With Super Bowl XLIX Just Days Away, NFL Brand Perception is Down by Half

Following a year of controversy

With just two weeks to Super Bowl XLIX, the National Football League is still reeling from a string of domestic abuse controversies last fall: Consumer perception of the brand is just half of what it was last year, according to YouGov's BrandIndex.

"A lot of people were either unhappy with the behavior of individuals [such as players Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson] that reflected poorly on the NFL or were also disappointed with how the NFL reacted," said Ted Marzilli, CEO of YouGov's BrandIndex. Many saw NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's press conference, for example, as lacking substance and dodging important questions. 

To measure consumer perception, YouGov asked 50,000 adults if they heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks through advertising, news or word of mouth, and if that was positive or negative. Their responses were ranked on a buzz scale ranging from -100 to 100, with a zero score being neutral. This time last year, the NFL scored 21 on the buzz scale; now, that has dropped to 12. 

After the scandals in October, the NFL ranked an abysmal -40. The brand has been slowly recovering, although many consumers still have strong negative feelings and harbor resentment toward the brand, Marzilli said. 

The NFL still ranks marginally higher than the National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball, according to YouGov's BrandIndex. Though, the NFL's buzz score is usually two times higher than those leagues during this time of year, when football season is at its peak. Marzilli credits the playoff excitement for the NFL's partial recovery. 

"It will be interesting to see if the numbers fall back down to that negative territory where they lingered, or if they actually go back to where they were in the off-season last year," said Marzilli. "One situation would suggest that people are not forgetting or forgiving the NFL. The other would suggest that the Super Bowl could be the watershed moment where people start to forget what happened."