The NFL’s advertisers are responding. The NFL will absolutely feel the pinch in the next few years when advertisers pull out thanks to its recent spate of politics and inability to properly handle its players’ actions as they relate to abuse, violence, and assault. What we find to be interesting is that there are BILLIONS of dollars at stake and with declining viewers, advertisers who stay with the NFL will simply pay less. Despite the widespread protests that occurred last weekend during the playing of the national anthem at NFL games, most league sponsors are remaining silent on the issue, but a few are being vocal.
Others, however, have continued to pledge their support as reaction continues to pour in after comments made by President Trump, who said players who sit or kneel during The Star-Spangled Banner should be fired.
One advertiser, Budweiser, is among the top spenders in for NFL content and sponsors most teams in the league. They are not happy. Matt Kohan, director of marketing for the company said this:
“What I can say is that at Anheuser-Busch, we have a long heritage of supporting the institutions and values that have made America so strong. That includes our armed forces and the national anthem as well as diversity, equality and freedom of speech. We proudly employ over 1,100 military veterans and we work every day to create an inclusive environment for all of our employees. Because only together can we achieve our dream of bringing people together for a better world. We have many long-term sports partnerships, including our NFL sponsorship, and while we may not agree on everything, we still believe in the power of sport to bring people together and overcome their differences. We have no plans to end our NFL sponsorship.”
Hundreds of players sat, kneeled, locked arms, or stayed in the locker room during the playing of the anthem during Week 3 as a direct response to the President’s comments.
At a rally on Friday in Alabama, Trump said, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!”
Some other advertisers have taken issue with allegations of abuse being mishandled, such as Papa Johns (PZZA), while others such as AT&T’s DirecTV will offer partial refunds to subscribers who are offended by the protests. But Papa John’s was mum on the protests.
“In America, we should respect those who have served AND stand up to injustice,” Papa John’s said. “We need to work together to be better.”
Microsoft (MSFT) whose Surface tablets are available for use on NFL sidelines, declined to comment, saying “they have nothing to share” through a spokesperson.
But some companies were more direct. Bose was founded in the United States, and our world headquarters is in Massachusetts, where it’s been for over 50 years,” according to a response from the company. “It’s now surrounded by several other Bose facilities — and at all of them, at all times, we proudly fly the American flag. It’s a symbol of our great country which protects the freedom for every person to express their views. We respect that freedom, whether we agree with those views or not.”
In the end, while advertisers aren’t pulling out yet over the protests, we believe the NFL’s handling of its players’ off field situations is potentially more damaging then its political statements. However, viewership is declining. Millions are refusing to watch the NFL because of the off field issues AND the politics. This hurts networks like CBS, disneys (DIS) ESPN, and more. With lower ratings, advertisers will likely renegotiate for cheaper contracts in years to come, and the NFL could implode financially.
Currently, the biggest loss of advertisers come from local businesses refusing to advertise during football airings. While this hurts stations and cable/satellite companies in the short-run, it won’t be long before this trickles over.