How Brands Are Leveraging Their NFL Sponsorships

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NFL: The Biggest Stage

In this blog post, based on one of our latest Competitive Social Advertising Snapshots, we’re looking specifically into how brands are leveraging their NFL sponsorships as part of their advertising strategy. The significance of the NFL? One of the most valuable sports leagues in the world, with every game watched by over 16m fans. The Super Bowl itself draws almost 100m viewers. The amount of endorsements and apparel sales around the League are massive.

Each year, top brands vie for the incredible Share-of-Voice (SOV) that being affiliated with the NFL offers. Increasingly, brands have been utilizing social media, and in particular paid social media, to amplify their messages. This has become a critical part of brands’ strategies in terms of communicating brand values and key messages. 

Paid social media offers additional advantages to such brands, including the ability to measure and analyze consumer sentiment, as well as interactions and reactions with a brand’s social activities, both organic and paid. 

With the exposure of the NFL, some of the world’s leading brands have the opportunity to use innovative social media marketing strategies to gain SOV and Share-of-Wallet (SOW) and connect with core consumers.

How Brands Are Maximizing The Opportunity

Many of the ads that the brands in this blog are sharing are hidden from public view, and micro-targeted to specific audience segments. This “dark marketing” is often a huge part of brands’ social strategies – overall more than  85% of social messages are dark. 

BrandTotal delivers deep insight into competitors’ dark versus public advertising, showing the entire number and percentage of dark and public social ads each brand is running. You can also use contextual intelligence layers and correlate filters such as consumer sentiment by dark ads, public ads, or all ads – and much more.

Using the BrandTotal platform, we analyzed top brands that are NFL sponsors, across an aggregated data set of social competitive category advertising performance with complete visibility and granularity into their organic, paid, and dark advertising campaigns. Read along for a look into some of our findings.


08/06/2021 - 11/03/2021


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How Brands Utilize NFL Exposure

Some brands use their NFL affiliation to promote awareness, and position themselves as a leading brand by utilizing the halo effect of the League. Others use hyper-targeted dark ads to promote specific NFL-themed messages to a specific audience. We look at several top brands, investigating the paid social media strategies used. In this post, we’ll highlight two of these brands. For a look at the other brands we cover in the report, download it here.


Over the period researched, Bose had 21 NFL-related creatives across social media channels. Of these, 8 were sponsored ads, with 4 being dark ads. 

The dark ads were part of the brand’s #RuleTheQuiet campaign. This campaign had mainly consideration (98%) as a goal, compared to general Bose campaigns which overall had consideration as the primary goal in 77% of cases, with 14% of sponsored impressions having a conversion objective. 

This shows that dark ads are being leveraged by brands to increase consideration within a key audience – using the highly targeted nature of the ads. Marketers can therefore be more specific and aggressive in their messaging when it comes to dark campaigns.


Twitter Ad from Bose


Of the 41 NFL-related creatives from the brand over this time period, 39 were sponsored ads – that’s over 95%. All of these ads were dark ads. 

These numbers show that the brand is not necessarily using its NFL affiliation to drive general awareness among consumers – this would more likely be done with sponsored, non-dark ads – but rather, the brand is being extremely strategic in the messaging it uses to specific audiences.

Looking at the top-engaging ad, this makes sense:

Facebook Ad from Gatorade 

The brand is driving consumers to make a purchase directly. This is really smart on the brand’s part: it can further amplify its message by getting hand-picked audiences to promote the brand through apparel and other products, whose impact is longer-lasting than a glimpse of a sports drink bottle. 

Brands Get Smart with NFL Affiliation

Being affiliated with the NFL is a big deal, given its wide reach and passionate fans. Being an NFL sponsor is certainly seen as prestigious – by consumers and brands alike. 

We’ve seen how brands have cleverly used their NFL sponsorship to make a long-lasting impression on consumers. Key to this strategy is paid social media marketing. It’s one thing to see a brand on TV, and quite another to receive a targeted ad from that brand.

Much of what we’ve seen here is the result of dark social media ads – which means that ordinarily they would be invisible to the general public, rival brands, and those organizations wanting to emulate the best practices of such brands. 

BrandTotal turns this data into actionable insights that you can implement immediately for your brand to see results faster.

Want to read the full report on how brands are leveraging NFL sponsorships as part of their social media marketing? Find it here.