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Study: NFL sponsorship revenue hits record US$2.7bn for 2022/23

Key emerging brand categories include media, finance, and hotels and restaurants.

11 January 2023 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • NFL teams amass US$2.05bn of total figure
  • Sponsorship revenue for franchises was US$1.8bn for 2021/22
  • Alcohol is category with most deals

Sponsorship revenue for the National Football League (NFL) hit an all-time high of US$2.7 billion for the 2022/23 regular season, according to a study by sponsorship data and advertising services firm SponsorUnited.

The report estimates that the NFL’s 32 teams pulled in a collective US$2.05 billion alone, with the overall total reaching US$2.7 billion when combined with sponsorships for the league as a whole.

The former figure represents a significant increase for NFL franchises, who raked in US$1.8 billion in 2021/22.

SponsorUnited, whose findings include digital and physical assets, attributed the increase to the NFL’s deal with Apple to become the new Super Bowl halftime show for a reported US$50 million a year.

Other drivers include adding cryptocurrency companies like Socios and Blockchain.com to the sponsorship portfolio and the league’s ongoing globalisation efforts which mean individual teams are now permitted to sell intellectual property rights overseas.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were responsible for the most sponsorship deals, inking more than 170, followed by the Dallas Cowboys (more than 140) and the Buffalo Bills (more than 135). The Indianapolis Colts (125) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (more than 120) completed the top five.

In terms of individual athletes, Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson has the highest number of sponsorship deals, followed by Austin Ekeler, Juju Smith-Schuster, AJ Dillon and Tyler Lockett.

Alcohol was the category with the most sponsorship agreements, including Anheuser-Busch InBev’s revised deal with the NFL. Beverage company Diageo also led the league’s spirits category and the rapidly growing ready-to-drink cocktail category.

Tech, media, food products, and auto were also in the top five. Additional new categories that emerged this year included finance (credit card solutions), as well as hotels and 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 chief executive 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.”

SportsPro says…

This study largely reaffirms what we already knew – the NFL is an imperious sponsorship juggernaut when it comes to sports leagues.

The tie-up with Apple for the Super Bowl halftime show inventory, which went to market as a tech and content play, has been a highlight this season. Despite its success, the NFL is not resting on its laurels, exemplified by it awarding overseas marking rights in numerous countries and holding its first ever regular season game in Germany. The hope is to stage more fixtures in Europe, opening up yet more partnership opportunities.

For the NFL, the focus going forward looks to being diversifying its sponsorship categories as much as the number of deals its signs. SponsorUnited has shown the league is already on to a winner.

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