NFL Targeting Kids via Cartoons

We don’t know about you, but we feel like there’s something a little creepy about big-name brands targeting children. Sure, kids represent a huge and hugely lucrative demographic, but people—especially parents—also know that children need to be protected from the big bad world until they’re old enough to make their own informed decisions.

Coke, McDonald’s and Nike all know that securing brand loyalty at a young age translates into windfall profits for decades to come. Now the NFL has jumped aboard that primary school gravy train by advertising to kids through a direct, familiar and trusted platform: cartoons.

The animated series “Rush Zone: Season of the Guardians” will air on Nicktoons beginning November 30. The show, based on animated shorts that scored highly with 6-11 year old boys in audience tests, stars Ish, a young football fan who lives in Canton, Ohio (home of the NFL Hall of Fame, of course), and works together with various friends to protect the world’s most successful sports league from evil forces bent on “trying to capture the essence of the NFL.”

We’ve come a long way from Bugs Bunny and Spongebob.

When most of us were kids, we watched cartoons that gave advertisers access to our still-forming minds via commercial breaks, aka the down-time we used to brush our teeth (yeah right) or scarf down a third bowl of sugary cereal. But with “Rush Zone” the cartoon is the commercial–and that fact should make both kids and parents a little wary. In the immortal, prophetic words of Krusty the Clown, “That’s barely legal as it is.

Cartoons, like football, are forms of entertainment. Yet cartoons are for kids only, and most parents assume that today’s animated shorts are the same kind of shows they enjoyed as tots: innocent, innocuous and colorful stories filled with buffoonish characters and absurd plots. That’s largely true, but “Rush Zone” is very different.

This program isn’t about stories; it’s about sales, branding and, ultimately, NFL profits. It doesn’t sound funny, or entertaining, at all.

We guess we should accept the inevitable. And maybe we’re just feeling a little overprotective or nostalgic…most Redskins fans are these days.