Brands Rush Into Football Season With Early Campaigns

Visa, Amazon Prime Video, Lowe's and PepsiCo are among the companies scoring points with football fans

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The NFL and its players score bigger points for brands than just about any other option.

Last year, according to data and analytics firm EDO, the National Football League was responsible for half of the top 10 most effective broadcasts for advertisers. During the NFL’s kickoff game on NBC, EDO found that viewers were 64% more likely to engage online with featured brands than viewers of the average ad during a primetime broadcast.

On average, brands would have to air 21 ads during the average primetime network broadcast to get the sports marketing impact of one ad during the kickoff game on NBC.

Opening week’s Sunday Night Football on NBC scored similar results, with viewers 24% more likely to engage online with ads than they would during average primetime viewing. A brand would need 13 ads during a typical network primetime broadcast to match one ad from last week’s Sunday Night Football.

If an NFL player is featured in a game day ad, it’ll likely be heavily amplified on social media. According to sponsorship data firm SponsorUnited, 69% of NFL player endorsement deals now include social media assets. Of the more than 100 million likes, retweets and other engagements NFL players racked up last season, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill amassed 6.1 million from 36 branded posts alone while partnering with Soul Runner, Adidas, Hublot and Manscaped.

Other heavy hitters include Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (3.2 million engagements across 47 posts for Oakley, State Farm and Walmart), San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (1.6 million, 30 posts for Adobe, Bud Light, Little Caesars and Playstation) and 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (61,000 across 10 posts for BodyArmor, Hyperice and Dolce & Gabbana).

Heading into Week 2, here are some of the brand campaigns turning to the NFL and its stars for extra yardage:


Scott “Wide Right” Norwood deserved this.

Visa kicked off the season by showing that a fan’s greatest moments often have little to do with how their favorite team is faring. Following a Buffalo Bills fan through 16,795 days of existence—from being a disappointed kid in his first Joe DeLamielleure jersey to an optimistic grandfather buying his granddaughter a Norwood throwback from the former Bills kicker himself—the Wieden+Kennedy-produced spot is less about the team and more about what keeps fans going.

During seasons where wins are few and playoff appearances are fewer, you have kids and Sunday trips to the stadium and silver linings named Fred Jackson and Kyle Williams. Even the tough losses go down easier with a bowl of Flutie Flakes. Norwood kicking a ball just right of the goalposts during the Super Bowl is less important when the person you love tells you they’re in it for life. 

“We got to include Flutie Flakes, shoot inside (formerly) Rich Stadium, use authentic jerseys with the names and numbers of iconic players, and make sure the blizzard looked awesome and true to Buffalo,” said Will Curtis, copywriter for Wieden+Kennedy Portland. “Of course, the ultimate detail is Scott Norwood’s cameo at the end. We think Bills fans are really going to appreciate that one, and he was the most gracious guy to work with on set.” 

Visa wanted to show off its advanced in payment technology in this spot—which debuted during the Bills’ season-opening loss on Monday Night Football—but it instead provided a reminder that even the hardest parts of fandom are just short scenes in a much greater story.

“As we saw in Week 1, every season is full of challenges and exciting surprises,” said Mary Ann Reilly, Visa’s CMO of North America. “Every NFL fan’s journey will be different. But we want fans to know Visa will be beside them to support their team dedication every step of the way.”


How did Lowe’s celebrate renewing its multi-year contract with the NFL at the beginning of the season? By bringing a whole new team of NFL players into the huddle for its latest campaign.

“With the return of the NFL season, Lowe’s wants everyone—whether they’re our DIY and Pro customers or NFL stars—to feel equipped to take on home improvement projects and support the communities they love,” said Jen Wilson, Lowe’s svp of enterprise brand and marketing. 

Lowe’s has the 49ers’ McCaffrey and offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Carolina Panthers rookie Bryce Young on its squad, alongside floor workers who serve as their co-stars in 15- and 30-second TV commercials, digital spots, radio ads, social media posts and in-store promos. While the spots are aimed at millennial homeowners, they’re also a reminder that the NFL and Lowe’s have been working on community projects together since 2019.

Gatorade Fast Twitch

Part of PepsiCo’s Gatorade Portfolio, the Fast Twitch energy drink made its debut in Week 1 courtesy of neon green team sideline towels and a partnership with the NFL RedZone channel.

Meanwhile, through Sept. 23, Fast Twitch is running an in-store contest that asks shoppers to scan a QR code for a chance to win a prize bundle that includes tickets to three NFL regular season games. Those less inclined to get off the couch can visit to enter for a chance to take home a daily prize or a larger grand prize. The 49ers’ Kittle is an endorser and has already given Fast Twitch some real estate on his Instagram.


If you’re getting substantial impact out of an NFL ad (and paying a premium for it), you may as well pack as much into it as possible. PepsiCo put its Frito-Lay snacks and its beverage brands into a 60-second spot featuring former NFL stars Randy Moss, Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Dan Marino, Tom Brady and Julian Edelman returning to the game as current Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen—who PepsiCo just signed to a multi-year partnership—looks on.

The campaign, “Unretirement,” debuted during the first installment of NBC’s Sunday Night Football and required Marino to break out reading glasses to call plays and Rice to ask a food vendor in the stands for a senior discount. Considering that NBC charged brands roughly $830,000 for every 30 seconds of ad time during its Sunday night broadcasts last year, according to Nielsen, PepsiCo can’t be blamed for fitting as many brands and jokes about Smith’s sleeping habits as possible into its precious minute.

Miller Lite

Longtime NFL beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch watched the league invite Diageo’s spirits into the fold a few years ago before forfeiting decades of Super Bowl exclusivity this year as rivals including MillerCoors encroached on its space.

The competition only intensifies in 2023, as MillerCoors’ Miller Lite brand welcomes former NFL player and current broadcaster J.J. Watt into a must-year partnership. The Wisconsin native teams with the Wisconsin-born company on a new campaign, developed by DDB Chicago, that features Watt in a living room surrounding by 99 cases of Miller Lite—equal to the jersey number he wore during his career—and singing a version of “99 Bottles of Beer.”

Debuting Sept. 18, the campaign’s 15-second TV and digital spot features a cameo from soccer star (and J.J.’s wife) Kealia Watt and gives 99 fans a chance to win 99 beers and a signed J.J. Watt jersey at  

“J.J. is a no-brainer for Miller Lite: He’s authentic, charismatic, Wisconsin-raised, and most importantly, a huge fan of Miller Lite,” said Ann Legan, vp of marketing for Miller Lite. 


Patrick Mahomes just led the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title in February and is one of the most recognizable athletes in the United States. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t his only appearance on this list.

T-Mobile’s spot uses one of the NFL’s biggest names to not only sell its Go5G Next plan—with help from Chronicles of Narnia actor Ben Barnes—but to ambush the NFL’s official wireless sponsor, Verizon. With its rival imposing its presence on NFL broadcasts, T-Mobile launched its 30-second Mahomes spot during a primetime episode of NBC’s Law & Order SVU and flooded cable networks including Adult Swim, A&E, BET, Bravo, Comedy Central, Discovery, E!, Hallmark, HGTV, TLC and USA.

And while the NFL’s opening weekend games were somewhat closed off to T-Mobile’s Mahomes ads, the company exploited its sponsorship of Mexico’s Liga MX soccer to air spots through all of the weekend’s matches.

Delta Air Lines

Tom Brady is out of the NFL, but just getting started at Delta.

Instead of throwing Brady in an ad or centering a campaign on him, Delta picked the NFL’s opening week to announce that the seven-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Super Bowl MVP would be joining the airline as a “long-term strategic adviser.”

Brady’s going to be working on training and teamwork tools for Delta’s more than 90,000 employees, as well as marketing to connect with customers and community outreach programs.

“Growing up with a mother as a flight attendant, I have always admired the people that make seamless air transportation possible,” Brady said. 

State Farm

The Kansas City Chiefs dropped their season opener to the Detroit Lions, but the reigning Super Bowl champs are still a huge marketing draw—especially for brands looking to steal the spotlight from NFL sponsors.

State Farm loaded up its three-ad, TMA-produced campaign with appearances from Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce and coach Andy Reid. The insurer is bundling teammates the way it’s hoping customers will bundle home and auto insurance with the Personal Price Plan it’s pushing, but it’s also teaming the Chiefs stars with its Jake From State Farm mascot to take a piece of NFL sponsor Nationwide’s turf.

One ad suggests bundling insurance like a fast-food combo meal, while another tries to turn “bundling home and auto” into the Chiefs’ new locker room mantra.

A third spot, which makes its debut Sunday when the Chiefs play the Jacksonville Jaguars, features Mahomes trying to convince Kelce to change his last name to MaAuto to become “the best ‘home and auto’ bundle in the league.”

While the ads will air on broadcast, streaming, digital and social media, State Farm is turning to media partners including Whistle Sports, Bleacher Report, DraftKings, the Big Ten Network, ESPN, Spotify and Wave Sports + Entertainment’s New Heights with Jason and Travis Kelce to outflank its NFL competitors.


Insurance companies are not letting Nationwide’s NFL sponsorship go unchallenged.

For the second year in a row, Progressive is rolling out its “Replay” campaign with four 15- and 30-second TV spots. Its kickoff spot, “Game Plans” featured a daughter throwing a red challenge flag to dispute her mom’s assertion that she would “love to” watch a football game at another parent’s house.

A Progressive official brings in a screen to prove that, yes, the mother in question really did say that her potential football hosts “never stop talking,” but that’s apparently just the beginning of such challenges this season. Progressive promises that football players and throwback music acts will get involved as the season wears on, with the company countering that its savings on bundled insurance can’t be challenged.


Diageo’s Smirnoff is entering its third year as the official vodka sponsor of the NFL, and it’s mixing things up a bit for the 2023 season.

Its new “We Do Game Days” campaign with actor Anthony Anderson looks at the traditions, rituals and superstitions of NFL fans, with Smirnoff pouring a different cocktail for every team. During Week 1, Smirnoff gave 21 fans free Smirnoff cocktails on game days for the entire 2023 NFL season based on the coin tosses ahead of the first week’s games. 

The coin-toss promotion included a 21-story digital billboard in Times Square with appearances by Anderson and former NFL player Vernon Davis just ahead of the Thursday Night Football kickoff. This season, Smirnoff is also serving as gaming site FanDuel’s exclusive NFL Sunday Prime Time vodka partner. The deal includes a custom Smirnoff No. 21 Cocktail Game Mode that gives fans a chance to win more than $200,000 in cash prizes from now through Super Bowl 58 by visiting

“This NFL season, Smirnoff really wanted to show our fans how We Do Game Days, including the addition of a new roster of Smirnoff cocktails for every fan and every team to help celebrate what truly brings football fans together,” said Jennifer Holiday Hudson, North America brand leader at Smirnoff.


Hyundai and its agency partners used Amazon Prime’s Thursday Night Football and NBC’s Sunday Night Football to welcome football fans back to a cultural tradition: commuting. It may have inadvertently reintroduced a habit far more familiar to football viewers: yelling and throwing things at the screen.

Hyundai and creative agency Innocean’s ad for the new Kona and Kona EV depicts (and nominally applauds) the vehicles taking drivers back to the office after years of remote work. However, YouTube commenters don’t share the marketers’ mirth, remarking “Thank you for reminding us all how awful RTO is” and “This is corporate propaganda to get people to return to the office.” 

Those comments aren’t being made in a vacuum. Multiple reports have indicated that a forced return to office is hampering companies ability to both recruit and retain talent. And while a majority of workers are back in the office—not all of them are happy to be there. So while Hyundai envisioned these spots as an opportunity to discuss navigation features, digital keys and parking assistance in front of a large audience—with Hyundai CMO Angela Zepeda citing Sunday Night Football’s average 19.9 million viewers in 2022—it received fiery feedback about a still-touchy workplace topic during a time when most viewers are escaping said job.

Hugo Boss x Roblox

For Super Bowl 57 in February, metaverse game developer Gamefam teamed with the NFL to launch Super NFL Tycoon on Roblox, which allows fans to live out their fantasy of being NFL team owners. They even kicked it off with an Intuit-sponsored Super Bowl concert featuring Saweetie.

Roblox characters in Hugo Boss NFL gear in the Super NFL Tycoon mini game
Super NFL Tycoon players can now score Hugo Boss NFL gear for their Roblox avatars.Gamefam

For the NFL Draft, Hugo Boss also partnered with the NFL on a collection of sweatshirts, vests, jackets, sweatpants and other apparel. That five-team deal eventually expanded to 22 teams and real estate in the NFL Shop.

To kick off the 2023 season, Hugo Boss, Gamefam and the NFL came together to put Boss apparel into Super NFL Tycoon. Players can unlock a hoodie within the game by completing a series of challenges including kicking and defense mini games. 


Some brands really latch on to the name portion of an athlete’s name, image and likeness (NIL) rights.

Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Bijan Robinson’s name rhymes with “dijon,” but it was enough for Austin-based creative firm Callen to build a mustard brand around him while he played at the University of Texas. Jalin Hyatt has an entire hotel chain’s brand in his surname, which led to an NIL deal with the corporate Hyatt while Jalin played wide receiver at the University of Tennessee.

With Hyatt now in his rookie season with the New York Giants, the hotel chain is offering 15% off at participating hotels with the code GOJALIN15 through the end of the football season in February 2024.


Around this time of year, one of the pillars of Fanatics business is moving NFL jerseys. What better place to show off a broad spectrum of them than a neighborhood dry cleaner, where you can throw 32 teams’ worth of gear on a conveyor belt and let staff pull garments and talk about players and teams’ chances for 2023?

But this is marketing: You can’t just show a three-figure jersey, tout the merits of the player in it, and hope the right fan is watching. There needs to be an emotional hook, something the viewer’s going to remember long after the jersey carousel stops spinning. Enter the dry cleaner’s first customer, who goes unidentified at the beginning of the spot before his big reveal as Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin at the end. 

With Hamlin expected to play this season after suffering an in-game heart attack on Monday Night Football earlier this year, the Fanatics Cleaners staff are grateful for more than just the return of football. In the meantime, Fanatics is posting tickets for autographed jerseys on its social pages and sending fans to cleaners around the country to claim their prizes. 


Your core product is a pillowy running shoe embraced by both high-level athletes and older consumers looking to minimize impact on their feet. How do you connect both audiences, and how can you get the NFL involved?

Hoka struck that balance by reaching out to Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry and linking his professional story—and a Hoka-clad training regimen—with anecdotes about his mother and grandmother. Hoka shows Bradberry using its shoes on the treadmill, but also handing them out to older fans.

It’s an inclusive marketing effort that not only sees disparate portions of Hoka’s target consumer base, but makes the effort to connect them. By digging a bit deeper and finding the points that tie an athlete to the brand, Hoka found a way to broaden its message and use Bradberry’s voice to reach similarly connected audiences.

QB United

Researchers at Boston University who studied the brains of nearly 400 dead NFL players found evidence of the degenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in 92% of them. With CTE linked to increased suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior, it’s one of many reasons both current and former players want to help people in crisis.

The newly formed 501(c)(3) charitable organization QB United recruited 57 current and former NFL quarterbacks, including Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino, Joe Namath, Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, Doug Williams and Steve Young. They’re calling attention to each quarterback’s individual charitable efforts by using 250 influencers to reach upward of 250 million people.

The campaign launched on World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 and will run through World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10. All funds raised will go to organizations helping to address mental health initiatives including partners like Stay Here and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Campbell’s Chunky Soup

In 2023’s NFL, the Kelces are the new Mannings.

Since facing each other in the Super Bowl back in February, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Eagles center Jason Kelce (and their mother Donna) have become ubiquitous staples of NFL marketing. Campbell’s is featuring them in two Chunky soup ads: One in which the brothers’ arm-wrestling contest interrupts their mother’s book club, and another in which Travis taunts Jason with a new ringtone mentioning his two Super Bowl titles.

The Kelces still have a few hundred hours of combined ad time to go before catching up to Peyton and Eli. But considering this is already Travis’ third appearance on the list (not including the brothers’ featured role in the NFL’s kickoff ad), they’re taking advantage of their shot at football sibling marketing supremacy.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is already hosting Thursday Night Football this year and giving this list yet another Kelce family entry with the Jason Kelce documentary released earlier this week.

But for Week 2’s installment of TNF, it wants to focus on the 46% of consumers who told Nielsen last year that they were stressed out by streaming, the 72% who told Bango Survey that streaming paralyzed them with choice, and the 20% who went back to Nielsen this year and said they just stopped a streaming session altogether rather than doomscrolling the endless selections.

Cognizant of the fact that its own offerings—originals, movies, subscription add-ons, new releases—are A Lot, Amazon Prime enters Week 2 with a new campaign positing a simple solution: Cut the other cord-cutting options. With a broadcast TV spot, billboards, a takeover in Times Square, digital, social and other placements, Amazon Prime wants fans to make it a “one-stop entertainment destination.”

With streaming options multiplying and subscription fees at established streamers rising, Amazon Prime is using its NFL partnership to take a risk and make a big play for subscribers. Only fans know if it’s the right call.

Captain Morgan

Yes, Diageo is the parent company of Captain Morgan as well, and this is its third year as the official spiced rum of the NFL. But sponsorships can be complicated, as evidenced by Captain Morgan’s campaign for the 2023 season.

The brand recruited rapper Aminé to guide viewers through an ad featuring pop star Bebe Rexha and Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz. In a spot that debuts Sept. 24, the trio point out QR code clues for drinking-age fans to follow during the brand’s Follow the Captain contest that offers signed jerseys, branded coolers and even Super Bowl tickets. 

The contest also offers Dallas Cowboys fans a chance to attend the Ultimate Away Game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas on Sept. 24 where they’ll attend festivities on the stadium video screen hosted by rapper and chef Action Bronson. Later in the season, fans will also get a chance to attend a house party hosted by Cruz featuring a performance by Aminé.

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