American Idol Is Ramping Up Its Football Presence

Campaign extends well beyond Fox’s broadcast signal reach

As Fox’s American Idol suits up for its 13th season, football fans should brace themselves for a full-on charm offensive.

While a rash of promos featuring Idol hopefuls and a kinder, gentler judges’ panel (Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.) started rolling out before the holidays, the spots made their biggest mark during last Sunday’s NFC Wild Card Game. Fox packed a handful of Idol teasers into its coverage of the 49ers-Packers nail-biter, which delivered a staggering 47.1 million viewers.

As the stakes become higher, Idol will ramp up its pigskin presence. “Football always plays a big role in presenting the Idol campaign,” said Laurel Bernard, evp, marketing of Fox Broadcasting Co. “We plan to continue to have a substantial presence for Idol through the postseason and the Super Bowl.”

While it did not disclose the frequency with which Idol will appear in and around its Feb. 2 Super Bowl XLVIII coverage, the network is expected to place more emphasis on the show than it did in 2011. The last time Fox broadcast the Super Bowl, Idol was still TV’s top-rated show, and as such, more weight was given to dramas like Glee, House and The Chicago Code, which debuted the night after Super Bowl XLV. (Per Kantar Media, Fox aired two in-game Idol spots, or half the real estate allotted to Chicago Code.)

While the promotional hierarchy is often finalized in the hours leading up to the opening kickoff, Bernard said Idol “remains a top priority.”

For all that, the Idol campaign extends well beyond the reach of Fox’s broadcast signal. The network is making strategic buys on cable (the emphasis being on high-rated reality and music-themed shows), while mobile is playing a bigger role than ever.

The night before the curtain goes up on the new season (the two-part premiere airs Jan. 15 and 16), Fox will host a free sneak preview in 20 major markets. Immediately following the screening, the judges and host Ryan Seacrest will participate in a Q&A session with fans.

“Our social team has been soliciting fans for questions via Twitter and Facebook, so we’ll be dropping some of those in,” said Shannon Ryan, Fox’s evp, marketing and communications. “Essentially, any Idol fan anywhere in the country will have the opportunity to ask their own burning question.”

Idol closed out last season ranked sixth in the 18-49 demo, with a 3.8 rating. “It may not be the draw it once was, but it’s still a hell of a reach [buy],” said a TV buyer who added that the average cost of a 30-second spot in the Wednesday night show dropped around 10 percent to nearly $310,000 a pop.

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