 1,400 Viamedia clients ordered nearly 47,000 30-second spots across essentially our entire national footprint (i.e., 71 out of 72 markets.) That comes to an average of 32 spots per advertiser. And if we confine our analysis to only those 51 Viamedia markets that exhibited local cable advertising over the past two football seasons (2013 & 2014), we find strong overall growth (+17%) driven primarily by an increase in 30-second spots.
(Source: Viamedia internal analysis of B.I.G.SM database (Sports & High Profile Tracker module). Copyright © 2015 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
One investment pattern that is quite distinct is the rise in local market advertising share when that market’s football team is scheduled to air on a national cable telecast. For example, the Viamedia market of Detroit had an 8.7% overall share of local advertising during the 2014 NFL Season. But when the hometown team – the Detroit Lions – appeared on ESPN (and/or the NFL Network) the Detroit share of advertising soared to 22.1 % (a two-and-half-times increase):
Local Cable Advertising Categories
When it comes to major sports in America, it’s not a question of which product category is #1, but rather just how dominant that category will be. And when it comes to professional football, the Automotive Category is “very dominant!” Nearly 800 local automotive dealers and manufacturers (out of 2000+ local cable clients) invested in the NFL over the past two seasons. And out of our largest, Top 20 individual clients, 16 of them are from the automotive industry. Overall, automotive advertisers invested in nearly 60 cents out of every dollar in NFL football, far surpassing the 21% figure comprised of the next five largest categories (Retail / Department Stores, Financial Services, Restaurants, Hardware / Home Improvement and Medical / Health Care:
It’s a Marathon
The Football Hall of Fame Head Coach, Bill Parcells, often remarked that the NFL Season was “more a marathon than a sprint,” which is counterintuitive given that a team only plays 16 regular season games. In contrast, Major League Baseball teams play ten-times that number!
But maybe what Coach Parcells was referring to is that the pro game is played at such a competitively ferocious level that only teams mentally prepared to compete on every play — in every game — have any real chance of making the playoffs (and a shot at the Super Bowl.) And perhaps it’s the sheer intensity of the game that has made the NFL the de facto “National Pastime,” attracting the largest (and most passionate) American fan base, as well as advertisers seeking to reach them.
For more information on Viamedia, visit www.viamediatv.com.
– Written by Jonathan Sims, VP Media Research, Viamedia