Blog

NFL Report 2022

DOWNLOAD REPORT

NFL Sports Betting Revenue Skyrocketed 40% in 2022

Russell Wilson and Austin Ekeler were Social Media’s Most Endorsed NFL Athletes

The NFL 2022 Marketing Partnerships Report offers a comprehensive view of the sponsorship and endorsement landscape within the NFL this year. Compiled using SponsorUnited’s proprietary platform data from June 2022 through January 2023, the report analyzed NFL sponsorships across the league, teams, and individual athletes.

“Rather than relying on a handful of household brands to grow revenues, NFL teams are driving exponential growth by diversifying their brand partners,” said Bob Lynch, Founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. “Ticketing, Insurance, and Healthcare were the leading brand categories in terms of revenue growth this season. The NFL’s sponsor portfolio isn’t slowing down anytime soon, as emergent categories like Sports Betting and Wine & Spirits are expected to increase their spend in the years ahead.” 

Key findings from the report include:

Sports betting’s explosive growth unlocks new revenue opportunities 

Sports Betting has become a key revenue stream for the NFL, increasing 40% across teams. Sports Betting deals have quadrupled in the last four years (2019-2022), while gambling companies accelerated their ad spend last year. More than 25 NFL teams now have at least one Sports Betting or Daily Fantasy Sport sponsor. Last year, the Buffalo Bills announced a multi-year partnership with FanDuel as their official mobile sports betting partner. Other notable brand sponsors include BetMGM, Bally’s, Betfred, and Bet365.

Russell Wilson leads Austin Ekeler as social media’s most endorsed athlete

Russell Wilson of the Denver Broncos leads social media branded endorsements with 22 deals, closely trailed by the LA Chargers’ Austin Ekeler with 21 social deals. While Wilson’s social following dwarfs that of the Chargers running back (14M vs. 320K, respectively), Ekeler’s deal volume reflects his considerable appeal to brand partners, given his on-field performance and ability to reach new audiences as an influencer in the esports space. Wilson and Ekeler are the only NFL players with over 20 social brand deals. The next most-endorsed players include the Kansas City Chiefs’ JuJu Smith-Schuster (15 endorsements) and Travis Kelce (14 endorsements), and Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks (13 endorsements). 

NFL team sponsorship revenue reaches new heights this season

Sponsorship revenue totaled $2.05B across the 32 NFL teams in the 2022-2023 season–a new league record, and a 14% increase year-over-year. When combined with the league as a whole, total sponsorship revenue was $2.7B. Key growth drivers include the Apple Music Halftime Show and new sponsors like Socios and regional Healthcare brands.

Alcohol brands lead in deal volume 

Led by spirit brands, Alcohol again topped the category list for brand spend, with 333 sponsorships across NFL teams and the league as a whole. Technology brands came in second with 218 sponsorships, and Food Products brands third with 177 deals. While the Alcohol category led by number of deals across the league and teams, it was second in revenue for team-only deals with $170M, trailing the first-place Finance category with $210M and topping Healthcare at $145M. 

The NFL is going global in a big way

The league’s ambitious strategy to grow its international footprint took a giant leap forward with the launch of its international home marketing areas (IHMA) initiative in January 2022, granting teams access to foreign territories for marketing and fan engagement. Currently, 19 teams have access to 30 IMHA’s across 10 countries–led by the Los Angeles Rams (4), Miami Dolphins (3), and the Philadelphia Eagles (3). The goal: to become a global powerhouse by growing its fan base 26% to a staggering 240M worldwide, and focusing on key international markets like the UK and Germany. By hosting games and sponsored events and investing in youth football programs overseas, the NFL is actively cultivating its next generation of fans.

Jointly authored by SponsorUnited’s Business Intelligence, Analytics, and Marketing Departments, the report offers an in-depth analysis of more than 4,000 brands, 350 athletes, 3,100 deals, and 34,000 posts between the league, clubs, athletes, and brands during the 2022 season.

Will 2023 NASCAR Sponsorships Outpace 2022?

Gentlemen, start your engines–the 2023 NASCAR season kicks off this Sunday with the Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum in Los Angeles. How will this year’s sponsorships stack up vs. 2022? Let’s review last year’s stats. 

Fittingly, the Auto category was the most active during the 2022 season, totaling 388 sponsorships with NASCAR teams. Construction & Industrial took the second spot with 289 partnerships, followed by Business Services with 111 deals.

Within the Auto category, Chevrolet secured 27 sponsorships–the most deals of any brand overall in NASCAR. WIX Filters followed with 20 deals, while Mobil1 was #3 with 17 sponsor deals.

More than 1,500 brands bought sponsorships and media across NASCAR teams, with  Chevrolet, Mechanix Wear, and WIX Filters leading the list (in that order). B.J. McLeod Motorsports had 91 sponsorships–the most of any NASCAR team, which averaged 28 deals per property. Alpha Prime Racing was #2 with 65 deals, followed by Spire Motorsports with 59. 

Within NASCAR race tracks, there were 971 active brands buying sponsorships / media last year, led by GEICO (24), Xfinity (23), and Safety Kleen (20) in the top 3 spots. The average number of deals per track was 40.

In the all-important social media space, Hendrick Motorsports led the list of most followed NASCAR teams, with 2.3M followers across all platforms in 2022. Joe Gibbs Racing ranked second with a gross following of 1.7M, while Stewart-Haas Racing landed in third place with 1.4M.  

The 1,500-plus brands that partnered with NASCAR teams engaged 21M followers cumulatively in 2022, while the 971 NASCAR track brand partners had a combined total engagement of 1.5M.

As NASCAR continues its rise in popularity, new categories have begun to open up. For the 2023 season, Cabo Wabo was named the first-ever Official Tequila of NASCAR and will also sponsor Daytona International Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Michigan International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. 

January Brand Power Rankings

With 2023 already off to a fast start as February kicks off, let’s take a look at the most searched brands by sponsorship executives on the SponsorUnited platform last month. 

Peraton–a national Security and IT Services provider and sponsor of the Military Bowl since 2021—made its list debut at #1. In early January, the company was again selected by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) to provide background investigation field work services for the federal government–bringing nearly two decades of experience as the incumbent to the job. The contract is worth up to $2.25B over five years.

7th on the list is BuzzRx, which announced a multi-year partnership with the Phoenix Suns at the beginning of January–making it the first prescription savings company to sponsor an NBA team. BuzzRx had previously partnered with the Phoenix Suns Charities, which resulted in a $150K donation to nonprofits in the Phoenix metro area.

At #8, Dunkin’ was named the first-ever title sponsor of TD Garden’s annual college ice hockey tournament, The Dunkin’ Beanpot. The multi-year sponsorship will see the company included in all Beanpot promotions, and builds on the strong partnership between Dunkin’, TD Garden, and regional broadcaster NESN. Dunkin’ also recently signed Hollywood star Ben Affleck to a multimillion-dollar deal that includes both a donation to his nonprofit and reportedly a Super Bowl ad directed by Affleck. 

Energy drink brand Celsius lands at 15th on the list, after the company inked a deal last month with Spire Motorsports to become primary sponsor of Corey LaJoie’s No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 at the Daytona 500. Celsius also announced that Logan Misuraca will be driving the No. 63 Spraker/PCW Racing CELSIUS Essential Energy Chevrolet in the 2023 ARCA Menards Series. 

Sponsors Offer Frosty Festivities at Winter X Games

The 2023 Winter X Games, held last weekend in Aspen, provided unique opportunities for brands–including Monster Energy, Pacifico, Jeep, and many others–to activate on Buttermilk Mountain. Following is our roundup of highlights from this year’s games–both brands and athletes–as reported by our team on the ground taking in all the action. 

Brand Activations:

Pacifico operated two separate Beer Gardens, where fans aged 21 and older could grab an ice-cold beverage. 

The two-story Monster Energy bar/lounge featured music and “Monster” girls doling out its popular drinks to thirsty fans.

Jeep loomed large at the Games, with products displayed all over the mountain. The Jeep Theater offered an indoor/outdoor space where attendees could kick back and watch the events taking place on the big screen, with two Jeep vehicles parked right outside for visitors to peruse.

Athlete Endorsements:

Chinese-American freestyle skier, Eileen Gu, has 15 endorsement deals, having collaborated with high-profile brands like Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Red Bull, IWC, and more. A whopping 546% increase in followers over the last year to some 2M followers across all social media makes her the 21st most followed Extreme & Action Sports athlete worldwide, with a total engagement of 3.5M.

The eighth most followed person in Austria, snowboarder Anna Gasser boasts a combined social following of 661K and total engagement of 1.1M. Her 8 brand partnerships include Red Bull, Skullcandy, Audi, and Burton. 

David Wise–who won gold in the Monster Energy Men’s Ski SuperPipe–is sponsored by 15 brands, including Visa, Toyota, P&G, and Monster. The American freestyle skier has 84K followers and a total engagement of 30K across all social platforms.

Aussie snowboarder Scotty James won his 5th X Games snowboard halfpipe, and counts Oakley, Red Bull, Samsung, and Tommy Hilfiger among his 10 sponsors. His 24% YoY follower growth brought his social following to 324K, with a total engagement of 427K.

Playoff Sponsors Benefit as Conference Championships Kick Off

Only four teams remain as we head to the NFL Conference Championships this Sunday–one of the biggest days in football in the lead-up to the Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles will host the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, while the Kansas City Chiefs will host 2022 Super Bowl finalists, the Cincinnati Bengals, for the AFC title. 

How do these teams stack up within the league on the partnership front? The Eagles rank 10th by sponsorship deals, followed by the 49ers at #16, the Bengals at #18, and the Chiefs in the 31st spot.

Among the four remaining teams, three have playoff presenting sponsors:

  • 49ers: United is the team’s top playoffs sponsor, while SAP, Zennni, & Cisco Systems also endorse the West Coast powerhouse. 
  • Eagles: ACME Markets
  • Bengals: N/A
  • Chiefs: Bud Light

The Philadelphia Eagles, flying high after a stellar season, have a total social following of 11M across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, making them the 5th most followed NFL club. The team secured 105 sponsorship deals this year–including Lincoln Financial, Bud Light, and Toyota–up from 97 last season. The Eagles’ top sponsorship categories are Beverage – Alcohol, Food Products, and Technology.

With a total social following of 9.9M, the San Francisco 49ers are the 8th most followed team in the league, and count United, Levi’s, and SAP among their more than 90 brand partnerships. Technology, Beverage – Alcohol, and Media lead the Niners’ list of sponsorship categories.

Super Bowl LIV Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, take the 10th spot on the social media list with 8.9M followers. The Chiefs boast more than 60 partnerships this season–including GEHA, T-Mobile, and Hy-Vee–while their top categories are Beverage – Alcohol, Retail, and Education.

The 23rd most followed NFL team, the Cincinnati Bengals’ social fandom stands at 5.3M. With just under 90 sponsorships, the Bengals inked a new naming rights deal this year with HR & payroll solution provider PayCor before the season began.

 

QSR Brands Win Over Sports Fans with Giveaways

The Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) category looms large in the sponsorship universe, namely in the promotion/sweepstakes arena. McDonald’s dominates the space with over 60–primarily across major pro sports and colleges–followed by Chick-fil-A (36), Papa Johns (34), Dunkin’ (28), and Wendy’s (28). Let’s take a closer look at some of their latest activations, designed to woo faithful sports fans with tasty fast-food fare. 

McDonald’s
The beloved home of the Golden Arches partners with all major US pro sports and some college teams, often in the name of delish giveaways. A common thread? Fans have to download the McDonald’s app in some instances to grab a bite of the action.    

When the opposing team misses a field goal inside M&T Stadium, Baltimore Ravens fans can redeem a free 6-piece Chicken McNugget the next day. On the ice, the chain’s huge NHL presence includes the “McNugget Minute,” where enthusiasts across the league can cash in on the same Chicken McNugget deal when a home team scores in the last minute of a regulation period. 

Mickey D’s also offers the free 6-piece Chicken McNugget to Cleveland Guardians fans when the team steals a base at home–the same prize Portland Traiblazers’ fans can grab when the team scores 100 points in an NBA matchup. Meanwhile, when DC United forces a shutout in MLS, fans can bag two Happy Meals for the price of one. 

At the collegiate level, fans in attendance at an Illinois Fighting Illini football home game can text “McDouble” for a free McDouble burger when the team forces a three-and-out. Although these prizes differ in terms of what needs to happen on the field of play for fans to win their prizes, there is one crucial commonality between all of them. Fans have to download the McDonald’s App to redeem their prizes.

Chick-fil-A
The Atlanta-based chicken sandwich titan launched the “Chick-fil-A Fowl Shot” promotion at Utah Jazz home games, where attending fans can win free chicken when an opposing player misses two free throws in the fourth quarter–an offer now run by several other professional and collegiate basketball teams. The chain also maintains a sizeable presence in MLB with activations like “Chick-fil-A Tuesdays,” a promotion at Washington Nationals Tuesday home games, where fans in the Metro DC area receive a free reward through the brand’s app.

Papa Johns
When the Washington Wizards score 115 or more points, fans get 50% off regular-price pizzas the next day, with a specific promo code visible on the jumbotron–a deal also available to Orlando Magic and LSU Tigers football fans when their teams are victorious. Washington Capitals fans also get half-price pies when the team score five or more goals during a home game, as do the Tampa Bay Rays’ faithful when their team scores six runs at home.

Dunkin’
At the start of the 2022 NFL Draft, Dunkin’ gave fans a chance to win a year of free Dunkin’, an autographed Daniel Jones Jersey, and two tickets to a 2022 Giants game if they correctly predicted top picks. Meanwhile, the NY Mets, NY Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Cleveland Guardians gave fans a chance to win Dunkin’ gift cards if they retweeted designated Dunkin’-sponsored tweets last season.

Wendy’s
Fans in the stands at Denver Nuggets home games can get free Wendy’s when the team notches a double-double, while Milwaukee Bucks fans can grab a free small Frosty when they win at home. When the Orlando Magic hits ten or more 3-pointers, fans get a free honey butter chicken biscuit as part of the chain’s “Magic Mornings” giveaway. In a unique promotion with the Cleveland Browns, fans could tune into the Wendy’s Game Day Weather Report each game day to score a free in-app offer: depending on the temperature at kickoff, a small Frosty (on hot days) or a small chili (on cold ones) at participating Wendy’s outlets the next day.

As QSR brands score big with these types of promotions/giveaways, what other categories are poised to follow suit? Forty brands in fintech are already utilizing promotions–led by Coinbase, which partners with social media influencers, athletes, and models in 70% of such deals. Brands in the Daily Fantasy Sports/Betting Services category are poised to grow this asset: in the past year, only five of these brands activated promotion/sweepstakes partnerships within major US pro sports–led by DraftKings, which offered different team- and league-specific promotion codes for free or discounted bets. 

Fashion Resalers Poised to Target Influencers for Growth

In the ever-expanding world of eCommerce, 38% of all sponsorship deals belong to blue-chip blockbuster brands Amazon, Shopify, Alibaba, and eBay, while Rakuten, Zappos, and Fiverr are also major players in the sponsorship universe. 

Not surprisingly, 52% of all deals within the category utilize social media in partnership with teams, athletes, and influencers, where 36% of all branded social posts come from brands in the Apparel & Accessories (20%), Consumer Products (8%), and Retail (8%) categories. 

Given influencers’ burgeoning prominence in eCommerce, leading resale Apparel platforms like Poshmark, The RealReal, and Rent The Runway–new to the resale game thanks to a new partnership with Amazon–are positioned to further bank on their unique marketing clout. Fashion influencers have over 1.3K partnerships across all categories via social media, and their infiltration of fashion-driven resale platforms seems certain. 

Resale leader Poshmark currently leverages TV ads in 78% of its partnerships. Thanks to its deal with ESPN, the brand advertises during MLS, NHL, MLB, and college broadcasts on the network. 

eBay also made an impact in the resale fashion industry this week, investing nearly $10M in UK-based designer retail platform Cudoni. According to Retail Bum, the investment is part of eBay’s efforts to solidify its position as a second hand luxury goods resale leader.

NFL’s Latest Streaming Deal

To wrap up 2022 with a bang, the NFL announced a multi-year agreement with Google last month, granting YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels exclusive distribution rights for the NFL Sunday Ticket to consumers in the U.S., starting with the 2023-2024 season. By comparing NFL’s broadcast deals, we can begin to predict which brands will likely buy into this blockbuster partnership

The league currently partners with three streaming platforms: Paramount Plus, Peacock, and Amazon Prime Video. With 14 brands buying digital assets across all three, we can expect some of these brands and categories to also invest in its YouTube deal.

Brands that currently advertise across all three of NFL’s three streaming partners:

  • FanDuel
  • State Farm
  • Little Caesars Pizza
  • Airbnb
  • VISA
  • Apple
  • Google Pixel
  • Burger King
  • NerdWallet
  • Chipotle
  • Toyota
  • DirecTV
  • Dove
  • GEICO

Most active brand categories:

  • Financial
  • Quick Serve Restaurants
  • Auto
  • Media
  • Insurance
  • Consumer Products
  • Retail
  • Technology
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Healthcare

The Prediction:

A deal with YouTubeTV gives brands a unique opportunity to reach a younger audience of NFL fans. According to a December 2022 survey by Morning Consult, YouTube is the #1 source of sports news for Gen Zers at 31%, vs. 21% of all U.S. adults. We expect current NFL broadcast partners that already target a younger audience to follow suit on YouTubeTV. In this first season of Amazon Prime Video’s “Thursday Night Football” streaming partnership, viewership in the prized 18-to-34 demographic was up 11% over TNF the previous season.

Will brands that target younger audiences and currently spend on Fortnite, Roblox, Decentraland, and other emerging platforms also invest in the NFL’s YouTube deal? Time will tell. Meanwhile, last month the NFL continued its own metaverse exploration with the launch of NFL Zone, a dynamic interactive fan experience built in Fortnite Creative. 

Brands targeting younger audiences on emerging platforms:

  • Oral B
  • Xbox
  • Doritos
  • Axe
  • Fall Guys
  • Marvel Entertainment
  • Nerf
  • Chipotle 
  • Warner Bros

Sponsors Bet Big on Tennis

On January 12, the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA)the sport’s national governing body and a SponsorUnited partner–announced that tennis participation in the US increased for the 3rd consecutive year in 2022 to more than 23.6M people, a whopping 33% increase since 2020. With the 2023 Australian Open now in full swing, let’s take a look at how brands activated across tennis tournaments in 2022, and what we can expect to see at the new year’s first tennis major.

Women’s health specialist Hologic made waves in the tennis world last year with more than 30 new deals–including becoming title sponsor of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Tour, where its logo adorned the net at WTA tournaments. Notably, Hologic had no 2021 sponsorships before going all-in on women’s tennis in 2022. Will the brand also bank on other women’s sports in 2023? Time will tell. 

Another brand to keep an eye on this year: Cadillac, which took center stage at the US Open in 2022, becoming the tournament’s official vehicle in a multi-year deal that will see it return to America’s premier tennis event in August. Keen to promote its debut all-electric SUV, the LYRIQ, the luxury carmaker doubled its number of tennis sponsorship deals last year–investing in the US, Miami, Atlanta, and Citi Opens–from just 2 deals in 2021. 

Over 100 brands partnered with the Australian Open last year across all asset types– sponsor, digital, TV, radio, and vendor. Automotive brand Kia–the longest-standing Australian Open sponsor since 2002–was the most visible brand throughout the 2022 showcase. Major assets included venue naming rights, net signage, and a virtual  activation inside of the Decentraland platform–marking the first time a tennis major activated within the metaverse. (The US Open followed suit, hosting activations inside Decentraland last summer). The Australian Open has already leveraged the metaverse again in 2023, this time partnering with the Roblox platform on a digital recreation of Melbourne Park featuring Emirates, the tournament’s airline partner.

Besides Kia–which already began activating Down Under with product displays and attendee activities–Emirates, Rolex, Ralph Lauren, Infosys, Luzhou Laojiao, and Canadian Club also returned as sponsors of this year’s tournament, after featuring prominently at the 2022 event.

 

The Evolution of Game Day Activations

Every year, the NFL and its teams present thousands of activations–including in-person venue exhibitions–that drive sky-high exposure for the sponsoring brands. Let’s take a look at some of the top NFL activations from the 2022-23 season.

In terms of showstopping in-venue activations, few topped the Heineken Highline, a 1500-foot gondola that gives fans a 20-minute, bird’s-eye view of Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Further north, the huge Jack Daniel’s Barrel Christmas Tree on the concourse of the Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium turned heads around the holidays. Meanwhile, as the exclusive real estate partner of the Arizona Cardinals through 2024, 72sold.com offers attending fans the chance to appear on the 72Sold Selfie Cam by scanning a QR Code on the jumbotron.

The NFL introduced a new sponsorship category by announcing E. & J. Gallo Winery as the league’s official wine sponsor in a multi-branded, multi-year agreement. As one of the season’s buzziest deals, Amazon Prime Video’s purchase of Thursday Night Football yielded broadcast assets including Next Gen Stats powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), Electric Moments presented by Mercedes-Benz, the Pregame Prep sponsored by Little Caesars Pizza, and the TNF Three-Play segment sponsored by DraftKings.

NFL activations overseas were similarly successful. Online trading platform IG was named Presenting Partner of the three 2022 regular season games in London, while paint brand Valspar became the NFL’s Official Colour Partner in the UK & Ireland. Deutsche Kreditbank AG (DKB) presented the league’s first-ever regular season game in Germany–a sold-out face-off between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks, where consumer electronics retailer Cyberport served as the Official Lead Entertainment Partner and Exclusive Presenting Sponsor of the pregame and halftime shows. 

Other notable partnerships:

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals both announced new naming rights deals with fintech giant Acrisure and HR software provider Paycor, respectively. The partnerships saw the two AFC North rivals rename stadiums that stood for at least two decades: the Steelers’ Heinz Field became Acrisure Stadium, while Paycor Stadium replaced Paul Brown Stadium as the Bengals’ home.   

Pepsi’s longtime sponsorship of the Super Bowl Halftime Show wrapped up in spectacular fashion at Super Bowl LVI, with an epic finale featuring Dr. Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent, Mary J Blidge, and Kendrick Lamar. In a renewed league partnership announced in September, the soft drink giant debuted the “Pepsi 18 Week Pack”–a tiny, tricked-out home offering one lucky fan the ultimate football watching experience for the entire 2022 NFL season through a sweepstakes with Instacart. The same month, a viral social media post featuring Rihanna unveiled Apple Music as the Super Bowl Halftime Show’s new sponsor.