NFL Offseason Interest Offers Opportunity

May 11, 2010

Heightened online interest in NFL professional football during the offseason offers a marketing opportunity, according to research from Compete.

Consumer Behavior Indicates Offseason Interest
Consumer behavior, both in terms of TV and the internet, indicates strong interest in the NFL even when games are not being played. The recent NFL draft, held in April 2010, had its first round held during primetime on cable sports channel ESPN. The broadcast was the fifth-most-watched cable program among US households this year.

Online consumer behavior also reveals year-round NFL interest. On April 22, 2010, the first day of this year’s NFL draft, eight of the top 10 Google “Hot Search” terms with the highest jumps in popularity were names of top NFL draft prospects.

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Increased interest in offseason activities such as the start of free agency and pre-draft coverage is also apparent when looking at traffic coming to the NFL.com site during the month of March. When looking at Compete data, the number of visitors to the NFL.com site in March, long after the conclusion of the season, has grown by 23% between 2008 and 2010.

Companies Poised to Target Lucrative NFL Fans
Online traffic to NFL content heavily over indexes on 18-34 year old males making more than $60,000 annually, a desirable demographic to many marketers and advertisers.

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Comparing online traffic data of four major publishers of internet football content: CNN/Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NBC Sports, and NFL.com, Compete uncovered the following statistics:

  • NFL.com maintains a commanding share of NFL content interest during the season from September through February, likely due to its exclusive rights to game action video on the internet.
  • The conclusion of the season in February levels the playing field for publishers as NFL.com’s stranglehold on game footage declines in importance. With the onset of free agency in March, the NFL news cycle is dominated by reports, rumors and opinion pieces related to player transactions. This has likely allowed CNN/Sports Illustrated to grow its market share of NFL interest to 12% in March through its editorial columns and the ‘Truth & Rumors’ section of the site.
  • NBC in particular has established itself as a provider of offseason NFL content with the acquisition of the ProFootballTalk (PFT) blog last June. The blog offers humorous insight on NFL news and reports on rumors around the league, which lends itself to driving offseason interest. PFT now accounts for more than 80% of NFL-related traffic on the NBCSports.com website.
  • In addition to providing much of the content available on competitive sites during the offseason, ESPN differentiates itself by providing in-depth coverage of events leading up to the NFL draft, including reviews of prospects, the NFL Scouting Combine, and Pro Day workouts on college campuses.

Based on this analysis, Compete predicts that NBC.com is currently in the best position to capitalize on offseason NFL interest and that other football content providers will begin imitating the PFT blog with similar online products.

Football Runs Up the Score with Sports Fans
In another incentive to online content providers, Professional football is favored by a wide margin among sports fans who follow more than one sport, according to a recent poll from Harris Interactive. Of those who follow one or more sport, more than one-third (35%) say professional football is their favorite, an increase of four percentage points from last year. Baseball comes next, favored by 16% of sports fans, trailed by college football, with a 12% number-one rating.

Both of these percentages remain unchanged from last year. However, football, which led baseball by 15 percentage points from 2006-2008, widened its lead to 19 percentage points in 2009.

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