Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
It isn't much of a secret anymore that the NFL is the most business savvy of any of the major professional sports leagues in America. The league’s revenue stream is at an all-time high and shows no sign of slowing down, especially as new sponsorship deals continue to bring in massive profits for the league. Mega contracts with major corporations aren’t anything new for the NFL but as the league continues to grow so does its diverse portfolio of revenue-producing corporate relationships. Of course there are the deals with Nike and other corporations that everyone knows about but here are a few that might just surprise you.
1. Dairy Management INC.
Most casual NFL fans are probably familiar with the NFL’s Fuel Up To Play 60 program, which encourages elementary school kids to adhere to a healthy diet and be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day. What fans might not know is that this program was launched thanks to a partnership between the NFL and the National Dairy Council, which is a component of Dairy Management INC., a non-profit company created by the U.S. government in 1994. Their mission, according to their website, is “to help increase sales and demand for dairy products.” Their website also states that the play 60 initiative has since become “the nation’s largest in-school health and wellness program.” The partnership between the NFL and the dairy industry has been a huge boon for dairy farmers nationwide. In 2013, the NFL and the National Dairy Council renewed their commitment with the NFL for an additional five years of the Fuel Up To Play 60 program.
One of the most contentious battles the NFL has fought with its players of late has been over players’ desire to wear Beats headphones rather than the league-sponsored Bose headphones. In 2011, the league’s contract with Motorola for headsets worn by coaches on the sideline expired, leaving the door open for the NFL and Bose to strike a deal. Since Motorola was never a player in the consumer headphone market, the NFL never cared what type of headphones players chose to wear. Now that Bose is a partner of the NFL and also happens to be a major competitor of Beats, the league has begun fining players who wear Beats headphones in line with current league policy. That policy states that players cannot wear unapproved brands 90 before or after a game, or at any other league-organized media event. That is of course much to the chagrin of NFL superstars like Colin Kaepernick and Richard Sherman, who are two of Beats’ biggest spokesmen.
Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers wears "Beats by Dre" earphones. (credit: Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
3. Mars Corporation
As we all know, Marshawn Lynch simply showed up yesterday because, (all together now), he “didn’t want to get fined.” Well, unfortunately for him, he might still get fined thanks to his choice of headgear at his Super Bowl Media Day conference. Lynch wore a hat with his own personal Beast Mode logo on it, which is in direct violation of the NFL’s new $1.1 billion exclusive apparel deal with Nike. So unfortunately for Lynch, he was damned if he did show up and damned if he didn’t. But Marshawn can probably thank his lucky stars that the NFL also has a deal in place with Mars INC., producers of chocolate bars and candy such as Skittles - Lynch’s favorite sugary snack. During his Media Day meeting with the press, former women’s Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson, who was at Media Day working for Inside Edition, threw a bag of Skittles to Lynch as he explained for the 20th time why he was here. Luckily for Lynch, Skittles aren’t on the NFL’s no-fly list, meaning Lynch can eat skittles by the dozen during every interview and not worry about the consequences (from the league at least, the health consequences might be another story).
4. The Pepsi Umbrella
It is probably safe to say that most football fans know that Gatorade and the NFL have been in business together for quite some time. Actually, the exact year the NFL and Gatorade joined forces was 1983 and 32 years later their alliance is still going strong. But what some fans might not be aware of is that Gatorade falls under the Pepsi Co umbrella. That means that when the NFL and PepsiCo extended their contract in 2011 to the tune of $2.3 billion through 2022, the NFL also struck an agreement with all of PepsiCo’s subsidiary brands, including Gatorade, Quaker Oats, Tropicana and Frito-Lay.
The newest kid on the block in terms of sponsorship deals with the NFL is Microsoft, who struck a five-year deal for $400 million to be the league’s exclusive technology provider in 2013. The crux of the deal is that Microsoft will have 25 tablets on each teams’ sideline during each game for players to use to look at replays and go over plays that they want to run. One issue that has plagued Microsoft thus far has been that commentators and fans are having trouble differentiating between the Microsoft tablets and iPads. Even Chicago Bears’ quarterback Jay Cutler referred to the new tablets as “knock-off iPads.” Cutler wasn’t fined for his apparent ignorance on the subject, but the NFL’s newest sponsor wasn’t exactly pleased and plans to “coach up,” certain individuals around the league.
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