Sponsor Insights

NFL Report 2022

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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.

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.

 

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

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.

NFL Exceeds $2B in Sponsorship Revenue

NFL Exceeds $2B in Sponsorship Revenue for the 2022-2023 Regular Season

Sponsorship revenue grew 14% year-over-year, with key emerging brand categories including Media, Finance and Hotels/Restaurants

Reaching an all-time high across both digital and physical assets, we estimate the total sponsorship revenue across NFL teams (32) is $2.05B and $2.7B when combined with sponsorships for the league as a whole.  

This season’s sponsorship revenue greatly surpasses the 2021-2022 season, which was $1.8B across NFL teams. Key attributions to the growth include the Apple Music Halftime Show, continued globalization efforts–the NFL now allows teams to sell intellectual property rights overseas–and adding crypto companies like Socios.com and Blockchain.com to the sponsorship portfolio.

The top 5 NFL teams with the highest number of sponsorship deals include:

  1.  Jacksonville Jaguars – 170+
  2.  Dallas Cowboys – 140+
  3.  Buffalo Bills – 135+
  4.  Indianapolis Colts – 125+
  5.  Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 120+

The top 5 NFL athletes with the highest number of sponsorship deals include:

  1. Russell Wilson 
  2. Austin Ekeler 
  3. Juju Smith-Schuster 
  4. AJ Dillon 
  5. Tyler Lockett 

The top 5 categories with the most number of sponsorship deals include:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Tech
  3. Media
  4. Food Products
  5. Auto

The Alcohol category expanded its investments through a new, revised deal with AB InBev. The beverage company, Diageo, led the NFL’s spirits category and the rapidly growing ready-to-drink cocktail category. Media, a new category this year according to our ProTool, quickly became one of the most popular in terms of deal volume. Additional new categories emerging this year include Finance (Credit Card Solutions) and Hotels/Restaurants.

“The NFL continues to impress with not only the amount of sponsorship revenue, but the diversification of industries leveraging those partnerships,” said Bob Lynch, Founder and CEO of SponsorUnited. “As teams have expanded their content and marketing platforms both within and outside of the team, it’s allowed them to expand the number of sponsors they can deliver unique and creative solutions to. Athlete partnerships have also opened the door to more brands seeking viable ways to reach the NFL fan and activate in more dynamic ways.”

NFL Christmas Games

The National Football League will have its first-ever Christmas Day tripleheader this year.

Take a look at how the competing team’s social game and sponsorship portfolio compare.

Rihanna To Perform At Super Bowl LVII

Last week, the NFL announced Apple Music as the new Super Bowl Halftime Show sponsor, replacing longtime sponsor Pepsi who leveraged the halftime show for 10 years. Superstar Rihanna was also named as the show’s headliner for the upcoming Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, on February 12, 2023.

With nearly 350M social media followers across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, Rihanna ranks 6th within music artists on social according to SponsorUnited’s recent Music Artist Report. Rihanna also ranks 6th in engagement, averaging 1.2M likes/comments/shares across her 30+ branded social posts over the last year. Her most engaged social post–with Savage x Fenty, a brand she founded with TechStyle Fashion Group–has over 5.5M engagements since January 17th. Notably, of the top 25 most engaging music artists ranked in the report, 20 are female.

Speaking of Rihanna and Savage x Fenty, music artists are increasingly betting big on their own brands–and winning. 4 of the top 5 brands with the highest social engagement during the last 12 months were Rare Beauty (Selena Gomez), JLO Beauty (Jennifer Lopez), r.e.m. beauty (Ariana Grande) and Savage x Fenty. Of the top 50 most engaging brands, those owned by artists garnered more attention.

And while music artists have long added value to Cosmetics, Clothing and Alcohol brands, artists like Timbaland, Kanye West, and Dua Lipa are already charting the future of artist ownership in new categories. 

Timbaland’s Beatclub, a digital platform for music artists, aims to revolutionize the way music makers connect. Kanye West’s sports marketing agency, Donda Sports, now represents clients like NBA star Jaylen Brown and NFL star Aaron Donald. And superstar Dua Lipa released her first weekly lifestyle newsletter, Service95, in February 2022.

LA Chargers & KC Chiefs Face Off

The AFC West matchup tonight between two potential Super Bowl contenders–the Los Angeles Chargers at the Kansas City Chiefs–features a slew of players who have taken advantage of the teams’ success by locking in endorsement deals.

KC Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has the most deals of any player in this game with 24. An avid online gamer, he partners with HyperX and Nerd Street Games, and has secured other deals thanks to his skyrocketing fame on TikTok, where his followers total more than 3M. JuJu’s branded posts on the platform include SoFi, HyperIce, Yahoo Sports, Snickers, and 7-Eleven.

LA Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler literally leads the charge for his team with more than 20 partnerships, among them SteelSeries, American Airlines, Shock Doctor, and Sleep Number. He’s leveraging his burgeoning social following–which has grown more than 70% since 2021–by posting about each partner brand, with posts and engagement totaling 81 and over 560K, respectively.  

Notably, 5 of Ekeler’s sponsors also have deals with players on the Chiefs: 

  • Sleep Number: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
  • Chipotle: George Karlaftis
  • Verizon & Bud Light: Juju Smith-Schuster
  • StateFarm: Patrick Mahomes

Meanwhile, chances are top-tier quarterback talents Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert will be facing off for many years to come, both on the field and in the sponsorship arena. 

Mahomes’ 8M+-strong social following dwarfs third-year starting QB Herbert’s 500K–though Herbert’s star continues to rise, as evidenced by his following’s 55% increase this past year. And while Mahomes has more deals, his average engagement rate of 1.1% is a mere fraction of Herbert’s, which stuns at a whopping 9.86%.

Both Mahomes and Herbert have deals with Bose, which saw its highest total engagement on social media with the star quarterbacks this year. Mahomes’ top post with the audio giant, on January 27th, totaled over 330K likes/comments on Instagram, while Herbert’s January 8th Instagram post engaged more than 100K followers. Bose made noise on social media during the 2021-22 NFL playoffs, posting more than 10 times with participating players.

NFL TNF Athlete Endorsements

The NFL season kicked off in LA with a Bills win over the Rams. Checkout the NFL star’s with commercial appearances during TNF broadcast on NBC:
  • Head & Shoulders x Patrick Mahomes & Troy Polamalu
  • SiriusXM x Larry Fitzgerald
  • Frito-Lay x Josh Allen
  • Subway x Patrick Mahomes
  • Subway x Rob Gronkowski
  • SoFi x Justin Herbert
  • DirecTV x Dak Prescott, Ceedee Lamb
  • State Farm x Patrick Mahomes
  • Sleep Number x Dak Prescott
  • Little Caesars x Matthew Stafford

 

NFL Training Camp Activations

Over 300 brands have activated across the 32 NFL team training camps in the lead-up to the league’s 103rd season kickoff on September 8th. 

Not surprisingly, the domestic beer subcategory contains 2 of the top 6 most active brands in training camp sponsorships–Bud Light & Miller Lite–whose partnerships with NFL teams last season numbered 27 and 17, respectively. Another 13 alcohol brands also had training camp activations.

Media was a category leader in activations among the most teams. Local TV & radio stations comprised the majority of these brands, with activations or signage with 18 teams across NFL camps.

Healthcare brands–training camps’ third most active category–provided useful products for steamy summer days, distributing free sunscreen, water, and hand sanitizer to loyal fans who came out to root for their favorite teams as they prepared for the upcoming season.

Cutting-edge, fan-first mobile app Socios.com is cropping up across the league after announcing partnerships with 14 teams this offseason. One of its most notable deals this training camp: the naming rights to the New England Patriots indoor practice facility, now known as the Socios.com FieldHouse. 

Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Colts and Marvel Entertainment announced another singular collaboration: Marvel activations and handouts throughout the season will feature Colts players, mascots, and cheerleaders as superheroes, based on their personality traits.

On the culinary front, Utility provider Xcel Energy showcased its “Vikings Table” custom-built food truck at the Minnesota Vikings camp, where it served up food and drinks to fans. During the NFL season, the gleaming purple truck will provide free healthy meals and nutritional education to underserved youth across the Greater Twin Cities area, in partnership with the Minnesota Vikings Foundation.